7 Best SARMs (Ranked from Best to Worst)
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.
Selective androgen receptor modulators (SARMs) have become very popular in the bodybuilding world, since their recent formulation in the 1990s.
SARMs may prove to be revolutionary in the medicinal world if they can mimic the majority of anabolic steroids benefits, but with less pronounced side effects.
Currently, there is not enough clinical research to make such a conclusion. However, anecdotally, it is already evident that SARMs do work; and more importantly, many users do not experience the same deteriorations in health as various anabolic steroids.
In this guide, we will rank the top 7 SARMs from best to worst, based on how their side effects compare to their benefits (risk vs reward).
There are several drugs that are not officially SARMs, but are commonly referred to as SARMs in the fitness community. We will also include these in the list below, alongside real SARMs.
Note: The best SARM may be different for each individual, which can be determined by genetics and the quality of product (manufacturer source). Therefore, the list below is subjective.
- 1 7 Best SARMs to Take
- 2 1. RAD 140 (Testolone)
- 3 2. LDG 4033 (Ligandrol)
- 4 3. Cardarine
- 5 4. Ostarine
- 6 5. YK-11
- 7 6. S23
- 8 7. Andarine (S4)
- 9 Ibutamoren and Stenabolic
- 10 Conclusion
- 11 Co Authors :
7 Best SARMs to Take
1. RAD 140 (Testolone)
RAD 140 is the most widely recognized SARM for good reason, as it significantly increases muscle mass and fat burning. Users can expect to gain up to 15lbs of lean muscle from a RAD 140 cycle and lose approximately 3% of body fat.
Due to RAD 140’s simultaneous muscle-building and fat-burning properties, weight gain may not be remarkable; especially as RAD 140 does not cause notable amounts of water retention (due to low levels of aromatization).
RAD 140’s ability to enhance strength is exceptional, rivaling various potent anabolic steroids. Typically, users can expect to increase their one rep max by 20-30% on all compound lifts. Generally, a user’s bench press is likely to increase by approximately 20%, deadlift by 25% and squat by 30%.
RAD 140 essentially is the equivalent of Trenbolone in the SARMs world. Trenbolone is the most potent anabolic steroid for transforming a user’s physique rapidly (with simultaneous mass gain and fat loss). Powerlifters also use Trenbolone for its exceptional strength-enhancing properties.
RAD 140 provides approximately 70% of the benefits of Trenbolone, which is remarkable considering Trenbolone is notorious for deleterious side effects (RAD 140 only possesses a fraction of toxicity in comparison).
RAD 140 Results
This user took 10mg/day of RAD 140 for 7 weeks. He lost 2.8% of body fat, whilst increasing his fat-free mass by 6.2kg (13.7lbs). He reported few side effects, with increased sweating being the main complaint.
He did not experience any hair loss, fluctuations in libido or insomnia. He also added approximately 20% of weight to his lifts.
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RAD 140 Side Effects
RAD 140 has a stimulant-like effect on the central nervous system, sometimes resulting in sweating or/and insomnia for users. Taking dosages earlier in the day may help to avoid this side effect and increase sleep quality.
If users are genetically predisposed to hair loss, RAD 140 may cause thinning or shedding, due to it affecting 5-alpha-reductase, thus increasing users’ natural conversion of testosterone to DHT.
RAD 140 can also cause some joint pain in users, due to it being a ‘dry’ SARM, and the body’s natural aromatization conversion being inhibited. Therefore, decreases in water retention can harden the articular cartilage surrounding the joint, resulting in the erosion of synovial fluid.
RAD 140 will elevate LDL cholesterol, causing a modest rise in blood pressure. Taking 4g/day of fish oil and performing regular cardio will help to stabilize blood pressure.
RAD 140 will cause elevations in ALT/AST enzymes, signifying hepatic inflammation. Users can supplement with 500mg/day of TUDCA (tauroursodeoxycholic acid) for optimal liver health.
RAD 140 will suppress endogenous testosterone levels, requiring a PCT (post-cycle therapy) to aid in the recovery of the HPTA (hypothalamic-pituitary-testicular axis). Testosterone levels can be expected to return several weeks upon cycle cessation.
Note: It is common for mild side effects to disappear after week 2 on RAD 140, as the body gradually adjusts to the SARM.
2. LDG 4033 (Ligandrol)
LGD-4033 is a potent SARM that produces similar results to RAD 140, in terms of muscle hypertrophy and strength.
If RAD 140 is the SARM equivalent of Trenbolone — LGD-4033 could be likened to Dianabol.
