5 Best SARMs for Bulking (Before/After Pictures)
Disclaimer: SARMs are only to be used for research purposes, as they are non-FDA approved compounds and thus may cause adverse effects. If you have any questions or concerns, Dr. Touliatos is currently available for consultations.
SARMs (selective androgen receptor modulators) have recently been formulated as a potential medicinal alternative to anabolic steroids.
Scientists’ main objective when synthesizing SARMs was to replicate the anabolic effects of steroids without any androgenic side effects. This has been successfully achieved via the mechanism of tissue selectivity, where SARMs bind to cells that promote anabolism and avoid binding to cells that induce androgenic responses (such as hair loss, acne vulgaris, and prostate hypertrophy).
The three main benefits of SARMs are muscle hypertrophy, muscular strength, and fat loss.
In this article, we will rank the best SARMs for bulking, from best to worst.
Note: Certain PEDs are referred to as SARMs but are actually different compounds. We will also include these in the list below, as their effects are very similar.
- 1 1. RAD 140 (Testolone)
- 2 2. LGD-4033 (Ligandrol)
- 3 3. Ostarine
- 4 4. YK-11
- 5 5. S23
- 6 Conclusion
1. RAD 140 (Testolone)
RAD 140 causes significant increases in lean muscle, remarkable surges in muscular strength, and notable fat loss.
In our experience, users typically gain up to 15 pounds of lean muscle while reducing their body fat percentage by 3%.
Major compound lifts can also increase by up to 30%. Therefore, if someone was deadlifting 300 pounds naturally, by the end of a RAD 140 cycle, they would be bench pressing close to 400 pounds.
RAD 140 is typically taken by men in dosages of 10–20 mg/day for 6–12 weeks. Women, however, take 5–10 mg per day for the same duration.
RAD 140 Results
The above user increased his LBM (lean body mass) by 6.2kg (13.7 lbs) while reducing his body fat by 2.8% after taking 10 mg/day of RAD 140 for 7 weeks. He did not notice any adverse effects from his cycle, except for increased sweating.
He also reports adding approximately 20% of weight to his main compound lifts, including squats, bench presses, and deadlifts.
This user’s results are evidence that users can take a conservative dose of RAD 140 and still experience exceptional results.
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RAD 140 Side Effects
One of the main reasons why we rank RAD 140 as the best SARM for bulking is due to its safety profile. There are SARMs that can rival RAD 140 in terms of its bulking benefits; however, RAD 140 produces milder side effects than the likes of S23 or YK-11.
Despite RAD 140 not being regarded as a harsh or toxic SARM, it still causes side effects.
Our LFTs show that RAD 140 increases hepatotoxicity, causing ALT (alanine aminotransferase) and AST (aspartate transaminase) levels to rise. To combat hepatic inflammation, users can take 500 mg/day of TUDCA (tauroursodeoxycholic acid).
TUDCA is a water-soluble bile salt that has liver-protective properties as it neutralizes acidic bile salts, made possible by its rich H20 content.
RAD 140 will also reduce HDL (high-density lipoprotein) cholesterol, slightly increasing the risk of atherosclerosis. This occurs due to RAD 140 and other SARMs being administered orally, thus stimulating hepatic lipase, an enzyme that has a lowering effect on HDL levels. HDL is a cardiac-friendly type of cholesterol that users want high to inhibit arterial plaque buildup.
To counteract any surges in blood pressure, our patients typically take 4 grams of fish oil daily while adding regular cardiovascular exercise to their training schedule.
RAD 140 is also suppressive, and thus a PCT (post-cycle therapy) should be utilized to accelerate the recovery of endogenous testosterone levels.
Anecdotally, we had one patient who took 17 mg/day of RAD 140 for 3 months and experienced a dramatic reduction in total testosterone, dropping from 750 ng/dL to 193 ng/dL. However, such hypogonadal states are only temporary, with users typically seeing a full testosterone recovery after several weeks.
2. LGD-4033 (Ligandrol)
LGD-4033 could be considered the best SARM for bulking, particularly among those who prioritize weight gain.
We find RAD 140 produces lean muscle gains, whereas LGD-4033 produces better overall mass gains, caused by additional water retention.
This extra fluid is the result of LGD-4033 increasing the body’s natural rate of aromatization (conversion of testosterone to estrogen).
The amount of lean muscle built on LGD-4033 will be approximately the same as RAD 140, which becomes evident post-cycle when the excess water flushes out. Around 20–30% of the weight gained on LGD-4033 can be attributed to fluid retention.
We have seen users gain approximately 20 lbs on LGD-4033, with roughly 5 lbs being water retention.
