In this article, as part of our Ultimate Series on SARMs, we will consider Cardarine, including its uses and effects. Although not technically a SARM, Cardarine is usually treated as a SARM because of its similarities to SARMs and because it is regularly used in SARM stacks. Initially developed as a drug to treat metabolic diseases, Cardarine is principally used to provide a fat-burning and cardiovascular advantage.
Cardarine — Not Actually a SARM
Cardarine, which is also known by a variety of names including GW501516, GW1516, GSK-516 and Endurobol, is a PPARδ receptor agonist and not technically a selective androgen receptor modulator (SARM); nonetheless, because of its similar characteristics and effects and because it is regularly stacked with SARMS, Cardarine is generally treated as a SARM.
Cardarine was first developed in a collaboration between Ligand Pharmaceuticals, which also developed the SARM Ligandrol, and GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), in the 1990s. The drug was developed to treat metabolic and cardiovascular diseases, including obesity, diabetes, hyperlipidemia (high lipid levels in the blood) and heart health problems.
Animal testing in 2007 showed that the Cardarine dramatically improved the physical performance of the animals it was given to, which led to the immediate growth of a black market for the drug. At or around the same time, animal testing was abandoned by GSK when it was discovered that the drug was causing cancer. As well as adding Cardarine to its prohibited list of performance-enhancing substances in 2009, the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) also issued warnings to athletes that Cardarine is not safe.
As we have said in all our previous articles on SARMs, you must be in no doubt about the potential risks and side effects of using these drugs, which much be balanced against their beneficial effects, which are real, when they are used properly and in the right contexts. Because the spectre of cancer has been raised here, that caveat applies with as much force, if not more.
We will note that there are serious flaws in the studies that showed Cardarine causes cancer. While the long-term effects of human use remain to be investigated, short-term clinical studies of Cardarine use have recorded no adverse side effects.
The Lowdown — Impressive Health Benefits?
Unlike Ostarine, Ligandrol, RAD 140 and Andarine, Cardarine is not an anabolic SARM. Cardarine is not used to build muscle, although it is often used during a muscle building regime or bulking phase as part of a stack. Rather, what Cardarine provides is enhanced metabolic properties:
- Enhanced fat loss
- Reduced or minimal fat gain during bulking
- Increased HDL cholesterol
- Improved cardiovascular performance
It can be stacked with steroids and other SARMs such as Ostarine, Ligandrol, and RAD 140 to enhance cardiovascular health including keeping “bad” cholesterol levels in check during a cycle.
And, aside from its fat-burning qualities, many lifters stack GW-501516 to prevent weight gain on cycle as other compounds may induce unusual and insatiable levels of hunger, thus mitigating any potential fat gain while bulking.
Its cardiovascular boosting qualities — especially for endurance athletes — has been something to behold in recent years as both professional athletes and gymbros alike have underscored its impressive endurance enhancing effects.
Cardarine, as a drug with performance-enhancing effects, is listed as an S1 Anabolic Agent on WADA’s prohibited list. After the 2007 study that showed Cardarine’s significant enhancement of physical performance in animals, a number of the 16 athletes who were banned for doping at the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games tested positive for Cardarine.
In 2019, the heavyweight boxer Jarrell Miller, who was training to fight Anthony Joshua for the heavyweight title, was flagged for Cardarine and forced to withdraw from the bout. Miller had suffered from weight issues in the past, reaching a weight of 315lbs at one point, and almost certainly chose Cardarine to help him with his weight and cardiovascular fitness.
Heavyweight boxer Jarrell Miller
How Cardarine Works
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). These PPARδ receptors have been described in the Journal of Clinical Investigation as a ‘dagger in the heart of metabolic syndrome’, with serious potential in the war against obesity and metabolic illness [R].
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. This is a process that is similar in some fundamental respects to ketosis, a fat-burning phenomenon we have examined recently in an article and in our eBook The Keto Warrior.
A few clinical trials have been performed on Cardarine and its effects on lipid and lipoprotein metabolism. Unlike the animal toxicity studies, no significant adverse effects were reported in any of the human studies. We will discuss the animal studies in more detail in the section on side effects.