LGD-4033 is a ‘wetter’ compound than RAD 140, and thus produces greater increases in weight gain; due to higher levels of natural aromatization (conversion of testosterone to estrogen).
Users can expect to gain 15-20lbs from LGD-4033; however, approximately 25-30% of this weight will be temporary water retention
Similar strength increases can be experienced on LGD-4033 vs RAD 140 (+20-30% on lifts). Some users experience slightly better strength gains on RAD 140, and others claim their strength is superior on LGD-4033.
The above user took 10mg/day of LGD-4033 for 12 weeks.
Note: Generally, LGD-4033 transformations may not be very impressive, as it is considered one of the harsher SARMs for side effects. Someone who takes LGD-4033 typically does not take it as their first SARM cycle. Thus, as they have already taken SARMs before, their opportunity for new gains is less. However, even if someone has prior experience with SARMs, LGD-4033 can take their gains to new levels.
LGD 4033 Side Effects
LGD-4033 enhances natural aromatization, meaning more of a user’s testosterone will convert to estrogen. This slightly increases the risk of sore nipples or gynecomastia forming. However, the likelihood of gynecomastia forming remains low compared to taking ‘wet’ anabolic steroids, such as Dianabol. Some users may run Nolvadex during their cycle if concerned about breast tissue accumulation.
LGD-4033 will cause an increase in blood pressure, due to fluctuations in HDL/LDL cholesterol and increased blood viscosity.
LGD-4033 is suppressive and thus a PCT will need to be administered post-cycle to accelerate endogenous testosterone recovery.
ALT/AST liver enzymes also will rise on-cycle, thus TUDCA can be taken (500mg/day) to prevent hepatic stress. Any hepatotoxic substances (medications, alcohol, etc.) should be avoided.
Hair loss is not generally experienced on LGD-4033, making it a favored compound among users predisposed to male pattern baldness.
Cardarine (GW-501516) is commonly mistaken as a SARM, but instead is a PPARD (peroxisome proliferator activated receptor delta).
Cardarine is primarily utilized during cutting cycles, due to its potent fat-burning effects.
Cardarine significantly increases lipolysis by inducing fatty acid oxidation. Thus, Cardarine shifts the body’s primary energy source from glucose to fat stores. The result is a rapid decrease in fat mass (both subcutaneous and visceral). Users can lose up to 40lbs from a Cardarine cycle, when combined with a calorie deficit diet.
Research also shows Cardarine to have mild anabolic properties, aiding in muscle tissue retention when cutting. Studies have shown Cardarine to add 1.3kg (2.9lbs) of lean muscle to users after 12 weeks of taking 10mg/day (1).
Cardarine also has several health benefits, including positive effects on blood glucose and insulin (2); which may result in it being an effective treatment for type II diabetes in medicine.
Cardarine also has very positive effects on cholesterol, with studies showing it to increase HDL cholesterol by 17%, whilst reducing LDL by 7% (3), from a 10mg/day dosage.
Cardarine’s effects on muscular endurance are quite extraordinary, with research observing improvements of 68% in just 3 weeks (4). This occurs due to Cardarine converting fast-twitch fibers to slow twitch (5), thus increasing mitochondria and delaying fatigue.
As Cardarine is not a SARM, it does not negatively impact the HPTA (hypothalamic-pituitary-testicular axis), therefore, endogenous testosterone levels will not decrease (meaning a PCT is not required).
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The above user cycled Cardarine for 12 weeks, taking 10mg/day for the first week and then 20mg/day for the next 11 weeks.
He went from 205lbs to 165lbs, losing 40lbs and reducing his body fat percentage by approximately 10%.
Cardarine Side Effects
Some of the fitness community are wary of Cardarine, after preclinical safety trials found test subjects to develop cancerous tumors (6).
However, such research is not reliable enough to conclude Cardarine to be a highly carcinogenic substance. Firstly, the lowest dosage given to the rodents translated as 3-6x higher than the typical dosage taken by the average man or woman.
Also, the rodents were taking Cardarine for 2 years continuously, which translates as one-third of their lifespan. In contrast, the average man or woman only cycles Cardarine for 8-12 weeks.
Thus, there is little evidence that Cardarine causes cancer in humans when taken in sensible dosages in the short term. Abuse of this PPARD however, may induce cellular proliferation.
Cardarine may also cause hepatotoxicity, with Dr. Thomas O’Connor (one of our team doctors) observing ALT and AST fluctuations; which he described as the equivalent of taking 50mg/day of Anavar. This is a very high dose of Anavar, which is already known to cause hepatic inflammation, thus Cardarine-users should be cautious to monitor liver values on-cycle.
