The SARMS PCT or Post-Cycle Therapy following a SARMs cycle is often a subject of intense debate depending on the compound you’ve consumed, your natural testosterone production, and a vast array of other factors.
Within we will examine whether you need a SARMS PCT following a cycle and what protocol you should follow.
SARMS PCT Preface
Over the past few months we’ve run an Ultimate Series on SARMs (selective androgen receptor modulators) designed to give you the lowdown on these new designer muscle-building drugs. Here is a list of links to all the individual articles in the series:
In this article we’ll look in depth at post-cycle therapy (PCT): what is it and when is it necessary?
SARMs PCT — The Breakdown
What Are SARMs?
The molecular structure of Andarine, a selective androgen receptor modulator
SARMs induce anabolic activity – growth – by directly stimulating the body’s androgen receptors. These are specific sites within the body to which androgenic (i.e. male) hormones, including testosterone and androsterone, bind.
The activity of these androgen receptors, and the binding of androgens to them, is crucial to the proper expression of male characteristics, including muscle growth and reproductive function. In the womb, androgens are responsible for sexual differentiation, and then during puberty they regulate the development and function of the penis, prostate and other sexual organs, as well as inducing growth spurts, larynx development and growth of skeletal muscle.
For adults, androgens regulate behaviour, the production of sperm, muscle growth, bone function and aspects of the cardiovascular system. Androgens also regulate sexual function and are responsible, in part, for aggressive behaviour in men. As a result, disregulation or blocking of the androgen receptors can lead to all sorts of conditions.
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Testosterone (SARMS PCT Key Factor)
SARMs bind to the androgen receptors and mimics the effects of testosterone, increasing protein synthesis and therefore muscle growth. This is also what steroids do, but SARMs generally have an advantage over steroids, because they only bind to receptors in skeletal muscle tissue.
Steroids, by contrast, work on other tissues in the body and have, as a result, been linked to all sorts of side effects, including enlargement of the prostate and heart, which can have serious or even fatal consequences.
SARMs are also non-aromatising, meaning that they aren’t converted to estrogen by the body in an attempt to maintain the body’s testosterone-to-estrogen balance. By contrast, aromatisation can occur when using steroids or testosterone injections, which upset that balance, leading to problems such as gynecomastia (formation of breast tissue).
Having said that, a SARMS PCT, more often than not, should be deployed in most instances.
Who Uses SARMS?
Because of their effects on protein synthesis, bone function and the cardiovascular system, SARMs are used by a wide range of athletes, especially strength and endurance athletes, and bodybuilders, as well as amateurs and gymbros looking to increase their muscle mass and strength.
Because of their performance-enhancing properties, SARMs are listed as an S1 Anabolic Agent on WADA’s prohibited list. SARMs can, however, be purchased legally in most territories (except Australia, notably) through a loophole that allows them to be sold as ‘research chemicals not for consumption’.
Alexander Povetkin was suspended for Ostarine use
A number of professional athletes and sportsmen have been subject to sanction for SARM use, including the boxers Alexander Povetkin and Jarrell Miller, powerlifters, professional cyclists, swimmers and Crossfit competitors.
SARMs PCT — What Is Post-Cycle Therapy?
Greg Doucette video on SARMs PCT
Post-cycle therapy is a common practice after taking anabolic agents such as steroids, exogenous testosterone and SARMs. Because of their hormonal effects, these compounds will suppress natural testosterone levels, and so some form of intervention is usually required to ensure that hormone levels return to their normal levels once the anabolic cycle comes to an end.
Generally, SARMs are considered to have fewer unwanted side effects than steroids and exogenous testosterone; this is what the ‘selective’ in the name is supposed to designate. Even so, perhaps with the exception of Ostarine, which we’ll talk about in more detail below, SARMs will cause some suppression of your natural hormone levels if you use them. Depending on the severity of the suppression, you may need to follow a course of post-cycle therapy for a period of time.
In simple terms, particular substances are taken that help to balance the production of hormones. Some may stimulate your body to produce testosterone, while others may balance or inhibit the production of estrogen to prevent side effects associated with an altered testosteroen: estrogen balance.
Ensuring a proper balance of hormones is restored will also ensure that you hold on to the gains you have made as a result of the SARM cycle. There would be absolutely no point to engaging in a SARMs cycle if you simply lost your gains as soon as you stopped taking them.
PCT may also include substances that help to detoxify the liver, since liver toxicity is one side effect of many SARMs.