Some weightlifters favor the feeling of LGD-4033 due to the extra bulky appearance, while others prefer a more aesthetic and vascular look on RAD 140.
LGD-4033 is commonly taken in dosages up to 6 mg/day for 8 weeks.
The above user took a high dose of 10 mg/day of LGD-4033 for 12 weeks. He gained approximately 20 pounds of lean muscle tissue while experiencing a significant reduction in subcutaneous fat (evident by the more prominent muscle definition in the after picture).
We consider 10 mg/day for 12 weeks to be an aggressive LGD-4033 cycle. However, the user did not experience any notable side effects, except for a slight increase in acne. Interestingly, he did not utilize a PCT, as he experienced no symptoms of low testosterone.
LGD-4033 Side Effects
In our experience, LGD-4033’s side effects are generally more pronounced compared to RAD 140.
LGD-4033 users are slightly more at risk of developing puffy nipples due to higher levels of aromatase. However, this is not a common side effect, in contrast to highly estrogenic steroids (such as Dianabol or Anadrol).
LGD-4033 can suppress testosterone levels to hypogonadal levels, requiring a potent PCT to resurrect the HPTA (hypothalamic-pituitary-testicular axis).
In such an instance, we prescribe two effective SERMs, Nolvadex (20 mg–40 mg/day) and Clomid (50–100 mg/day), taken for 30 days to speed up endogenous testosterone recovery.
LGD-4033 will also increase blood pressure through a reduction of HDL and an increase in LDL cholesterol. In one study, LGD-4033 decreased HDL levels by 40% on a small dosage of 1 mg/day after just 3 weeks (1).
However, cholesterol did stabilize, returning to baseline levels after 56 days. Consequently, researchers concluded LGD-4033 to be “safe” and “well tolerated.”
In terms of liver toxicity in research, we see no fluctuations in serum aminotransferases when LGD-4033 is taken in very small dosages (2). However, we understand hepatocellular liver injury is possible if LGD-4033 is taken in high dosages, the individual already has a compromised liver, or they combine LGD-4033 with other hepatotoxic medications (3). 500 mg/day of TUDCA will minimize excessive ALT/AST elevations.
We have found Ostarine to be a mild SARM, with its benefits largely outweighing its side effects. It makes for an effective SARM when bulking or cutting.
A first SARM cycle is often an Ostarine-only cycle, which commonly produces gains of up to 10 pounds in lean muscle with a simultaneous 3% decrease in body fat.
Thus, Ostarine is arguably the best bulking SARM for beginners, who are more susceptible to side effects.
For more experienced users, Ostarine will be more frequently utilized during cutting cycles for muscle retention, increased vascularity, and enhanced fat loss.
Despite Ostarine being a mild SARM, we see it produce exceptional strength gains, with novices commonly gaining 30–40 pounds on major compound lifts.
Ostarine is commonly taken by men in dosages of 10–30 mg/day for 8 weeks. Women take up to 10 mg/day for 4–8 weeks.
The above user experienced notable increases in muscle hypertrophy, combined with significant fat loss, after taking 20 mg/day of Ostarine for 6 weeks.
This transformation is a prime example of why results are not always accurately reflected by weighing scales. The user lost 7 pounds despite experiencing notable muscle gain. When a person takes a compound that is simultaneously anabolic and lipolytic, weight gain may barely change, despite body composition improving dramatically.
Note: The results of Ostarine, in terms of muscle hypertrophy, are vastly different for women compared to men. Men will gain up to 10 pounds of muscle, whereas women can gain 20–25 pounds in lean body mass. Thus, Ostarine is considerably more anabolic for women, which may be attributed to their significantly lower testosterone levels.
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Ostarine Side Effects
Although Ostarine has the most optimal safety profile of all SARMs, it still causes moderate testosterone suppression. Some users do not notice symptoms of low testosterone and thus choose not to run a PCT. However, we have had patients experience 60–70% reductions in total testosterone, causing them to take at least one SERM upon cycle cessation.
Ostarine may cause a small amount of hair loss in those predisposed to male-pattern baldness. This is due to it indirectly raising natural 5-alpha reductase enzyme levels, causing higher conversions of testosterone to DHT (dihydrotestosterone). Acne vulgaris is a possible side effect for users who genetically produce high amounts of sebum.
As with all SARMs, Ostarine will raise ALT and AST enzymes and skew HDL and LDL cholesterol levels, albeit to a lesser degree than other SARMs. As a precaution, users may still choose to supplement with TUDCA and fish oil to negate these effects.
YK-11 is not a SARM but instead a myostatin inhibitor.
