SARMs: Untested, Unregulated, Unwanted?
However, there is a rather dark corner of the supplement industry known collectively as "anabolics" which make the journey to getting huge and ripped exceptionally easier. These compounds accelerate your growth, BUT there often comes with several unwanted consequences.
Related: Ultimate Guide to SARMs - Selective Androgen Receptor Modulators
We're talking of course about Selective Androgen Receptor Modulators, or SARMs for short, and we're here to give you a crash course in what they are and the potential pitfalls that await anyone testing these unchartered waters.
What are SARMs?
To understand what a SARM is and how it works, you first need to know what androgens are. Androgens are a special class of male sex hormones that are "defined as a substance capable of developing and maintaining masculine characteristics in reproductive tissues (notably the genital tract, secondary sexual characteristics, and fertility) and contributing to the anabolic status of somatic tissues." 
In other words, androgens are compounds that stimulate or regulate the development of "what makes men, men" via binding to androgen receptors (AR). FYI, testosterone is the most well-known androgen around.
Androgen receptors are one part of a larger "communication pathway" in the body that results in greater expression of certain genes. This ability to bind and "connect" to androgen receptors is what gives all of these anabolic compounds their muscle-building properties.
What makes SARMs appealing is their ability to activate certain receptors while inhibiting the actions of others, therefore in theory, offering all the benefits of steroids without the nasty side effects. According to this definition, SARMs, as you'll encounter in the supplement industry, are nonsteroidal, yet still activate androgen receptors. This selective anabolic activity amplifies protein synthesis and helps builds muscle.
SARMs vs Steroids vs ProhormonesSARMs, steroids, and prohormones all fall under the category of anabolics (muscle-builders), and they're somewhat similar, but each is a different class of compounds.
let's start with the giant elephant in the room that are steroids. The big problem with steroids are the possible side effects, such as gynecomastia (otherwise known as "gyno," bitch tits, or man boobs) and testosterone suppression, and to a smaller extent lack of knowledge of the user. Steroids are also a schedule III drug, which makes them illegal to possess or use without a prescription.
Prohormones are compounds that converted into a hormone in your body. Prohormones are inactive initially due to their structure and require a 2-step conversion, more or less, in the body to become active. Therefore, you can think of a prohormone as a "pre-steroid"?
Just like steroids, prohormones require proper post cycle therapy (PCT) and can come with all of the nasty side effects and health risks that regular anabolic steroids pose.
Lastly, there are SARMs. These compounds are active prohormones that require conversion in the body. SARMs also are orally bioavailable, meaning you can take them in pill form and do not need to use injections, which testosterone and most other steroids do.
Dangers of SARMsRight off the bat, you need to know that SARMs are NOT supplements, any company trying to tell you they are is being outright deceptive. They are not FDA / DSHEA compliant, and at best, SARMs could be classified as "research chemicals" - meaning that they aren't full-fledged illegal, since a number of them aren't prescription or scheduled drugs. 
Now, this doesn't seem to concern the average meathead user who is only interested in getting as huge as possible, or the big pharmaceutical companies for that matter. What should be concerning though is the severe lack of research regarding SARMs.
SARM suppliers are quick to state that they come with none (or very little) of the side effects that both steroids and prohormones carry, but the honest truth is they really don't know as there has been next to no long-term research on these chemicals. At best, you may only be in store for some mild testosterone shut down in cycles over 4 weeks, but at worst, you could be faced with:
- Testicular atrophy (shrinking of the testicles a.k.a. "small balls")
- Virilization in women (development of male characteristics)
TakeawayYes, we all want to get bigger, faster, and stronger, but no shortcut can take the place of a lifelong commitment to the iron and a properly structured diet. Quick fixes like steroids, prohormones, and SARMs make give you some quick gains, but the nasty consequences that may befall you after their use simply aren't worth it in the grand scheme of things.
Sure, you may have previously used these compounds and experienced no immediate side effects, but there really is no way to tell what may happen 20 or 30 years from now when you're old and gray and walking around with shrunken testicles and man boobs.
So, do yourself a favor and simply steer away from these research chemicals masquerading as "supplements."
References1) Handelsman DJ. Androgen Physiology, Pharmacology and Abuse. [Updated 2013 Jan 1]. In: De Groot LJ, Chrousos G, Dungan K, et al., editors. Endotext [Internet]. South Dartmouth (MA): MDText.com, Inc.; 2000-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK279000/
2) US Food and Drug Administration; ?Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994?; October 25, 1994; Available from http://www.fda.gov/RegulatoryInformation/Legislation/SignificantAmendmentstotheFDCAct/ucm148003.htm