The Healthy Executive

New TRT Alternative? A Self-Experiment

 

Testosterone is fundamentally important to a man’s well being, health, and fitness. It regulates our sex drive (libido), bone mass, fat distribution, muscle mass and strength, and the production of red blood cells and sperm.

Strength and lean muscle mass is the #1 predictor of male longevity. And these highly valuable qualities also make us productive breadwinners for our families.

What You Need To Know (TLDR;)

  1. Male strength and power is based on lean muscle which depends on testosterone levels.
  2. Male testosterone levels are globally declining for unknown reasons; levels also naturally decline as we age.
  3. There are several methods to boost testosterone and lean muscle, including a new option.
  4. SARMS are a recent development that shows promise in increasing lean muscle mass and reducing fat similar to testosterone, but with fewer side-effects.
  5. I self-experimented with SARMS and added 8.6 lbs of lean muscle and lost 5.4% body-fat in 6 weeks.

In this post, I self-experiment with a new option to boost anabolic muscle protein synthesis and discuss it in the context of traditional options such as testosterone replacement therapy (aka TRT).

OptionStatusCostPROS & CONS
1. Lifestyle FactorsLegalInexpensiveChronic stress is part of the executive role.
Many endocrine disruptors can be self-managed.
(stress, sleep, nutrition, fitness)
2. Natural SupplementsLegalInexpensiveNot anabolic.
May improve libido.
Few negative side-effects.
3. TRTLegalCovered by insurance.Lifetime treatment.
Medically supervised.
Pharma-grade (USP/GMP).
4. SteroidsIllegalExpensiveSide effects (HPTA Suppression).
Reversibility = Dependency.
Underground Labs (No USP/GMP).
5. SARMSLegal for research.
Banned from sports.
InexpensiveOral (non-injectable).
Anabolic, not Androgenic.
Limited side-effects.

Reading time: 9.0 minutes (5400 words @ 600 wpm[1])

 

Your Balls Are Shrinking

Testosterone levels in men are declining worldwide are declining every year (alternate link) for unknown reasons. Additionally, testosterone naturally declines as men age. Approximately 1 in 4 men have low testosterone, (know the signs of low testosterone).

  • Low testosterone corresponds to obesity, metabolic syndrome, diabetes, and high blood pressure.
  • It can create symptoms of brain fog, depression, and lethargy.
  • Low testosterone levels are linked with cognitive decline and neurological degeneration.
  • Cardiovascular disease and heart attacks are higher in men with low testosterone.

Men having low testosterone levels report decrease in energy and extreme feeling of fatigue. In case you are tired of spending all time exercising, getting proper sleep and even hitting the gym without facing any benefits, you need to opt for some reliable and safe testosterone boosters. As testosterone plays an important role in building as well as strengthening the muscles, men having low testosterone may face reduction in strength and muscle mass. Even those who try reversing muscle loss with weight training may find it tough to build the muscles.

So how can you get stronger and build muscle if you have low testosterone?

Ways To Boost Strength & Muscle Mass

The table above summarizes options for boosting your testosterone levels and lean muscle, ranked in order of cost-effectiveness and “tried and true” results.

This post is mainly focused on my self-experiment and results with a relatively new option (#5 SARMS). I will also present my conclusions on who this might be suitable for (detailed below).

First, let’s look at your primary options to boost strength and muscle mass in more detail. This is a complex topic subject to a lot of misinformation so I will try to be comprehensive and succinct at the same time.