A Note on Cardarine and Ibutamoren
Neither Cardarine nor Ibutamoren on its own requires post-cycle therapy, since they aren’t actually SARMs. They are regularly treated as SARMs because they work according to similar mechanisms and are commonly stacked with them.
Cardarine is a metabolic activator, meaning that it targets certain receptors associated with the body’s metabolism, in this case the peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor δ (PPARδ). By stimulating these receptors, Cardarine stimulates fatty acid oxidation, burning fat and increasing glucose uptake in skeletal muscle tissue, which changes the body’s metabolism to burn fat for energy instead of muscle or carbohydrates.
Ibutamoren (MK677), by contrast, works by promoting the secretion of growth hormone and insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1), both of which, broadly considered, stimulate processes of growth within the body, including muscle mass and strength increases, as well as reductions in body fat. Ibutamoren does this by mimicking the effects of ghrelin and binding to the ghrelin receptors in the brain, which are found in regions of the brain that control appetite, mood, the ‘biological clock’, memory and cognition.
You will not experience testosterone suppression with these substances, unless they are combined in a SARM stack with other true SARMs.
How Do I Know If I Need a PCT?
It’s worth stating, first of all, that individual experience with SARMs will vary. Some report absolutely no side effects, including suppression, while others report far more.
It’s generally acknowledged that Ostarine is the least suppressive, and is one of the only SARMs that is likely to require no PCT afterwards, except if used at higher doses. By contrast, S-23 is widely referred to as the most suppressive and will almost certainly require a PCT after use.
Ideally, you’d have blood work done before you take the SARMs to gain a baseline reading of your body’s hormone levels. Towards the end of your cycle, you’d then have more blood work done to see the effects of the cycle. Depending on the results, you would then decide whether or not to undertake PCT.
The Rock suffered from gynecomastia as a result of anabolic use early in his career
At the same time, if you are suffering from suppression, you’re likely to know about it even if you don’t have blood work done. You’ll suffer from some or all of the symptoms traditionally associated with low testosterone, such as lethargy, gynecomastia, depression and loss of libido. For more information of the symptoms of low testosterone, see our article on the subject.
Our main advice, then, is to play it by ear: unless you are using a low dose of Ostarine, perhaps in conjunction with Cardarine or Ibutamoren, you can expect to have to undergo PCT. The higher the SARM dosage, the more severe the suppression is likely to be, and you can expect it to be worst if you are using S-23, Ligandrol or RAD-140. Just because somebody on Reddit said they didn’t experience suppression with these SARMs, doesn’t mean that you won’t either.
What Does a PCT consist of?
PCT should begin as soon as you come off SARMs, and will typically last a period of weeks, often between four and eight, but never usually more than 12.
Over-the-counter PCT supplements will typically contain a variety of natural herbs to boost testosterone levels, such as bulbine natalensis, tongkat ali, milk thistle and fenugreek, as well as vitamins and minerals like D3, zinc and magnesium, which also serve to boost testosterone. Herbs and spices like garlic, parsley, turmeric and ginger may be included to help improve liver function.
Aromatase-inhibiting substances will also typically be included. These prevent the conversion of testosterone to estrogen by the enzyme aromatase, helping to ensure excess estrogen is not produced.
As part of a PCT cycle, some will also include selective estrogen receptor modulators (SERMs), such as Nolvadex and Clomiphene, but these substances come with a host of side effects, such as cognitive impairment, blurred vision and depression, that can make taking them quite an unpleasant business.
Generally, the route involving natural herbs and aromatase inhibitors may take a little longer than using SERMs, but you’ll almost certainly suffer far, far less.
And in addition to this, the only way to truly know if you need a SARMS PCT is to get bloodwork done.
There are certain symptoms such as anxiety, depression, fogginess, low-energy, poor libido, etc., that can indicated shuttered testosterone production.
Some lifters might not need a SARMS PCT at all.
Ligandrol (LGD-4033) has been clinically proven to be suppressive, even at lower doses. Protocols may be undertaken to counteract shutdown of FSH and LH — although those more prone to hair loss are beholden to take more targeted direct action.
Many lifters often claim that milder compounds such as Ostarine (MK-2886) isn’t suppressive at all.
However, like with all anabolic compounds, it is recommendable to take blood work before and after cycle.
Aside from a SARMS PCT, be sure to also monitor your lipid profiles, blood pressure, and liver activity while on cycle to deploy the correct protocols to avoid health complications. Sometimes, this may require the premature termination of your cycle.
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Note: This publication does not condemn or condone the use of SARMS or any other performance enhancing drug. Please note, SARMS are yet to be formally approved for human consumption and the long-term side effects are still not fully ascertained.
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