Ostarine (MK-2866) is considered the best SARM for beginners, due to its benefits largely outweighing its side effects.
Ostarine enhances anabolism by stimulating androgen receptors and inducing satellite cell cycle activation; increasing myonuclei in the muscles.
Ostarine also causes simultaneous subcutaneous and visceral fat loss, due to improvements in insulin sensitivity.
Users can expect to gain up to 10lbs of lean muscle, whilst notably reducing their body fat percentage and enhancing muscle definition. Strength will also increase, albeit not to the same level as more potent bulking SARMs (such as RAD 140 or LGD-4033).
As Ostarine does not increase the body’s natural level of aromatization, it does not cause water retention; instead producing dry gains. Thus, Ostarine can be utilized effectively during lean bulks or cutting cycles.
This user took 20mg/day of Ostarine for 45 days, resulting in 7lbs of weight loss. Vast improvements in muscle definition (like above) are common when users combine Ostarine with a calorie deficit diet.
This user has also gained notable amount of muscle hypertrophy, particularly in his deltoids, pectorals and arms.
Note: The effects of Ostarine in women are similar to men; however, females experience significantly better gains in muscle mass. It is common for women to add 20lbs of fat-free mass on Ostarine (without any virilization effects).
Ostarine Side Effects
Ostarine is one of the best SARMs available, largely due to its mild nature and safety profile
Ostarine will still suppress testosterone levels to different degrees depending on the individual. It is common for users not to experience any hypogonadal symptoms; with libido, mood and energy remaining at normal levels.
There is a general consensus that Ostarine is only mildly suppressive. However, others who monitor their bloodwork have reported 60-70% drops in endogenous testosterone. In such cases, a PCT may be utilized (such as Nolvadex) to accelerate healing of the HPTA. However, other users who do not notice any side effects may avoid running a PCT.
Ostarine will negatively affect cholesterol levels, thus elevating blood pressure. Therefore, users with naturally high blood pressure should still avoid Ostarine (as well as other SARMs).
Ostarine may also cause headaches, aching muscles and fatigue in some users.
Some Ostarine-users report of small amounts of hair loss from cycles. Ostarine does not directly affect the 5-alpha reductase enzyme; however, Ostarine does compete with natural testosterone when binding to androgen receptors. Ostarine inevitably wins this battle vs natural testosterone, resulting in higher amounts of free testosterone converting to DHT.
Despite indirect hair thinning/loss being a possibility on the scalp, it is only likely to affect those genetically susceptible to male pattern baldness.
YK-11 is not a SARM, but instead a potent myostatin inhibitor. Myostatin is a myokine that suppresses myogenesis and inhibits muscle growth.
Thus, by lowering myostatin levels, users can effectively increase their muscle-building potential.
In 1998, BALCO laboratories evaluated 62 men that experienced exceptional muscle growth from lifting weights. 9 of these 62 men were found to be deficient in myostatin, with Flex Wheeler having the rarest condition of all — affecting the ‘‘exon 2’ gene.
Such deficiencies can typically result in 2x the muscle growth of a normal male. Reduced body fat and increased muscular strength are other byproducts of less myostatin.
The above user gained 15lbs from a 6 week cycle of YK-11, taking 10mg/day for the first 3 weeks, and 15mg/day for the last 3 weeks.
His body fat percentage has also decreased notably, indicating >15lbs of lean muscle gained from his cycle.
YK-11 Side Effects
The only reason why YK-11 does not rank higher on our list is because of its harsh side effects.
Some users have likened the feeling of YK-11 to Trenbolone, in regard to increased aggression, anger, paranoia and anxiety.
YK-11 is also a dry compound, like Trenbolone, thus joint pain can also be an issue for some users. This is especially applicable to individuals who are devoted to lifting heavy with few repetitions. A solution for this would be to train with lighter weights and perform higher repetitions.
Generally, all of the common side effects associated with SARMs will occur on YK-11 but with greater intensity. The most troublesome side effects with YK-11 typically are testosterone suppression, hair loss and acne. A PCT is thus essential to recover endogenous testosterone, preferably combining Nolvadex with another LH (luteinizing hormone) stimulating medication, such as Clomid.
Alterations in cholesterol and liver values are almost certain on YK-11. However, some users do not experience significant amounts of hepatotoxicity or cardiotoxicity during blood work analysis.