  1. Lifestyle factors include things like stress-reduction, improving sleep quality, improving nutrition, reducing body fat, and increasing energy (strength and aerobic capacity).
    • Chronic long-term stress on the body reduces testosterone. Acute short-term stress (like resistance or interval training) raises testosterone.
      • This is the “tried and true” method I coach my clients because it works within weeks and AND is sustainable long term.
    • Notably, one of the most difficult areas for executives is stress-reduction (and stress-eating).
      • This is because resolving stressful situations comes with executive roles.
    • As I’ve noted in my own case, stresses at work can spill over and create additional stresses at home.
  2. Supplements for boosting testosterone (generally plant based, sometimes minerals).
    1. While supplements may have mild and short term effects on libido, they have no long term muscle building (anabolic) effects.
      • Caffeine and creatine are useful ergogenic aids (temporary performance boosters in the gym or at the track).
    2. I’ve read the clinical research on supplements for years and have concluded they are largely a waste of time and money.
      • You can read exactly why here. If a supplement is made in the state of Utah, it’s legal but useless crap.
    3. I’ve tried them all myself personally and eventually realized I has succumbed to the psychology of chasing “magic pills”.
    4. Don’t forget that most supplements are essentially incomplete food in the form of powder. Therefore, they are as effective as food at best.
    5. That being said, it is important to optimize the micro-nutrition of real foods in your diet.
  3. Testosterone Replacement Therapy (TRT) requires a clinical diagnoses of deficiency and is managed by a licensed medical professional using pharma-grade products (US or Euro Pharmacopeia, Good Manufacturing Practices).
    • TRT will boost you back to a normal range for healthy men, and will enable you to build lean muscle if you do the required resistance training.
      • TRT will not build muscle all by itself nor turn you into a bodybuilder — the administered dose is not supra physiological.
    • Because deficiency has already occurred, HPTA suppression (hypothalamus-pituitary-testes-axis) is not an issue.
    • Once TRT is commenced, it must be monitored and managed for a lifetime.
    • Many insurance companies will pay for TRT if you are clinically diagnosed with a low level.
  4. Steroids are perceived to be used mainly by bodybuilders, but the truth is they are heavily used by almost all professional athletes and even quite a few recreational athletes as well.
    • Because they are banned in sports and illegal in many places, steroids are supplied by the black market.
      • Injectable steroids bypass the bodies natural defense mechanisms (digestion, respiration).
        • This is a safety issue because underground laboratories (UGLs) that do not conform to stringent USP/GMP quality and safety standards.
      • Most oral forms of steroids are highly toxic to the liver.
      • Lab analysis of black market steroids show that many are contaminated or counterfeit.
    • Steroids are “rented muscles”.
      • Because they are highly anabolic, many users actually train and eat worse than non-users. In other words, the psychological effect is they can make you stupid and lazy.
      • In addition to being anabolic, steroids are androgenic.
        • This causes HPTA suppression (shuts your balls off) — when you come off cycle you are now in a deep hole.
        • Gains are reversible (when you stop taking roids, added muscle goes away and you become weaker).
        • Because gains are highly reversible, you can become physically and psychologically dependent.
    • Longevity is reduced by 50%.
      • Heavy steroid users (pro bodybuilders) die at age 47.7 according to this study.
        • Ventricular hypertrophy (abnormally enlarged heart) is a common cause listed during autopsies.
      • Prior to steroids (1930 and earlier), old time strongmen lived to an average age of 82.5 years old.
  5. SARMS (Selective Androgen Receptor Modulators) are a new class of therapeutic compounds that scientists have been developing that aren’t as detrimental to people’s health and well-being as TRT or steroids.
    • SARMS have beneficial properties similar to anabolic agents such as TRT, but with reduced androgenic (negative) side effects.
    • The selective property allows SARMs the advantage of androgen-receptor specificity, tissue selectivity, and the lack of steroid-related side effects.
      • They have a special affinity for certain tissues like muscle and bone, but not for others, like the heart, prostate, liver, and brain.
      • Because they are less Androgenic, there is reduced HPTA suppression (i.e. they don’t shrink your balls and sex drive).
    • Oral administration (non-injectable) with low/no liver toxicity.
      • They are not approved for medical use, currently they are in the clinical research phase.
    • They don’t easily break down into unwanted hormones that cause side effects such as DHT (hair loss) and estrogen (gyno).

Why Did I Research With SARMS?

My approach to health and fitness is pretty conservative. I use an evidence-based approach, and that usually means sticking with the “tried and true“. Its simple (not always easy) and it works as measured by my clients results.

The health and fitness industry is full of gimmicks that create a sense of inferiority but then promises “one weird trick” or “quick and easy results” or a “magic” pill/shortcut or “breakthrough” technology. This hacks into our innate psychological need to seek the “next new thing”. I get it. Bright shiny objects tend to appeal more than simple consistency in the kitchen or at the gym.