The various human studies that have been conducted have confirmed that Cardarine increases fat metabolism [R].
Apart from the small amount of clinical evidence, there are no studies of Cardarine use in an athletic setting, with healthy individuals. There is though, as with the other SARMs, widespread anecdotal evidence for Cardarine’s effectiveness, and that includes the aforementioned instances of professional athletes using the drug.
One Reddit user, for instance, noted that by taking Cardarine he was able to eat effectively anything without gaining weight, at the same time as improving his performance in the gym.
‘I didn’t lose anything, actually, but the whole time I was eating ice cream, burgers, fries, chocolate, you name it, despite being at 11% bodyfat. And I didn’t gain anything. All my lifts went up and my cardio skyrocketed.’
Another user described his experience in detail.
Age : 21
Weight as of post: 154
Cardarine – 6 weeks October 10th – November 7th(roughly)
Cardarine – starting weight 155o – 146n
FIRST THE SIDE EFFECTS – Stomach pain(30min) Stomach pains about 30min after ingestion. Expected and diarrhea followed. Happened twice a day after both intakes of 10mg /2x a day.
Positives: WEIGHT LOSS: Starting on October 10th(weighed about 155 pounds) Not fat.. but signs of love handles and the formation of lower abdominal fat. 5 week cycle –
Lost 8 pounds Maintained muscle mass and strength in a caloric deficit Endurance went out of the roof. Exercise was easy – except for swimming was a slower process Sense of well-being (more just confidence) Overall had more energy.. not like caffeine but a better mood. More confident Overall more shredded/vascular
Enjoyed every bit of it… really no complaints. Not addictive, I did end up gaining some weight back afterwards.. since I never changed my diet but I was still pleased with the results’
‘You don’t get tired during exercise. You never hit that wall of running out of glycogen. GW promotes to use of stored fat as energy. So for example I could go into the gym and do my workout.. and want to do it again. After that maybe a run because I felt like it! It’s a crazy feeling.’
‘I had a lot of success in just about every event. Just know you still have to put the work in. This won’t make you the fastest athlete by simply taking it.
I personally had a lot of success with it when it came to Vo2 max and Lactic threshold. I did a max vo2 test in my Exercise Physiology practicum without the cardarine(before even knowing what it was) and I had a vo2 max of about 39.4(ML/kg/Min)
2 weeks later – up to a whopping 43.4(ml/kg/min)
*Yes I do believe it helps with lactate threshold(which is a better indicator for athletic performance than vo2 max)’
How to Use Cardarine
Like true SARMs, Cardarine is administered orally. There is no need to inject it, as you would steroids or other compounds like human growth hormone.
Cardarine is generally used in a cycle of six to eight weeks, with at least a month between cycles. This may be prudent given the concerns about carcinogenicity, which we will consider in more detail in the next section.
Many users take Cardarine as part of a stack. We will examine SARM stacks in a separate article.
As with the SARMs we have looked at, the effects are dosage-dependent. The more you take, the greater the effects. Again, there is a concern about toxicity at higher doses, but it should be noted that the doses administered in the animals trials that showed carcinogenicity were very high, and were administered for a very long period of time.
Side Effects of Cardarine
As a result of the animal trials, of all the SARMs Cardarine understandably generates the most concern about side effects. While a gymbro, bodybuilder or professional athlete might be willing to tolerate mood swings or the vision-altering side effects of Andarine in their quest to improve their physical performance, it’s probably safe to say that all but the most hellbent would baulk at the thought of dramatically increasing their risk of cancer to do so.
But is the risk real?
Putting to one side the differences between rodent and human metabolism, what can definitely be said about the early animal trials is that a seriously high dose was administered to the animals, for a long time. In the principal trial in question, the equivalent of 50x the human dose given in trials was administered to the rats for a period of 104 weeks. By contrast, in the human trials that have taken place, in which no real side effects were noted, the doses (up to 10 mg/day) were administered for periods of no longer than 12 weeks.
