What Are SARMs? Selective Androgen Receptor Modulators Safety & Ban in Sports

Updated on March 6, 2024

What are SARMs? You might have heard this term thrown around in the fitness world. SARMs, or Selective Androgen Receptor Modulators, are synthetic substances that claim to boost your muscle growth and performance. 

There’s a catch: SARMs are not as safe as they seem. In fact, the FDA has issued a warning about the serious health risks associated with SARMs, such as liver damage, heart problems, and stroke.

So, should you use SARMs for your fitness goals? Well, that’s up to you, but before you make a decision, you need to know the facts.

What Are SARMs?

SARMs, or Selective Androgen Receptor Modulators, are lab-made substances that mimic the effects of androgens, the hormones that make you more masculine. They promise to help you build more muscle and recover faster from your workouts.

However, SARMs were not made for fitness. They were originally designed for medical purposes, to help people with diseases that affect their muscles and bones.

Some of these diseases are:

  • Enlarged prostate
  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • Prostate cancer
  • Muscle wasting

How Do SARMs Work?

SARMs work by attaching to androgen receptors in certain tissues, like muscle and bone, but not in others, like the liver or skin. This way, they can stimulate tissue growth in specific areas without harming other parts of your body.

By activating androgen receptors in muscle and bone, SARMs can increase your muscle mass and bone density, which may improve your athletic performance and recovery.

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Popular SARMs in the Market

Identifying products containing SARMs can pose a challenge, primarily due to their current authorization solely for research purposes. These substances are not sanctioned for public purchase, making it technically illegal to sell or promote them as workout supplements in the U.S.

Despite these legal constraints, numerous products containing SARMs can be found online. A practical method for determining SARM presence is by scrutinizing the labels of dietary supplement products. 

It’s essential to exercise caution, as the unauthorized sale and marketing of SARMs as workout supplements persist. 

Common SARMs include:

  • Andarine (GTx-007, S4)
  • Ostarine (Enobosarm, MK-2866, S22)
  • LGD-3033
  • TT-701
  • S23
  • Ligandrol (LGD-4033)
  • Testolone (RAD-140)

SARMs vs Steroids

SARMs are different from anabolic steroids in how they work. 

While both affect the same receptor in the body, SARMs are more selective. Unlike anabolic steroids, which can influence various body parts, SARMs only target certain areas like muscles or bones

SARMs are taken orally, unlike some anabolic steroids. Anabolic steroids are also considered controlled substances because they can be abused and addictive.

Even though SARMs have some advantages over anabolic steroids, they may face similar regulation in the future. This is because SARMs also have serious health risks on their own.

Are SARMs Legal?

The legal status of SARMs varies from country to country. In the United States, SARMs are not approved for human consumption and are banned by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) for competing athletes. 

However, SARMs are often sold as research chemicals, and some companies market them for research purposes only.

The legal status of SARMs in other countries is also varied. For example, in Australia, all SARMs are legal, but a doctor’s prescription is required. In Brazil, SARMs are not regulated.

It is important to note that the legal status of SARMs is constantly changing. It is always a good idea to check with your local government laws before purchasing any product.

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Are SARMs Safe?

SARMs are not safe and have not been approved by the FDA for human consumption. They are associated with serious safety concerns, including potential to increase the risk of heart attack, stroke, and liver damage. 

They also have unknown long-term effects on the body. SARMs are often sold as research chemicals or dietary supplements, but this is a way to avoid legal issues, as they are not intended for human use. 

It is advisable to consult a doctor before using SARMs, and to be aware of the potential consequences.

Potential Dangers and Side Effects of Using SARMs

You might have heard of SARMs as a safer alternative to anabolic steroids. Not so fast. SARMs are not risk-free, and they can cause some serious side effects, such as:

  • Having trouble sleeping
  • Increasing your chances of having a stroke
  • Damaging or destroying your liver
  • Making it harder or impossible to have kids
  • Causing a miscarriage 
  • Putting your heart at risk of a heart attack
  • Lowering your good cholesterol levels
  • Issues with sexual performance and shrunken testicles
  • Hallucinations

SARMs Ban in Sports

If you’re an athlete, you should know that SARMs are off-limits in sports. SARMs are selective androgen receptor modulators, which act like testosterone in your body. However, they are also illegal in sports, according to the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA). 

WADA has put SARMs on the Prohibited List, under the category of “Other Anabolic Agents”. This means that if you get caught using SARMs, you could get banned or disqualified from your sport.

So, don’t risk your career and reputation by using SARMs. They are not worth it. Stay away from SARMs and play fair in sports.

SARMs vs. Steroids vs. SERMs vs. SERDs

While SARMs, steroids, Selective Estrogen Receptor Modulators (SERMs), and Selective Estrogen Receptor Degraders (SERDs) are often mentioned in the same breath, they are distinctly different:

  • SARMs: SARMs are selective in their action, targeting only certain tissues, which reduces the risk of side effects. They are typically used for muscle growth and fat loss.
  • Steroids: These are potent compounds derived from testosterone. They promote muscle growth but also come with a host of side effects, including acne, mood swings, and endocrine system disruption.
  • SERMs: These are compounds that act on the estrogen receptor. Some SERMs can block the effect of estrogen in certain tissues, making them useful for treating conditions like breast cancer or osteoporosis.
  • SERDs: These are drugs that work by degrading the estrogen receptor, thereby blocking the effects of estrogen in the body. They are mainly used in the treatment of hormone receptor-positive breast cancer.

Bodybuilding Supplements vs SARMs: Which Is Safer?

Both SARMs and bodybuilding supplements, such as the best legal steroids, can help you achieve your fitness goals, but they also have some risks and drawbacks.

SARMs are not legal or safe to use in the US or in many other countries. They are banned by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) for athletes who compete in sports. They can also cause serious side effects, such as liver damage, heart problems, stroke, and hormonal imbalances.

However, it is important to note that all medications and supplements have their own safety considerations.

Before you decide to use any SARMs or the best SARMs alternatives, you should do your research and talk to a doctor or a fitness expert. They can help you weigh the pros and cons and find the best option for you. 

Final Verdict

What are SARMs? They’re a hot topic in the fitness world, offering the potential for targeted muscle enhancement without the wider impacts of traditional androgen therapy. However, as we found out, they’re unregulated. This means they come with a risk of serious side effects that can’t be ignored.

As we continue to learn more about these synthetic chemical compounds, it’s becoming clear that safety has to come first. Chasing quick gains can’t come at the expense of your health.

Until we see SARMs products that are well-regulated and backed by comprehensive safety data, it makes sense to stick with workout supplements that have proven to be safe. It’s not just the smart choice, it’s the right one.

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Fact Checker: Kire Stojkovski M.D, [email protected]
Kire Stojkovski is a practicing medical doctor whose work has been published in some of the most respected medical journals.

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Robert James

Robert is a full-time freelance writer and editor specializing in the health niche and its ever-expanding sub-niches. As a food and nutrition scientist, he knows where to find the resources necessary to verify health claims. Robert can be reached at [email protected].