That being said, interesting new things in health and fitness do crop up from time to time. If they look reasonably promising I’ll take them out for a test drive and then write up my experiences and results, such as these:

SARMS are a recent development that shows promise in increasing lean muscle mass and reducing fat similar to testosterone, but with fewer side-effects. I want to be 100% clear that SARMS are NOT yet a substitute for TRT, but they ARE an option for lean muscle growth. Research shows that SARMs aren’t as powerful for muscle building as steroids, but they more effective than supplements like creatine.

Endocrine – The Last Frontier?

As the preceding diagram shows, health can be thought of as a “pyramid” of nutrition and fitness. At the foundation level, if your caloric energy intake exceeds your calories burned during the day, you will get fatter. And lean muscle is the #1 predictor of longevity and is more valuable than money.

The order of the pyramid layers matters a great deal. When you exercise, you also reduce stress, improve your hormones and sleep quality, and as a result your energy increases. In essence, every layer supports the layers above it. When you get your nutrition in order, you will lose fat, gain muscle, and improve both your hormones and sleep quality.

The opposite order is never true. The tip of the pyramid cannot support the foundation. All the supplements in the world cannot overcome poor diet and lack of exercise. Lean muscle will improve aerobic capacity, but all the running in the world won’t make you stronger. And nootropics won’t make you smarter if you are uncoachable.

One of the theories behind the global decline in testosterone levels are “endocrine disruptors“. These are chemicals in man-made products that can interfere with endocrine (or hormone) systems. Many compounds found in plastics have estrogenic effects on the body.

Because of the importance of this, I devote an entire module in my Health Executive system on how to minimize endocrine disruptors and their effects on testosterone.

But the purpose of my SARMS self-experiment is little different. Instead of “damage control” I am researching endocrine optimization. Plus,p you want to see objective results and proof whether it works or not.

Are SARMs Safe? Who Are They For?

Nonsteroidal SARMs have been around since 1998 with the goals of preventing muscle loss (sarcopenia) associated with serious diseases and aging. Their main advantage is that they target the anabolic growth of muscles with reduced androgenic side effects on the hypothalamus-pituitary-testes-axis (HPTA).

Medical research is moving from in vivo (test tube) trials to human trials (Phase 1 Safety & Phase 2 Efficacy). You can read about their preclinical and clinical development here.

Currently we just don’t know enough about how they work and their potential long-term side effects, which is a very legitimate cause for concern.

On this basis, I cannot in good faith recommend them to anybody else.

In my personal judgment, I was comfortable enough with the risk/reward ratio to do limited research on myself. For me, SARMS offers the possibility of a lean muscle boost WITHOUT risking steroid side-effects or having to commit to a lifetime of TRT.

  • Tip: If you don’t have your lifestyle factors under control and well managed, SARMS will not act as a magic pill or shortcut. As I’ve explained here, stop doing stupid shit is always priority #1.

On the other hand, if you have had the nutrition and fitness layers of the “health pyramid” under stable control for at least several years, then SARMS be an advanced endocrine frontier to explore. Specifically, “stable” means being able to maintain your target bodyweight +/-1.5lbs for months at a time and being classified as Intermediate or higher status in your resistance training (if you don’t know Intermediate means, you are not ready). Think of SARMS as an ace card in a poker tournament — you would be a fool to play your ace in your first hand, and much smarter to play it after you won all the semi-final rounds.

For my self-experiment I selected a mild SARM called Ostarine (also known as MK-2866 or Enobosarm). It was developed to cure atrophy, cachexia, sarcopenia and for Hormone or Testosterone Replacement Therapy. It has demonstrated clinical anabolic properties with low to minimal androgenic effects such as HPTA suppression with no conversion to DHT or Estrogen. From a safety perspective, it has progressed Phase IIa human clinical trials. It has a 24-hour half life which makes daily oral dosing simple.

What Is Shutdown & Suppression?

The reduction or cessation of the endogenous (natural) production of testosterone is referred as suppression and shutdown respectively.

