There has been a recent surge in the use of body-building products/supplements known as Selective Androgen Receptor Modulators (SARMs) that are not yet approved by public health regulatory authorities, and there have been calls for such products to be removed from the market.
The trends in the proliferation of such muscle-building products being touted as alternatives to traditional anabolic steroids are most notable among recreational users that include fitness enthusiasts, bodybuilders, and those whose employment is physically demanding.
SARMs fitness supplements have been a contentious phenomenon in the realms of medicine and science, healthcare, and among the clientele. They have become increasingly popular because of their minimal side effects as compared to anabolic steroids.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) stringently maintains that SARMs body-building supplements contain “potentially” dangerous ingredients (which is why SARMs have not yet been approved for general public use) and are associated with life-threatening reactions and health risks such as liver damage.
Academic perspectives between SARMs and anabolic steroids are sharply divided as some medical professors insist that SARMs should be embraced as the new alternative to anabolic steroids – the latter which come with adverse side effects both in males and females.
The Downsides of Traditional Anabolic Steroids
Steroids have traditionally afforded athletes, fitness trainers and enthusiasts the chance to bank on the androgen-propelled supplements for better and quicker muscle growth. Anabolic steroids contain the male hormone androgen and as such they enhance anabolism (gaining muscle mass and strength) but that comes with a baggage of side effects.
In men, some of these side effects encompass gynecomastia (breast development), acne, shrinking of testicles, enlarged prostate, and hair loss while in women androgen-based anabolic steroids may lead to effects of a virile nature such as increased body hair growth. Acne as well as an enlarged clitoral size are some of the side effects women encounter due to the consumption of androgen drugs.
Generally, conventional androgen-based anabolic steroids may lead to other health complications such as liver damage and cardiovascular problems. And because of these side effects, SARMs performance enhancers continue to gain prominence.
The Rising Popularity and Concern Over SARMs
Because of the side effects that come with traditional anabolic steroids as mentioned above, SARMs – also called Nonsteroidal SARMs – have exceedingly risen in popularity among bodybuilders. SARMs are said to offer the same anabolic benefits [muscle gain] as traditional anabolic steroids but they contain reduced androgenic properties, hence they have less side effects and are widely considered as the “safer class of androgenic drugs.”
SARMs were discovered in the late 1990s during a drug investigation trial designed to find a lasting, workable treatment for prostate cancer. And because they offer the same anabolic benefits as those provided by traditional steroids, they are intensely in demand. Apart from being performance enhancers, SARMs also help with recovery from exercise. SARMs are chemicals of a modified nature but with the similar functions as steroids and they work only on selective receptors.
Where anabolic steroids bind to androgen receptors in many tissues all over the body, individual SARMs are binding on selected androgen receptors in certain tissues, and not in all tissues all over the body. When such binding occurs (in the context of both anabolic steroids and SARMs), changes in the DNA are triggered and this impacts protein synthesis – hence the muscle growth.
Anabolic steroids thus affect any part of the body while SARMs work on a selective basis. As such, SARMs are of a similar nature with the usual anabolic steroids but it should be made clear that they are not one and the same thing. They operate differently.
SARMs As A Novel Source for Positive Medical Benefits
Although the underground usage of SARMs supplements has flourished, it is still a problematic matter to use the drug in clinical treatments. The administration of SARMs in clinical treatments for muscle-wasting due to several ailments that include cancer, heart failure, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, end-stage liver disease, end-stage renal disease, HIV, and osteoporosis is still being considered as health regulators are reluctant to approve the usage of SARMs in patients.
SARMs can ameliorate a marked decline in muscle and strength that comes with old age. Studies are also being conducted to ascertain whether SARMs are revolutionary in assisting postmenopausal women with urinary incontinence (as associated with weak pelvic muscles). However, the long-term effects of SARMs have not yet been fully established.
The Legality of SARMs – A Perennial Gray Area
Companies manufacturing SARMs have recently riled authorities such as the FDA and the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) as the latter entities assert that they are unsafe for the public due to “potentially” dangerous ingredients. As it stands, the FDA has not yet approved SARMs for prescription – they are allowed for investigational purposes only. The drug is partially legal. This however inhibits the potential of groundbreaking studies. Uncertainty abounds regarding SARMs because well-funded studies are lacking.
It is illegal for a doctor to prescribe SARMs. As for athletes who wish to participate in clinical trials (investigation) where there are prohibited substances/drugs, they should seek Therapeutic Use Exemption from USADA. However, traditional anabolic steroids are mostly banned. On the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) – applicable to athletes competing at the highest and recreational levels – all SARMs are strictly prohibited at all times
The Marketing of SARMs – Some Popular Online Site
Because the express legality of SARMs is elusive, trade in such is forced to be part of an underground economy. In the global north, several U.K. companies have risen to meet the astronomical demand of SARMs – and what this means is that all of SARMs trade is underground as these companies are trading in unlicensed products.
When the FDA launched a crackdown on SARMs in 2017, it expressed concern over “unscrupulous” companies selling products with SARMs saying that it may lead to life-threatening complications such as liver toxicity, risks of heart attack, and other unknown effects.
Nonetheless, there are some online stores that sell SARMs body fitness supplements, as well as steroids. For example, AAS Pharmacy allows consumers to buy all anabolic steroids and SARMs online. They offer all steroids with a price range from around $40 up to $130. On their homepage is written, “US pharmaceutical firms hold an absolute chokehold on the American public by denying them live changing drugs.” Other online stores include Finest Gears which offer anabolic steroids and SARMs. Another online site where one can purchase both types of steroids is Roids and it prides itself as “the world’s number one steroids source” with warehouses in Europe and the U.S, as well as an international one. Other great examples of online platforms giving access to SARMs and anabolic steroids include Spectre Labs from New York, USA and Roid Shop from California, USA.
SARMs vs Steroids – Any “Real” Difference At All?
Both types of steroids have anabolic functions – meaning they increase muscle growth and strength – but they work in different manners. Anabolic steroids impact many tissues all over the body (hence numerous side effects) and SARMs selectively impact certain tissues (hence minimal side effects) and aid with fat loss while at the same time enhancing performance by increasing lean muscle weight. Although still anecdotal, SARMs also have their negative effects.
Steroids are outrightly illegal in most countries while, particularly in the U.S., SARMs are partially legal – only allowed for investigative purposes. Because of this legal gray area, the sale of anabolic steroids and SARMs is done underground by several companies – with online stores being one of their major weapons as they meet the soaring demand of SARMs particularly.