Cardarine (GW-501516) is a greatly misunderstood supplement that can have a multitude of benefits for athletes. The most common myth to debunk is that Cardarine is NOT a SARM. Rather than working on androgen receptors, Cardarine works on the PPAR pathway as a PPAR Receptor Agonist. Thereby, Cardarine is not hormonal, not anabolic and does not require a post-cycle therapy (PCT).
Peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor-delta (PPAR-δ) regulates important cellular metabolic functions that contribute to maintaining energy balance and is especially important in regulating fatty acid uptake, transport, and β-oxidation as well as insulin secretion and sensitivity (Liu et al., 2018). For this reason, Cardarine was initially investigated for use in managing and treating obesity and type 2 diabetes among other related conditions, however this was halted due to the findings of a rat study – we will discuss this further on.
Endurance – The endurance benefits of taking Cardarine consistently make it a great choice for any athlete, whether a cyclist, a sprinter or a bodybuilder looking to reduce recovery time between sets and perform better with higher rep work. When paired with 4 weeks of exercise training, GW increases running time by 68% and running distance by 70% over vehicle-treated trained mice by causing adaptations in skeletal muscle (Narkar et al., 2008).
Lipid profile – Lipid profile can be skewed by the use of PEDs or poor dietary choices (something we advise getting in check before investing in any supplemental intervention). You can read all about the potential negative health effects of prohormones, SARMs and AAS and how to manage them here. Cardarine has been shown to increase good cholesterol and lower bad cholesterol. One 12-week study found GW501516 demonstrated HDL cholesterol increases up to 16.9% (10 mg) and apoA-I increases up to 6.6%. Reductions were observed in low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol (-7.3%), triglycerides (-16.9%), apoB (-14.9%), and free fatty acids (-19.4%). The exploratory study showed significant reductions in the concentration of very LDL (-19%), intermediate-density lipoprotein (-52%), and LDL (-14%, predominantly a reduction in small particles), whereas the number of HDL particles increased (+10%; predominantly medium and large HDL) (Olson et al., 2012).
Blood sugar control – The role of Cardarine in blood sugar control makes it suitable for both offseasons and dieting. On one hand, when following a high calorie, high carbohydrate diet, keeping insulin sensitivity high ensures that the food is being put to use and prevents the prediabetes symptoms that heavy bodybuilders who are pushing the limits of a growing phase can be prone to. On a diet, controlling insulin will maintain fullness and limit fat storage. Cardarine shifts cellular energy utilization from glycolysis to fatty acid β-oxidation and thereby improving systemic glycemic control, making it a candidate for future use in managing diabetes (Liu et al., 2018). We could make the hypothesis that this would make it a great supplement to stack with berberine (Hydrapharm Elixir being our recommended source) to control blood sugar and improve nutrient uptake and body composition. Elixir can be grouped with a category of supplements known as Glucose Disposal Agents (GDAs), that you can read all about here.
Inflammation regulation – In some cases, PPAR delta agonists can have anti-inflammatory benefits, such as in the kidneys. Preliminary studies have also shown that it can reduce oxidative damage which occurs naturally over our lifetimes. However, this relationship is not yet fully understood and GW can in fact be pro-inflammatory in other contexts.
Metabolic regulation – PPAR delta agonists can increase fatty acid oxidation over glycolysis, meaning that fats, not stored carbohydrates, are used as fuel for exercise. This has downstream benefits on muscular endurance and body composition, hence Cardarine often being considered a fat burner.
Hypertension – Hypertension = high blood pressure, which has been linked to obesity, high stress and AAS use. A potential benefit has been found in the therapeutic treatment of pulmonary arterial hypertension as demonstrated in rat models of pulmonary arterial hypertension by inhibiting fibroblast and pulmonary arterial vascular smooth muscle cell growth and preventing right heart hypertrophy (Mitchell and Bishop-Bailey, 2018).
It is commonly known that studies on Cardarine by GlaxoSmithKline were halted because cancer developed in rats who were being tested on. This meant that testing did not progress to human trials. It is worth noting that there were flaws in this study, such as the incredibly high dose used over an extended duration (104 weeks) and short life expectancy of the rats. In addition, Cardarine has been investigated as a cancer preventing drug in other conflicting studies that indicate that it both inhibits and promotes tumorigenesis (Peters, Gonzalez and Müller, 2015).
Unfortunately, it may be some time before we have a clear-cut answer on the risk to reward ratio of Cardarine, and at present the evidence is understandably enough to put some off. We would suggest doing your own reading of both sides of the argument here before making any conclusions.
- If competing in a tested sport, do check with the relevant authority before using Cardarine as it is banned with some federations
- Be aware that at this time Cardarine is still considered a research chemical and has not been approved as a health supplement in the UK
- As a non-androgenic supplement, both men and women can use Cardarine without any of the associated side effects (hair loss, acne, deepening of the voice...)
- For advanced trainees who are following a consistent diet and training regime
As little as 10mg per day is an effective dosage for Cardarine. We would suggest starting as low as possible for your first cycle and not exceeding the range given by the specific brand you are using. The half life is thought to be anything from 12-24 hours, so if you do increase to 20mg, for example, it would be wise to split this morning and night. Cardarine is usually run for 6 weeks if used with SARMs like Ostarine (a popular cutting stack).
Because Cardarine works by a very unique pathway, being non-stimulatory and not affecting testosterone levels, it can be stacked with pretty much anything!
For Fat Burning: Cardarine + Recomp Bundle
As mentioned, berberine containing Elixir with Cardarine is a strong combination to get blood sugar in check. Expect muscle fullness and high performance in the gym even in a harsh calorie deficit with this combination. The addition of Hydralean brings a stimulant approach to fat loss, increasing energy to train, calories burned and controlling appetite.
For Endurance Performance: Cardarine + Perform Bundle
If being at the top of your sport is the priority, Cardarine plus the Perform Bundle will make you a fierce competitor. Increase focus and energy with Hydrazine, and improve recovery, increase VO2 maximum capacity and boost muscular endurance with Plasma. Read all about improving performance with this bundle here.
For Muscle Building: Cardarine + Grow Bundle
The Grow Bundle from Hydrapharm stacks two powerful natural muscle builders. Read up on natural muscle builders here. The addition of Cardarine will maintain fitness and endurance as you get heavier and stronger.
Liu, Y., Colby, J., Zuo, X., Jaoude, J., Wei, D. and Shureiqi, I. (2018). The Role of PPAR-δ in Metabolism, Inflammation, and Cancer: Many Characters of a Critical Transcription Factor. International Journal of Molecular Sciences, 19(11), p.3339.
Mitchell, J. and Bishop-Bailey, D. (2018). PPARβ/δ a potential target in pulmonary hypertension blighted by cancer risk. Pulmonary Circulation, 9(1), p.204589401881205.
Narkar, V., Downes, M., Yu, R., Embler, E., Wang, Y., Banayo, E., Mihaylova, M., Nelson, M., Zou, Y., Juguilon, H., Kang, H., Shaw, R. and Evans, R. (2008). AMPK and PPARδ Agonists Are Exercise Mimetics. Cell, 135(1), p.189.
Olson, E., Pearce, G., Jones, N. and Sprecher, D. (2012). Lipid Effects of Peroxisome Proliferator-Activated Receptor-Δ Agonist GW501516 in Subjects With Low High-Density Lipoprotein Cholesterol. Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis, and Vascular Biology, 32(9), pp.2289-2294.
Peters, J., Gonzalez, F. and Müller, R. (2015). Establishing the Role of PPARβ/δ in Carcinogenesis. Trends in Endocrinology & Metabolism, 26(11), pp.595-607.