“Shutdown” is defined by a complete inhibition of the Pituitary/Testes, resulting in total cessation of endogenous androgen production. Full restoration of the body’s natural testosterone production by the body can take weeks or even months.

“Suppression” is defined by a decreased testosterone levels, but not a complete shutdown

The Hypothalamus has Androgen, Estrogen, and Progesterone receptors. Each and EVERY anabolic steroid affects these receptors DIFFERENTLY. Some steroids affect ALL receptors, while some only affect ONE type of receptor, while others have very little effect on ANY of these receptors.

The distinction between Suppression and Shutdown is important, as suppression of endogenous hormones will allow for greater retention of gains upon ending the cycle, and a quicker, easier recovery.

Self-Experiment Goals

I set the following research goals for my self-experiment:

  1. Adding Muscle
  2. Body Recomposition
  3. Objective Measurements

My research objectives did not include:

  1. Losing Fat
  2. Adding Strength
  3. Reversing Aging

Referring back to the health pyramid, I already can lose fat using The Healthy Executive nutrition system and can gain strength using The Healthy Executive fitness system. I have done many separate self-experiments about these and other topics (such as supplements and health technology) that you can read about elsewhere on my blog.

A brief note about reverse aging: Over the course of many self-experiments I realized I was able to lower my biological age by 20-25 years (versus chronological age). This can be objectively measured by a constellation of “cohort markers” such as V02 Max, HRV, 3D imaging, bloodwork, cardiographs, genetic testing, strength, body composition, to name a few. I hope to write a post about this in future — it is very motivating to look younger and feel more energetic!

SARM Self-Experiment Results

In this section I’ll cut right to the chase and give you my self-experiment outcomes first (this is what most people are most interested in).

Further below is my both my detailed self-experiment data, measurements, and logs (for the very few people who obsess over this level of detail == mostly physique athletes).

Objective 1: Add Muscle

In 6 weeks I gained 8.6 lbs lean muscle mass (from 149.3 to 157.9 lbs).

This is significant in two respects:

  • An ‘Intermediate’ lifter like myself might expect to gain 1 lb of muscle in a month at most.
  • In the 4-week washout period you can see my lean body mass was constant was flat even though I was working out hard, so all gains were from SARM alone.

Objective 2: Body Recomposition

For 14 weeks I kept my daily calories and macronutrients and fitness training virtually identical. My goal was to see how Ostarine affected body recomposition through nutrition repartitioning. Partitioning is the balance between the processes of anabolism (muscle protein synthesis) and catabolism (autophagy & lipolysis).

  • During this self-experiment I gained 8.6 lbs lean muscle (+5.7%) and lost 0.9 lbs fat (-5.4%).

These nutrition partitioning results are pretty amazing when compared to my other self-experiments:

  • When I lean bulked I gained 4.6 lbs of muscle and 5.5 lbs of fat.
  • In my 4-week experiment I gained 0.5 lbs of muscle and lost 2.3 lbs of fat.
  • In my Mass Made Simple experiment I gained 3.9 lbs of muscle and added 1 lb of fat.

A more detailed explanation of my of Ostarine recomposition and nutrient repartitioning can be found below.

 Weight
WaistLean Muscle
Mass
Body Fat
Percentage
Body Fat
Weight
Washout
(Weeks -3 to 0)
160.2 lbs
(72.6 kgs)
32.4"
(82.3 cm)

149.3 lbs
(67.6 kg)
6.9 %11.0 lbs
(5.0 kg)
Weeks 1,2,3163.3 lbs
(74.0 kgs)
32.5"
(82.4 cm)

153.4 lbs
(69.4 kg)
6.1 %9.9 lbs
(4.5 kg)
Weeks 4,5,6168.4 lbs
(76.3 kgs)
32.5"
(82.4 cm)
157.9 lbs
(71.5 kg)
6.2 %10.5 lbs
(4.8 kg)
Post
(Weeks 7-11)
165.4 lbs
(74.9 kg)
32.4"
(82.3 cm)
155.0 lbs
(70.2 kg)
6.2 %10.4 lbs
(4.7 kg)
Change
+5.2 lbs
(+3.2 %)
0"
(0 %)
+ 5.7 lbs
(+3.8 %)
-0.7 %-0.6 lbs
(-5.4 %)

