If you’ve heard about SARMs (Selective Androgen Receptor Modulators), then understanding SERMs are the other side of that coin. We’ll go into detail about how and why SERMs are used to make post cycle therapy successful, but we’ll also tell you everything else you need to know about SERMs. Knowledge is power and knowing SERMs uses can help you find natural products that take your fitness to the next level.
What are SERMs?
SERMs are Selective Estrogen Receptor Modules and the most basic way to explain what they are and what they do is that SERMs mimic estrogen. Why? Estrogen helps to stimulate cells to divide and grow on the flip side, it can also block cell growth. It sounds like a contradiction, but its ability to grow or inhibit the growth of cells depends on what type of SERM is used and what tissues are involved.
They have great medical applications and are currently being used to help treat breast cancer, osteoporosis and postmenopausal symptoms. However, there is another key application for SERMs in the world of bodybuilding.
Athletes and bodybuilders who use steroids often have to use aromatase inhibitors (AI) to inhibit estrogen production to keep away some of the more obvious and unwanted physical side effects of using steroids – particularly gynecomastia and bloat (the leading cause behind “steroid gut”). The flip side of using AI is that inhibits ALL estrogen production which can be harmful because men do need some amount of estrogen in the body to function optimally.
This is where the alternative – SERMs, come in. They do the same job as an AI but they work very differently and in some cases, one might even argue they are better than AIs to help inhibit unwanted estrogen. Let’s take a closer look at how SERMs work and differ from AIs
How Do They Work?
AIs and SERMs have the same function, but they work VERY differently. Both are used to control estrogen production which tends to happen in excess with steroid use. To understand how they work, you need to understand what the effects of too much estrogen are for male bodies
- Bloating and Water Retention
- Mood Swings
- Weight Gain
- Decreased Libido
AIs and SERMs both work to prevent these side effects but they work entirely differently. Since most people who look into steroids use often know and understand what AIs do and how they work, we’ll focus on the star of this article and how it works – SERMs
A SERM works by binding itself to the estrogen receptor and blocks some but not all actions of estrogen. This is because the body needs some amount of estrogen to function at optimal health. So think of it as a more targeted way of addressing the side effects of too much estrogen in the body without compromising on the benefits.
In medical applications SERMs work in the same way to help maintain bone density for osteoporosis, preventing the growth of cancerous breast tissue in breast cancer treatments and other negative effects of problematic estrogen receptors.
SERMs Role in Post Cycle Therapy
Post Cycle Therapy or PCT, is a vital part of the steroid cycle. After a cycle of anabolic steroids or growth hormones, the body needs PCT to help balance out the function of the pituitary gland. The pituitary gland is responsible for the production of hormones and the use of steroids often boosts the levels of testosterone beyond normal which is what affords users such dramatic growth in their physicality. The flipside of this is that there is an upset in the balance that needs to be restored, this is where PCT comes in and also why it’s so important. Imbalance of hormones can cause all the side effects we talked about earlier in the article and on the long-term can prove very dangerous.
Estrogen is required in the body to keep bones, skin, and hair healthy. It also helps maintain healthy formation of blood clots during injury. A healthy body produces estrogen in the right amount to contribute to these functions and when there is an imbalance or too much estrogen – it causes some really annoying side effects. This can be controlled with PCT.
SERMs are a great form PCT simply because of the way they work. They don’t block ALL estrogen production. They selectively inhibit actions of estrogen so that there are fewer or no side effects to be worried about.
Other than inhibiting estrogen, SERMs have a few other roles they play that can prove hugely beneficial in PCT. Anabolic steroids often use some form or synthetic androgens to boost testosterone in the body. When you stop a cycle it brings the production to halt. This means your body starts losing all that precious testosterone you’ve pumped in to have all those dramatic gains. SERMs can stimulate the production of two very important hormones for the male body – luteinizing hormone and follicle-stimulating hormone. These two hormones are vital in a PCT because they help trigger the production of natural testosterone.
Based on what we’ve talked about so far it’s easy to see the benefits of using SERMs for PCT when using steroids to help to maintain healthy function without losing out on the dramatic performance enhancing effects of steroids.
Benefits of using SERMs include:
- Selective inhibiting of Estrogen
- Stimulating the production of luteinizing hormone
- Stimulating the production of follicle-stimulating hormone
These benefits essentially lead to blocking or avoiding all those nasty side effects of extensive steroid use.
What are the more popular SERMS and their Uses?
There are few SERMs to look out for that have earned their popularity for use in PCT for good reason. These include:
- Tamoxifen – Originally formulated to help treat breast cancer or work as a preventative measure against breast cancer in those who are at high risk for the disease, this SERM has found its way into the performance enhancing world as well. This SERM works to help stimulate the production luteinizing and follicle-stimulating hormone in a way that makes up for the lacking testosterone when a steroid cycle is stopped. This way, the body stays at the normal and optimal level of good hormone health.
- Toremifene – This SERM creates a barrier between estrogen and the tissues that they normally target when the body experiences a drop in testosterone post cycle. It helps isolate estrogen hormone so they don’t go to the tissues where they cause side effects. This means it’s a useful SERM to fight against the extremely common and unwanted gynecomastia. In medical applications, it is used as an alternative to chemotherapy for its ability to slow down the growth of cancer cells
- Clomiphene – After Tamoxifen, this is the second most commonly used SERM. Originally it was developed to stimulate a normal ovulation cycle in women dealing with infertility and irregular cycles, but it also used to treat men who have infertility issues by boosting the quality of semen. As a SERM for PCT, this is a much weaker one when compared to Tamoxifen or Toremifene but it can still produce similar results, although the dosage would have to be much higher in comparison. It works in the same way as Tamoxifen and helps boost production of luteinizing and follicle stimulating hormone production.
Things to Watch Out For
It sounds like SERMs are the perfect answer to all PCT problems, but there are several things to keep in mind – primarily the fact that they are still synthetic and irresponsible use can cause some side effects including:
- Mild headaches
- Temporary loss of libido
- Numbness or tingling of the skin
- Muscle aches and cramps
- Excessive sweating
- Increase in urination
- Blurred vision or light sensitivity
- Trouble sleeping
SERMs like Clomiphene should be avoided if you have preexisting liver conditions or any other hormonal conditions associated with the pituitary, adrenal and/or thyroid glands. Tamoxifen can reduce Insulin-like Growth Factor -1 levels in the body which can be a problem if a “dry” appearance isn’t part of your goals.
It is important to understand the risks involved, and using them sensibly is key to avoiding wreaking havoc on your hormones and also to avoiding side effects.
For post cycle therapy, there are obviously several options as to what is right and what works. It’s important to identify your needs before deciding on a successful form of PCT.
It is important to note that SERMs, just like steroids are illegal without a prescription, and there are various natural forms of PCT to help reduce the effects of performance-enhancing cycles.
Sol Ruiz heads our Research Digest department. He graduated from the New York University where he obtained his Master’s Degree in Public Health.