Top 5 Safest SARMs (and Ones to Avoid)

Dr George TouliatosDisclaimer: 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 consultation.


SARMs (selective androgen receptor modulators) have become very popular in bodybuilding circles due to their perception as safe alternatives to anabolic steroids.

Thus, just like with steroids, there are safe and riskier SARMs you can take. Read below to find out which SARMs present the least risk based on clinical studies and our tests.

Are SARMs Safe?

Firstly, we are not stating that SARMs are 100% safe and risk-free, especially as there is limited scientific research available regarding their effects.

We have observed notable fluctuations in ALT/AST levels, blood lipids, and serum testosterone levels (among other symptoms) in our patients who have utilized SARMs.

Thus, although some people may make a case for SARMs being safer than anabolic steroids, it is naïve to expect no side effects from them.

Safest SARMs

These are the five mildest SARMs on the market.

  1. Ostarine
  2. Andarine
  3. Stenabolic
  4. Cardarine
  5. Ibutamoren

The last 3 compounds on this list are not technically SARMs but are included because they are often referred to as SARMs by the bodybuilding community.

Disclosure: We do not accept any form of advertising on Inside Bodybuilding. We monetize our practice via doctor consultations and carefully chosen supplement recommendations, which have given our patients excellent results.

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1. Ostarine (MK-2866)

Ostarine (MK-2866) is often the first SARM beginners take due to its mild nature and moderate potency. We often see novices build up to 10 pounds of lean muscle while reducing subcutaneous fat stores and significantly increasing strength on Ostarine.

The drawbacks of Ostarine are that it will raise liver enzyme values, indicating some hepatic stress. These quickly drop back to normal levels upon cycle cessation; however, Ostarine may be unsuitable for someone with a previous liver injury or inflammation.

Ostarine can also affect HDL and LDL cholesterol, causing a temporary and modest increase in blood pressure.

Our SHBG tests show Ostarine to be suppressive; however, not all users will experience low testosterone symptoms. This may be due to Ostarine lowering total testosterone but not free testosterone. Thus, a PCT is optional, with some wanting to correct their total testosterone score promptly, while others let their HPTA recover naturally.

Ostarine Dosage

The following dosages are tailored for beginners. 

  • Men: 15mg/day for 8 weeks
  • Women: 10mg/day for 8 weeks

Note: In our experience, women gain notably more muscle hypertrophy than men on Ostarine, despite taking a lower dose. Higher dosages than this will increase the risk of side effects.

2. Andarine (S4)

Andarine, like Ostarine, is considered a mild SARM due to its fewer cardiac, hepatic, and HPTA-related side effects.

We have found Andarine to be particularly beneficial for enhancing vascularity and pumps. The strength gains on Andarine are also significant, with users building similar amounts of hypertrophy to Ostarine (5–10 lbs).

One unique side effect associated with Andarine is vision issues. We have had reports of Andarine causing yellow or green rings to appear when looking in the direction of a light source. Furthermore, when users transition from a dark setting to a light setting, it can take longer for the eyes to adjust to Andarine. It is unclear exactly why this occurs more often with Andarine than with other SARMs. Andarine having a higher binding affinity to ocular receptors may be a plausible explanation.

Anecdotally, we have found this side effect to be temporary, with normal vision restoring quickly upon cycle cessation. Thus, Andarine ranks high on our safest SARMs list, with it only having mild adverse effects.

Andarine Dosage

  • Men: 25–50 mg/day for 8 weeks
  • Women: 12.5–25 mg/day for 8 weeks

Note: Vision issues are more likely to occur at higher dosages.

3. Stenabolic (SR9009)

Stenabolic is often referred to as a SARM, but is instead a Rev-ErbA agonist.

Stenabolic has potent fat-burning properties due to inhibiting glucose expression, increasing mitochondria, lowering blood sugar levels, and increasing basal metabolic rate.

In our experience, even sedentary individuals can burn notable amounts of fat from Stenabolic, due to it working at a hormonal level. However, combining it with weight training and/or cardio will maximize fat loss.

We have also seen users undergo significant improvements in athletic performance on Stenabolic, which may be attributed to the increase in mitochondria. Users should not expect to build notable amounts of muscle on Stenabolic, as it should instead be viewed as a fat-burning agent.

Anecdotally, we have not found Stenabolic to produce any notable side effects. Thus, despite being a research chemical, it does appear to be safe, at least in the short term.