Judge For Yourself

I photo-documented my self-experiment as follows:

  • First picture in sequence taken at the START (Week 0)
  • Second picture in sequence taken at the half-way point (Week 3)
  • Third picture in sequence at the FINISH (Week 6)

Before And After Pictures

Ostarine Cycle Log (Detailed)

A Rant On Cycle Logs

One thing I admire about the bodybuilding community is the willingness to try new things and to share knowledge and to help others. Collectively they amass knowledge far faster than the scattered “quantified self” or “biohacker” n=1 data points.

That being said, “cycle logs” posted in the BB community are very hit or miss. The main two issues I see are:

  1. Variable Control
    • Most cycle loggers change a bunch of stuff at once. Namely diet (starting a cut or bulk), programming (starting a new routine or changing an old one), lifestyle stress (relocation, new job, relationship breakup), or “bridging” (some stack or combo of PCT).
    • The problem is there are “too many moving parts” to able to assess what contributed to the final results, and by what amounts.
  2. Objective Measures
    • It’s shocking how few logs include basic things like weigh-ins and progress pictures. Yeah, yeah, the logger always says they’re going to “do that soon, in my next post”.
    • Instead of objective numbers, we get subjective statements like “I know I only took it 2 hours ago, but my pump at the gym felt fuller and more vascular”. After 2 weeks they stop logging only to pop up 10 weeks later to say “I’m going to try something else”.
    • I don’t recall ever seeing even 1 log that commented on how much of their gains they kept.

My Cycle Log Improvements

So in light of my rant, I made the following improvements to my cycle log:

  1. Washout Period
    • Prior to starting my research I established a known baseline by taking 4 weeks of measurements while keeping the following factors constant:
      • Stable nutrition
        • No cutting or bulking or new supplements.
      • Stable workouts
        • I kept my resistance training the same except for small poundage increases.
      • Stress/Sleep/Travel
        • Pretty much the exact same daily routine.
  2. Post Cycle Evaluation
    • After my research cycle, I then took an addition 4 weeks of measurement while keeping the following factors constant:
      • Nutrition
      • Exercise
      • Travel
        • I did an easy 2-week road trip.

The reason for a post cycle evaluation was to measure “reversibility”. There’s a pertinent saying that goes “it’s not what you make, it’s what you keep”. So I was curious how much the allostatic stimulus caused by Ostarine would revert towards the mean (homeostasis).

I also want to give a shoutout to BoiseBeast. His cycle post on Ostarine. It is one of the best I’ve seen and so I adopted it as a template for mine.

Starting Conditions

  • Cycle Goals: Increase in lean muscle mass. Body recomposition.
  • Prior AAS/SARM/Peptide experience: None.
  • Training experience: 5+ years consistent resistance training and 10+ years consistent nutrition
  • Starting Weight: Approx. 160 lbs
  • Body-fat: 6-7%
  • Age: 54
  • Starting joint condition: Very good, residual knee soreness after Squat day.
  • Starting Skin/Acne condition: Clear, no acne.
  • Hairline: Full (no balding spots; not receding)
  • Sex Drive: High libido, no issues with ED or any other sexual issues.
  • Depression/Moodiness: None.
  • Gyno/high estrogenic sides: None.
  • General health and feeling: Excellent.
  • Starting Testosterone: 580 ng/ml (serum)
  • BMI: 22.3
  • FFMI: 21.4
    • Fat Free Muscle Index is analogous to BMI for muscles
    • The average ma has an FFMI of 19, a typical bodybuilder on steroids is 25+

Ostarine Dosage

For lean mass gains, the most commonly suggested Ostarine dosage is 25mg a day (with a high of 30mg for bodybuilders weighing more than 200 lbs).

Based on my bodyweight of 160 lbs, I titrated the dosage down to 22.5mg a day and started with a 2-week break-in period to assess tolerance. If you look at my break-in dosage, Week 2 was a 50% jump from Week 1 (10 to 15mg) and Week 3 onwards was also a 50% jump (for 15 to 22.5mg).

