Definition: "An ergogenic aid is any substance or phenomenon that enhances performance "

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Bodybuilding supplement SARM-X contains ordinary ferulic acid

SARMs are the next generation of designer steroids. They attach to the androgen receptor but their chemical structure is completely different from that of steroids as we know them. Pharmaceutical companies are already testing a couple of SARMs on humans: ostarine and andarine [S4, structure below]. It's all at a pretty experimental stage still. Which is why we were surprised when we came across a bodybuilding supplement in an online store that claims to contain a SARM.


Bodybuilding supplement SARM-X contains ordinary ferulic acid
The product in question, SARM-X, is made by MHP. The active ingredient in SARM-X, if we are to believe the ads, is trans-4-hydroxy-3-methoxycinnamic acid. Sounds pretty impressive and, according to MHP, it is.

"SARM-X is the first of a new class of designer androgenic / anabolic steroid memetic compounds", trumpets MHP. "It is the "most advanced legal over-the-counter compound available anywhere."

SARM-X is extremely anabolic but not androgenic. You'll grow till your stretch marks split, but you won't get androgenic side effects. How on earth do they do it?

Well, they don't. MHP is pulling the wool over our eyes.

Trans-4-hydroxy-3-methoxycinnamic acid is a compound present in ordinary food. It's a phenol that is found in whole grains like brown rice, oatmeal and lots more plant products. It also goes by the name of ferulic acid. [Structure below]

Ferulic acid
Ferulic acid is an important component of gamma-oryzanol. Gamma oryzanol is an extract that has an active anti-oxidant effect in some studies, but that according to a trial done in the nineties does absolutely nothing to help power athletes. [Int J Sport Nutr. 1997 Dec;7(4):318-29.]

That doesn't mean to say that ferulic acid is of no interest to athletes though. According to a Japanese study done in 1979, ferulic acid blocks the androgenic effects of anabolic steroids, but doesn't get in the way of the anabolic effect. [Experientia Volume 35, Number 5 / May, 1979 696-699]

The Japanese stumbled across this while studying a new nandrolone preparation to which chemists had attached ferulic acid. Nandrolone ferulate – 19NTFA in the table below – had no effect. The ferulate group completely stopped the androgenic effect of the molecule.

So what would ferulic acid do if it wasn't attached to an androgenic hormone? That's what the Japanese wanted to know. So they started to do experiments with combinations of hormones like testosterone, nandrolone and DHT with loose ferulic acid (FA in the table). The results are shown below. SC = by injection, PO = oral, TP = testosterone propionate.

Bodybuilding supplement SARM-X contains ordinary ferulic acid

Ferulate did not reduce the anabolic effect on the sphincter muscle, as the table shows. But it did noticeably reduce the effect on the prostate, a marker for undesirable androgenic effects.

We don't know how ferulic acid works. It doesn’t affect the way hormones attach to the receptor and it doesn't stop testosterone from converting into DHT or estradiol. Whatever it does, you could promote ferulic acid as a protective supplement. You could point to the ferula study as an argument in favour of a diet that is rich in whole grains. But ferulate as a muscle-building SARM?

No way. That's a load of rubbish.