S23 is one of the best SARMs for increasing muscle hypertrophy and strength. However, S23 does not rank high on our list due to it commonly producing harsh side effects. In anabolic steroid terms, S23 would be the SARM equivalent of Winstrol (dry muscle gains and prominent fat loss).
Due to S23’s toxicity, beginners often avoid this SARM until they have taken several milder SARMs first (such as Ostarine or RAD 140). After this point, S23 may be taken to overcome muscle hypertrophy or strength plateaus.
Depending on a person’s genetics and how they respond to S23, it can be considered the best SARM or the worst. Users can experience remarkable gains, whilst experiencing manageable side effects.
Or, they may experience devastating side effects, where they are troubled enough to finish their cycle early.
S23’s results are unlikely to be phenomenal for someone who has already cycled multiple SARMs. However, an intermediate or experienced SARMs-user will still gain 10lbs or more of muscle from their first S23 cycle. A beginner, who has not taken SARMs before will gain roughly 15-20lbs from S23; however, novice use is not advised.
This user took 32mg of S23 for 10 weeks, taking half the dosage in the morning and half the dosage in the evening for peak elevations of S23. He gained approximately 20lbs of muscle, whilst reducing his body fat percentage. However, approximately half of this weight is attributed to muscle memory gains and not to S23 inherently.
S23 Side Effects
Anecdotally, a weightlifter stated that 10mg/day of S23 gave him more side effects than 25mg/day of Anadrol (7). Anadrol is considered one of the most damaging steroids for health, due to it being abnormally hepatotoxic and cardiotoxic.
Side effects from S23 are dose-dependent, but also genetically determined. Some people experience worse effects on S23 than even the most toxic of anabolic steroids. However, other people experience exceptional muscle and strength gains with minimal effects (considerably less so than anabolic steroids).
Some users report feeling irritable, aggressive and angry on S23. People can also feel lethargic and depressed on this compound, which may be indicative of its high toxicity level.
S23 is extremely suppressive, thus a potent PCT is essential to resurrect hypogonadal-range testosterone levels, whilst retaining muscle gains.
Users will have an increased chance of developing atherosclerosis from S23, considering its devastating effects on blood lipids. S23 is also hepatotoxic, causing significant elevations in ALT/AST enzymes.
S23 will not cause water retention or gynecomastia, due to it having diuretic effects. However, androgenic side effects, such as acne and hair loss are possible.
7. Andarine (S4)
Andarine is a very mild SARM, similar to Ostarine, thus it won’t reproduce the same results as YK-11, S23, RAD 140 or LGD-4033.
However, it will add 5-10lbs of lean muscle to beginners, whilst dramatically increasing strength and decreasing fat mass. Some individuals who prioritize their health, and are not looking for immense muscle gains, may deem Andarine to be the best SARM for their personal goals.
Andarine also notably increases vascularity, making it a desirable compound when cutting at low levels of body fat.
The reason why we ranked Andarine considerably lower than Ostarine is because it negatively affects eyesight in many users (which does not occur on other SARMs).
Andarine Side Effects
A unique side effect of Andarine is users experience a yellow/green tint to their vision. This can be particularly sensitive when around bright lights.
Also, when moving from a light environment to a dark one, it may take the eyes time to adjust. Fortunately, this side effect is temporary, with many users reporting their eyesight returning to normal post-cycle.
Andarine will cause notable suppression of endogenous testosterone levels, requiring a PCT for some individuals who experience low libido and fatigue.
Liver toxicity and cholesterol can also be adversely affected; however, this is unlikely to be noticeable for most users.
Ibutamoren and Stenabolic
Ibutamoren, a growth hormone secretagogue, is absent from this list due to it causing visceral fat gain. Thus, although users may gain approximately 6lbs of lean muscle tissue, their abdomen will also hypertrophy; causing a distended appearance.
Stenabolic is also absent from this list, due to it being a SARM with low biological availability and thus lacking overall effectiveness. Consequently, it is common for users not to notice any effects from it.
The best SARM will depend on an individual’s preferences and what they want to achieve.
The best SARM for beginners is likely to be Ostarine, as it is a mild compound that still produces significant results (8).
The best SARM for overall mass gain is LGD-4033, with it causing exceptional muscle gains (coupled with additional water weight to increase intracellular volume inside the muscle cells).
The best SARM for lean muscle gains is RAD 140, with it being highly anabolic, without inducing aromatization (9).
The best ‘SARM’ for fat loss is Cardarine (10) — despite it technically being a PPARD (and not a SARM).
Note: SARMs are strictly research chemicals and are not to be ingested by humans. They have not been approved by the FDA and their full effects not yet being fully understood.