That may seem a little conservative but I designed this protocol with the option to bow out gracefully if anything went awry with my tolerance or negative side effects.

PeriodDosage
Week #110 mg per day
Week #215 mg per day
Weeks #3-722.5 mg per day

Cycle Therapy

Ostarine does not aromatize to estrogen. As I result, I took no anti-estrogenics. My primary PCT strategy was to simply discontinue my research if any adverse side-effects presented.

I did not use any “T booster” supplements but I did use red light therapy on my testes for 10 minutes twice a day.

  • I used redlight therapy in both the washout and post cycle period to keep things constant and minimize variables.
  • It should be noted there is very limited evidence that redlight can improve red blood cell function as well as endurance and strength.
    • But the “study” was tiny and anecdotal and I found the hypothesis was sketchy at best and overstated at worst.

Resistance Training Program

I do 2 days a week full-body abbreviated training (a la Stuart McRobert). This works well in terms of results and fits my schedule and life situation. I’m sure you have a different split that you like better. Awesome, good for you. But please don’t try and convince me why yours is better. You do your thing, and I do mine. Peace bro.

My programming (my actual lifting logs here) produces reliable strength increases but not always lean muscle growth (hypertrophy).

In the 4 week wash-out period prior to starting Ostarine, I trained hard and improved my strength levels but gained no lean mass. Hence this research.

BodypartA Day RoutineB Day Routine
Legs & Low BackDeadlift
PRIMARY
Squat
PRIMARY
ChestBench Press
PRIMARY
Weighted Dips
ACCESSORY
Upper BackOne Arm Dumbell Rows
ACCESSORY
Weighted Pull Ups
ACCESSORY
ShouldersOne Arm Dumbbell OH Press
ACCESSORY
Standing Overhead Press
PRIMARY
Abs & Low BackROTATE THESE -->
1. Loaded Carries
2. Kettlebell Swings
3. Ab Roller
Grip & ForearmsALTERNATE THESE -->1. Towel Hangs
2. Fingertip Pushups

Nutrition

I did not run a cut or a bulk while doing this research.

In fact, I kept my nutrition pretty constant in the 4-week wash-out period prior to my trial, during the 6-week trial, and 4-weeks post cycle  (summary table below, my daily nutrition logs are here).

Why did I do this?

A few reasons:

  • I am interested in the ‘nutrition partitioning’ effects of Ostarine:
    • Could it simultaneously increase muscle protein synthesis AND fat oxidation?
  • In past when I ate 300 cal/day over maintenance I gained more fat than muscle
    •  I’m not in my 20’s anymore lol.
  • Lyle MacDonald’s muscle gain math of 120 cal/day for 1 lb of muscle/month is close to my experience as well.
    • Eddie Coan (the greatest powerlifter of all time) was a smaller than average eater.

So the idea was simple: keep my nutrition pretty constant so any muscle growth or fat loss were as a result of Ostarine alone.

 Food Intake
(cal / day)
Exercise
(cal / day)
Net Energy
(cal / day)
Protein
(g /day)
Carbs
(g /day)
Fat
(g /day)
Washout
(Weeks -3 to 0)
2,0013591,64218213186
Weeks #1,2,31,9733931,58016811888
Weeks #4,5,62,1374671,67017215090
Post
(Weeks #7-11)
2,0933421,75115913995

Lean Muscle Gain

Ostarine is reputed to be a good SARM for adding lean mass.

I was able to add 8.6 lbs of lean muscle at the end of my 6-week cycle.

You can see from the graph above that I responded at the end of Week 1 and 2 to the 10 and 15mg does, and that my gains accelerated weeks 3-6 when the dose was raised to 22.5mg.

During Weeks 7-11 (my “post” cycle), I did measure some reversibility of new muscle gain.

  • The 8.6 lbs gained at the end of week 6 dropped to 5.7 lbs at the end of week 11.
  • This is consistent with biological allostasis and what I’ve seen in other self-experiments, namely:
    • Growth caused by a stimulus will tend to revert to the mean (homeostasis) after the stimulation is removed.
    • However, new adaptation created by the stimulus may increase the mean.