Myostatin is a type of protein, known as a myokine, that suppresses myogenesis. Thus, the more myostatin a man has, the less potential he has for building muscle.
Therefore, YK-11 does not act like a SARM by stimulating androgen receptors but instead induces anabolism via a different pathway. This makes YK-11 an excellent compound to combine with SARMs, as users can activate two anabolic hormonal responses synergistically instead of one.
Research has shown that natural deficiencies in myostatin can result in 2x the amount of muscle mass of a normal person, coupled with significantly enhanced strength (4).
We find YK-11 produces lean muscle gains without any additional water retention or bloating, making it an ideal SARM for users wanting to maintain a lean and aesthetic physique.
This user gained 15 pounds following a 6-week cycle of YK-11. His dosage was 10 mg/day for weeks 1-3 and 15 mg/day during weeks 4-6.
He also burned notable amounts of subcutaneous fat during this period, hence his improved muscle definition.
YK-11 Side Effects
YK-11’s power to add muscle hypertrophy and strength rivals even the best of SARMs; however, we have ranked it at number 4 due to its harsh side effects.
Simply put, YK-11 will produce the typical side effects of SARMs, but to a greater extent.
We can liken its side effects to Trenbolone, particularly in regard to mood changes. Our patients report feeling more irritable, aggressive, angry, and/or paranoid.
YK-11 is also a dry compound, and thus its diuretic effects can sometimes lead to joint pain (due to less fluid lubrication). Individuals who regularly lift excessively heavy weights with few repetitions may be more susceptible to joint soreness.
The most troubling side effect we have seen with YK-11 is that it is very suppressive. Theoretically, this should not occur as it is a myostatin inhibitor and not a SARM; however, our SHBG tests confirm damage to the HPTA. Our patients typically report low testosterone symptoms from YK-11, such as tiredness, decreased well-being, and libido.
In cases of heavy suppression, potent post-cycle therapy is utilized to resurrect endogenous testosterone levels back to normal. Below is a PCT formula designed by Dr. Michael Scally with excellent clinical success in restoring hypogonadal men’s testosterone levels.
- hCG: 2000 IU every other day (taken for 20 days)
- Tamoxifen (Nolvadex): 20mg x 2 doses/day (taken for 45 days)
- Clomiphene (Clomid): 50mg x 2 doses/day (taken for 30 days)
Acne vulgaris and male pattern baldness are also possible side effects of YK-11, due to it indirectly increasing 5 alpha-reductase levels and causing increased sebum and DHT (dihydrotestosterone) production.
However, the likelihood of users experiencing acne or hair loss is largely genetically determined. Thus, they often do not occur in users who are not predisposed to such conditions.
Negative fluctuations in cholesterol and ALT/AST liver enzymes are certain on YK-11 (5), with users experiencing subtle or significant changes in each, depending on their genetics and lifestyle choices.
S23 is currently the most potent and toxic SARM on the market. It could rank as the best SARM for bulking when judged solely by its benefits. However, the side effects of S23 can be comparable to various harsh, toxic anabolic steroids (hence why we ranked it fifth on this list).
We find S23’s effects similar to those of the anabolic steroid Winstrol (Stanozolol): burning considerable amounts of fat while producing significant amounts of lean muscle and strength (without any water retention).
Both of these compounds are particularly hepatotoxic and cardiotoxic (6), and thus they are only suitable for experienced SARM or steroid users.
Men typically take 10–30 mg/day of S23 in 8–10-week cycles.
The above user took 32 mg/day of S23 for 10 weeks. He gained approximately 20 pounds of muscle while decreasing his body fat percentage.
S23 Side Effects
Feeling irritable and easy to anger are some behavioral side effects of S23. People can also feel lethargic or depressed, which may indicate that the body is not tolerating this compound well.
Our tests have shown S23 to be extremely suppressive, so users can expect their testosterone levels to fall into a hypogonadal range post-cycle (less than 300 ng/dL).
Reductions in HDL cholesterol and elevations in liver enzymes are to be expected, increasing the risk of atherosclerosis or cholestasis temporarily.
One benefit of S23 is that it will not cause any estrogenic side effects, such as gynecomastia or water retention.
When weighing up the risks and rewards of the above SARMs, RAD 140 and LGD-4033 are the clear winners.
However, Ostarine may be a more suitable choice for beginners wanting to bulk up.
Ostarine allows novices to slowly condition their bodies to the side effects of SARMs; thus, by the time they cycle RAD 140 or other potent SARMs, they will more effectively tolerate such compounds.
S23 and YK-11 are also excellent anabolic substances; however, caution is needed due to them being increasingly suppressive and toxic.