Stenabolic does not suppress the HPTA and even has positive effects on cholesterol and liver values (1), thus, it does not necessarily have to be cycled like a SARM. However, it may still be advisable to take it in 4–8-week cycles until its long-term effects are more thoroughly established.

Stenabolic Dosage

  • Men: 50 mg a day for 4–8 weeks.
  • Women: 30 mg a day for 4–8 weeks.

4. Cardarine (GW501516)

Cardarine (GW501516) is a PPARD (Peroxisome Proliferator Activated Receptor Delta) receptor agonist that acts as a potent fat burner.

Our patients have also experienced vast improvements in muscle endurance when on Cardarine, due to PPARδ regulating muscle metabolism and the repogramming of muscle fibres (2).

Cardarine lowers cholesterol and improves insulin resistance. In research, we find Cardarine has the potential to be hepatotoxic in mice (3), although most humans anecdotally do not experience such issues.

The biggest concern for users is the carcinogenic risk of Cardarine which, in research, has caused tumors in mice. However, it is worth noting that the rodents were taking very high dosages (5 mg/kg per day) continuously for 2 years, whereas Cardarine is typically cycled at a fraction of that dosage (0.3 mg/kg per day). More research is needed for us to better understand Cardarine’s connection with cancer; however, many users are taking Cardarine without any proliferation or obvious side effects.

Cardarine Dosage

  • Men: 10-20 mg/day for 8 weeks
  • Women: 7.5–15 mg/day for 8 weeks

5. Ibutamoren (MK-677)

Ibutamoren (MK-677) is a growth hormone secretagogue that is often included in the ‘SARM’ family, which builds muscle and burns subcutaneous fat.

Some people in the bodybuilding community believe that Ibutamoren does not affect endogenous testosterone and is free from side effects. However, our tests show that Ibutamoren can cause HPTA complications in many users.

Ibutamoren makes this list because it is common for users to notice no side effects from a cycle while building 7 pounds of muscle and reducing their body fat percentage by a few points.

However, we have seen a few individuals experience mild forms of gynecomastia due to raised prolactin levels. Ibutamoren can also spike blood sugar levels, causing an increase in blood pressure and visceral fat storage. Thus, Ibutamoren will burn subcutaneous fat stores but increase visceral fat mass.

Interestingly, our SHBG tests show that Ibutamoren suppresses testosterone levels. This appears to be an indirect effect (related to prolactin), as Ibutamoren does not directly affect androgen levels. Ibutamoren may also cause water retention, with GH-stimulating compounds increasing sodium retention (4).

Ibutamoren Dosage

  • Men: 25mg/day for 16 weeks
  • Women: 15mg/day for 16 weeks

Harshest SARMs

  • YK-11
  • S23
  • RAD 150

YK-11 is technically a myostatin inhibitor rather than a SARM. We have seen YK-11 cause harsh side effects that can be likened to anabolic steroids rather than SARMs. Our patients have experienced testosterone suppression, raised liver enzymes, increased cholesterol, acne, and joint pain from YK-11.

S23 may be an exceptional SARM for muscle strength and pumps, but it also poses harsh side effects, most notably severe testosterone suppression.

RAD 150 is a more potent and harsher SARM than its predecessor, RAD 140. In contrast, we class RAD 140 and LGD 4033 as moderate SARMs in regards to side effects. These are two popular SARMs that users will utilize after their first cycle (likely to be Ostarine).

Safest SARM Stacks

The safest SARM combinations are those that include 1 SARM with Cardarine or Stenabolic. This way, you can enhance results by combining a SARM with another compound that does not exacerbate testosterone levels, cholesterol, or liver values.

Combining two or three SARMs together will cause harsher side effects on the HPTA, ALT/AST enzymes, and LDL/HDL cholesterol, as opposed to running just one SARM.

Some of the safest SARM stacks we see are (in order of mildest to strongest):

  • Stenabolic/Cardarine (cutting)
  • Ostarine/Andarine (lean bulk)
  • RAD 140/Ostarine (bulking)

Are SARM Alternatives Safe?

sarms alternatives

SARM alternatives aim to replicate the positive effects of SARMs with natural and FDA-approved ingredients. These supplements are very safe, having no side effects on men or women. However, their effectiveness has not yet been established, and based on their ingredient profile, users’ results are likely to be considerably less (compared to real SARMs).

Co Authors :

References

(1) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7529425/

(2) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4421799/

(3) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3361396/

(4) https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/9701701/