Am I pleased to keep nearly two-thirds (66%) of my gains from this cycle? Absolutely!!

Fat Loss

I lost 0.9 lbs fat (5.4%) during my 6-week cycle.

You can see from the graph above that I lost the most fat at the start of my cycle, and then gradually crept back up a little.

A note on measurements: Because my sample size n=1, I am acutely aware of inherent variability and do the following to help reduces the “jitter” in my data:

  • I use 2 different scales and 2 different calipers.
  • I take 5 measurements, throw out the highest and lowest, and average the middle 3.
  • I log measurements once a week (Saturday mornings) weight, waist, and calipers using the 3-site Jackson Pollock method.
  • I try to be accurate without being too obsessive (here are 11 different methods I have tested).

Nutrient Partitioning

Nutrient partitioning is the process by which the body decides what to do with the energy you get from your diet. When you eat something, the nutrients are either burned or they’re allocated for future use. Ideally, you’d like all your nutrients to be partitioned to building muscle as opposed to being stored body fat.

  • 4 weeks prior to my self-experiment I did a “washout period”
    • I gained 0 lbs lean muscle and 0 lbs fat during that time — even with good nutrition and substantial resistance training.
  • During my 6 week SARM cycle I gained 8.6 lbs lean muscle (+5.7%) and lost 0.9 lbs fat (-5.4%).
    • The fact that the percentages are nearly identical (5.7% vs 5.4%) is, I think, significant.
    • It appears to indicate that nutrients were favorably biased (repartitioned) towards muscle protein synthesis resulting in additional lean muscle mass.
    • Furthermore, it appears my body “drew down” fat stores (in addition to food consumed) to supply additional energy.
    • Calorically of course this does not add up: 0.6 lbs of fat (about 2,100 calories) did not “grow” 8.6 lbs of muscle (about 21,500 calories according to Lyle MacDonald).
    • Rather, I suspect that the Ostarine SARM increased the efficiency of baseline muscle protein synthesis.
      • In studies of ingested protein “tagged” with nucleotide “markers”, only 4% of it actually winds up in lean muscle.
      • That leaves a lot of “headroom” for efficiency improvements in building new muscle.

In my self-experiment Ostarine lived up to its reputation for assisting body recomposition. I was fairly lean at the start of my cycle and so wasn’t expecting too much in the fat loss department. The data hints that I might be able eat another 150-250 calories per day and have that partition towards muscle growth without additional fat gain.

Injury Healing

Clinical research reports that Ostarine assists with the healing of joints and ligaments. My joints are in decent shape and I noticed no effects one way or the other during my self-experiment.

Pump/Fullness

My research goals did not include ‘pump’, fullness, vascularity, or any other subjective bodybuilding measures.

That said, I’m not blind either and over the 6 weeks I noted a moderate increase in vascularity but no change in fullness.

My rep range for main lifts is 3-5 and accessories is 5-8. So I don’t train for ‘pump’ and Ostarine didn’t change that. On one single occasion I did get a crazy forearm pump during grip training (towel hangs).

When designing my early research protocol, I realized that it might be possible to measure sarcoplasmic versus myofibrillar hypertrophy, i.e. fullness. In principle this could be achieved measuring muscle cross-section areas (CSA) and plotting them against strength gains for a given muscle group. The extant research indicates these trend together (i.e. stronger = bigger). But measuring myself weekly for a n=1 sample is very labor intensive and my training program would morph into continuous 1 RM testing. In the end I didn’t think it was worth it because as experienced lifters know, demonstrating strength (testing) and building strength (training) are two different activities.

Strength

I didn’t observe that Ostarine notably increased my strength or decreased my rate of perceived exertion (RPE, which I do log).

My strength did increase during the 6-week cycle but these increases were pretty much in line with what I expected from my programming:

  • Benchpress +6%
  • Overhead Press +3%

Suppression

The internet makes differing claims about the suppression effects of Ostarine. Sellers of SARMS make claims of “only 10-15%” suppression. Many in the weightlifting community hold the opinion that it “will suppress you 100%”. My experience is the real answer lies somewhere in the middle (35% for me, your mileage may vary).