Anecdotal experience supports the human trials.
Some users, such as the swimmer who described his experience on Reddit, experience headaches and diarrhea.
Is Cardarine Present in Other Supplements?
Generally, no. In large part, this is because SARMs are not approved for human consumption in the US or any other country. As a result, there are no legal medications or dietary supplements that contain SARMs, and that includes Cardarine.
However, in certain cases it appears that some supplement manufacturers have put SARMs – illegally – into their supplements and labelled them as ‘legal steroids’ or chemicals for ‘research purposes only’. In the US, for example, companies have been warned for attempting to sell Ligandrol as a dietary supplement. In 2017, Infantry Labs and Panther Sports Nutrition were both told by the FDA to cease distributing a dietary supplements that contained Ligandrol.
If you have any doubts about a supplement, first consult the label and then, if you are not convinced, check the USADA’s Supplement 411.
Conclusion — Impressive Effects
Cardarine has been much sought after over its incredible effects — despite facing mounting pressure from medical lobby groups and he FDA.
Cardarine’s positive cardiovascular effects have been sought by various athletes and gym bros looking to hone their craft.
Reducing LDL levels while boosting HDL and promoting angioplasty are two incredible benefits — aside from significantly spiking endurance and potentially assisting with fat loss.
Sadly, many medical professionals declaim Cardarine as a potential carcinogen after rodents were administered the equivalent of 50x the human dose for an incredibly prolonged period.
Some may harbor certain reservations toward internet SARMs providers as forums and message boards are awash with complaints of bunk chemicals being sold to users in their efforts to gain muscle and/or lose fat.
However, we have published an article detailing how and where you may visit a trusted provider.
We have also published other articles in our series on SARMs, detailing some user experiences in the process.
According to one user report:
Here are two testimonies, taken from Reddit, from users of Ligandrol.
‘I finally gained 3 pounds after only 2 weeks! Solid mass! All of my max weights have been upped by at least 20 to 30 pounds. I’m hitting weight I’ve never even touched before. My wife straight asked me if I was on roids and I said no but close, sarms.’
Another user wrote:
‘I am now a week into a cycle and have the gains of a month straight of me working my ass off… I’ve got my 6 pack back in a week and all the fat on my stomach that was my original problem is now almost non existent. I will post before after pictures so I may prove the effectiveness of this SARM but damn I’m… elated right now. I’ve recommended it to my skinny brothers as well as I know they will gain and bulk up with just 4 weeks of this supplement. Guys, I’ve taken oral gear before and had gyno [gynecomastia – growth of breast tissue] issues almost immediately. So far no side effects’
A user from the Anabolic Minds forum, who was almost certainly taking a higher dose than the usual dose most users of Ligandrol take, reported the following increases over a period of just a single month.
- 12lbs increase in body weight
- 60lbs increase in squat
- 45lbs increase in bench press
- 60lbs increase in deadlift
- 35lbs increase in standing press
Users report gains of around 5-7lbs of lean mass over a period of six weeks , as well as increased strength and endurance. One experienced powerlifter on Reddit describes his experience with ostarine thus.
“The first week, I immediately noticed the effects of the drug. At first I thought it was a placebo effect. However, the effect continued- I was not getting sore after my training sessions and I was able to perform significantly more volume work during the training sessions.
“As an experienced lifter, I am not often “de-trained,” so I am seldom “sore” after lifting.
“However, the type of pain I usually feel is fatigue and deep soreness of your body being wrecked from very heavy weight. Sets of 5 at 85% of your 1RM will wreck you.
“With Ostarine, they didn’t wreck me. I really didn’t feel wrecked. I felt like I lifted the next day, sure, but I didn’t have the “hit by a truck” feeling. It was crazy. I couldn’t believe it.”
Although he only took Ostarine for a short period, he noticed serious changes within a week.
Disclaimer: we are not medical professionals. If you wish to consume SARMs and/or other performance enhancing drugs, we urge that you take the appropriate channels and consult your physician. Please ensure that you request comprehensive bloodwork to protect your health, under the care of your physician.
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