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Performance Enhancement and the Side Effect-Conscious Woman, Part #2
- Updated: December 2, 2015
By Mike Arnold – In Part #1, we discussed the impact that some of the newer divisions have had on the female competitive landscape and the importance of tailoring one’s PED program to the standards they embody. This pertains not only to one’s level of muscular development, but to the maintenance of external feminine attributes; a fact clearly established in the formation of these divisions. As previously stated, steroids present the single greatest risk to a woman’s femininity, but with such a diverse number of applicable benefits, their use remains widespread, even among the less muscular divisions.
In an attempt to minimize risk, many women simply became more selective in their use, limiting their options only to those compounds with the strongest track record for safety. The problem here is two-fold. Not only do these limitations often prove problematic for those trying to attain success in divisions like the WPD, but there is no such thing as a completely “safe” steroid when it comes to avoiding masculinization. Even drugs considered mild in this regard, such as Turinabol (specifically designed to lack androgenic activity) have been shown to produce significant masculinizing side effects in women when used for an extended period of time.
This was clearly demonstrated in East Germany’s Olympic doping program, in which female competitors (many of whom were young girls at the time) were unknowingly supplied with what would now be deemed “low-dose” turinabol. While cycling this steroid at a dose of just 7-14 mg/day (doses within this range were determined by sport), many of these girls developed strong male secondary sex characteristics by the end of their Olympic tenure. Some even underwent sex changes later in life as a direct result of this initially unsuspected hormonal manipulation, feeling that their altered appearance made it difficult to fit within societal norms as women.
Of course, there are plenty of AAS using women who’ve never experienced anything even remotely close to this, but the point here is that extended use (over the course of a competitive career in the IFBB/NPC, for instance) with even the most mild drugs can cause significant masculinization. Because of this, many have found themselves between a rock and a hard place, having to decide between success and sacrificing their femininity. Oddly enough, it is not uncommon for those who have already undergone visible masculinization to be somewhat oblivious to their situation.
On numerous occasions I have had conversations with female users who told me point blank, with complete sincerity, that “steroids don’t affect me in that way” or “I haven’t experienced any side effects yet”, when it is blatantly obvious to anyone within eye or earshot that this isn’t the case. Perhaps it is the slow-developing nature of these side effects that is partially responsible for this distorted view, but in my opinion, I think some just find it easier to remain in denial rather than deal with reality.
Regardless, steroids are no longer the only effective muscle builder on the block. Yes, stuff like growth hormone and IGF-1 have been around for decades and while these drugs can certainly help add extra muscle to one’s physique without causing masculinization, they are only a fraction as effective as AAS and perform rather poorly as stand-alones. Fortunately, there is another category of performance enhancement capable of providing substantial muscle building benefits without these side effects. These are the selective androgen receptors modulators, otherwise known as S.A.R.M.’s.
Developed specifically as steroid alternatives, S.A.R.M’s stimulate muscle growth through the same mechanism as AAS (androgen receptor activation), while lacking androgenic potency in non-target tissue such as the scalp, skin, vocal chords, etc. In other words, they provide anabolic effects in muscle tissue similar to steroids, but without the same degree of risk. Real-world use has confirmed clinical findings, with almost no reports of masculinization among females, even when used at dosages typically employed by male bodybuilders. In terms of muscle growth, gains are comparable to what one might experience with moderate doses of oxandrolone (Anavar), methenolone (Primobolan), 4-Chlorodehydromethyltestosterone (Turinabol), etc.
As good as this might sound, prospective users should be aware that these drugs are not 100% risk-free. They do possess an androgenic component, so the potential for masculinizing side effects still exists. However, this risk is minimal (in most cases), so long as they are not abused. Furthermore, the term S.A.R.M. encompasses a wide variety of different compounds, each with its own unique risk-benefit profile. Understanding the differences between them, as well as their respective dosing ranges, will help ensure that unwanted side effects do not occur. With that said, let’s take a look at the first S.A.R.M. to enter the marketplace.
The least desirable of all the S.A.R.M.’s is Andarine, commonly known as S4. A near failure from a developmental standpoint, S4 isn’t exactly androgenically mild. In fact, it possesses about 1/3rd the androgenic activity of testosterone, making it relatively female-unfriendly. It is also the least effective muscle builder of the group and can cause vision disturbances in a fairly high percentage of users. Considering its relatively poor risk to benefit ratio, its inclusion becomes difficult to justify in the face of superior options.
One such option is Ostarine (MK-2866). Originally manufactured by GTx, Ostarine is the poster boy for S.A.R.M technology. With a near perfect anabolic-androgenic profile, masculinizing side effects are almost never reported, even when used at the upper-end of the recommended dosing range (15-20 mg/day). This makes it an ideal fit for female competitors across all divisions, allowing them to exceed their natural genetic potential without putting their femininity at risk. Its reputation for safety, along with an extensive marketing campaign, have enabled it to become as the most popular S.A.R.M. is use today among both men and women. Legitimate versions are easily obtained, with numerous peptide-research companies offering the drug at reasonable prices.
Next on the list of LGD-4033. Another solid addition to the S.A.R.M market place, LGD is the most powerful muscle builder of the bunch. Mg per mg, it provides results on par with many traditional AAS, making it a great option for women who desire to pack on more muscle tissue than what Ostarine can provide. Although it appears to be a bit more androgenic than its predecessor, it is still quite mild in comparison to drugs like Anavar or Primo, and with a lower effective dosing range, any discrepancy between the two is largely eliminated. Most women will find 5 mg/day adequate for their needs, while those seeking greater amounts of muscle mass may find 10 mg/day more suitable.
Although there are many other SARM’s on the market today, when it comes to muscle growth, Ostarine and LGD-4033 are at the top of the heap, providing steroid-like gains at a greatly reduced risk. In my opinion, given their wide availability and the extensive amount of anecdotal/clinical evidence demonstrating both their safety and effectiveness, I can see no good reason for any side effect conscious woman to forego these options in favor of traditional anabolics. This is especially true of those who compete in divisions that place a premium on beauty/femininity. For many years women have waited for a relatively safe alternative to AAS. Now that they are here, why not take advantage of them?
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