I’m not sure running my cycle longer than 6 weeks would be worth diminishing muscle gains in the face of possibly higher suppression. Especially in light of the fact there is some partial reversibility of gains. I read a lot of other cycle logs in preparation for my self-experiment, and the guidelines of a minimum cycle of 4 weeks and maximum cycle of 8 weeks at 25mg dosage seems about right. Users at levels less than this report minimal lean muscle gains. Users at levels more than this seems to report more suppression. Your mileage may vary, but these guidelines seem like a reasonable starting point.

My Lab Bloodwork

Below are copies of my pre- and post- research blood-work.

My serum testosterone dropped 35% from 582 to 380 ng/DL. So I experienced mild suppression but no shutdown. My follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) and luteinizing hormone (LH) levels remained constant indicating the testes and pituitary were operating normally. My Estradiol levels also remained constant, indicating that there was no aromatization of testosterone to estrogen due to Ostarine.

I didn’t run a “pre” lipid panel (an oversight on my part). But I did run a “post” panel and my liver function values were fine and lipids and cholesterol my were in the acceptable reference ranges. Clinical research indicates that Ostarine can reduce lipid levels, so this is worth watching as cholesterol is a necessary precursor in the production of testosterone.

Before (582 ng/DL Test)

After (380 ng/DL Test)

Ostarine Side-Effects

During Week 1 I noticed headaches immediately after dosing for the first 3 days but this stopped after day 4. Other users also report similar.

During Week 2 my sleep quality profoundly improved on several nights (maybe 3 or 4), but this effect did not last into Week 3. Other users also report similar.

After the first 2 weeks, I did not observe any other side effects. Specifically, I did NOT experience any negative androgenic side effects associated with steroids such as testicular atrophy (shrinking), acne, cysts, oily hair and skin, elevated blood pressure and “bad” cholesterol levels, increased aggression, lowered sperm count, male-pattern baldness, heart dysfunction, liver disease, or gynecomastia (breast development).

  • Ending Joint Condition: Very good, residual knee soreness on Squat day.
  • Ending Skin/Acne condition: Clear, no acne.
  • Ending Hairline: Full (no balding spots; not receding)
  • Sex Drive: High libido, no issues with ED or any other sexual issues.
  • Depression/Moodiness: None.
  • Gyno/high estrogenic sides: None.
  • General health and feeling: Excellent.

My Final Assessment of Ostarine

Information is always relevant in the next larger context, so its worth recapping briefly.

The original hypothesis of my self-experiment was “How can you get stronger and build muscle if you have low testosterone?”.

The primary options are:

  1. Lifestyle Factors
  2. Supplements
  3. Testosterone Replacement Therapy (TRT)
  4. Steroids
  5. SARMS

My technical conclusion is that SARMS are a viable option under some circumstances. Bear in mind that SARMS are designed to treat muscle atrophy and wastage in very ill people. There remains a lot more clinical testing and regulatory approval before it becomes a treatment option. My personal research experience with Ostarine is that it technically delivered on its promise of building new muscle (8.6 lbs) with no major negative side effects and minimal androgenic suppression (35%).

My coaching conclusion is that SARMS have limited application for healthy people. The best way to boost your testosterone is to maintain a healthy weight, exercise, and get enough sleep (Lifestyle Factors) and focus on micro-nutrition instead of supplements. If your testosterone levels are diagnosed as clinically low, then you should discuss TRT and SARMS with your doctor. Most sporting federations have banned SARMS so they should be avoided by top level athletes.

So who does that leave? Perhaps a small handful of people who are highly disciplined in the kitchen and working hard at the gym and who are willing to push their boundaries and curious about maximizing their full potential.

Would I do it again?  On balance, I would probably say no. This is because a SARMS cycle is more of a one-time tweak than a sustainable process. I can already achieve and maintain 6-7% body-fat with my nutrition system and a fat free muscle index (FFMI) of 22 with my fitness system. Ostarine was a fun bit of augmentation, but the foundations of a healthy lifestyle are more important to me.

References

Also published on Medium.

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