DHEA is technically a steroid that our bodies use to convert testosterone. It is also a substance banned by multiple organizations that monitor doping. For some reason, these statements make me want to try DHEA because it just sounds so dangerously good. Is anyone with me on this?
The real question is though, does it even work? By the end of this research review, I certainly hope I can help you answer that question so let’s not waste time here and get to reading.
WHY TEST BOOSTER SUPPLEMENTS USE DHEA
The word DHEA is actually short for dehydroepiandrosterone but it’s also known as androstenolone. It’s a naturally occurring steroid hormone produced by our body’s adrenal glands but it can also be made by our brains and our gonads.
What’s interesting about DHEA is that it seems to decline with age. At about the age of 25, DHEA begins a slow decline until it stabilizes to about 10-20% of its youthful amounts by the time we reach 70-80 years old. For this very reason, DHEA has gained some popularity as an anti-aging supplement.
You know what else declines with age though? Testosterone. Oh, but that’s not the closest and only relationship DHEA has with testosterone. DHEA, as a steroid hormone, is actually a precursor to more steroid hormones such as testosterone and because of this, DHEA has earned itself a “banned substance” status on the NCAA, NFL, USOC, and multiple other sports organizations.
However, just because it’s a banned substance and a precursor to testosterone, doesn’t mean that DHEA automatically grants you powerful boosts in testosterone and that’s where scientific research comes into play. To be honest, the evidence that DHEA has on boosting testosterone in men is pretty weak but let’s check them out anyway.
STUDIES ON DHEA SUGGEST:
Maintain “free” testosterone after exercise
The goal of this first research was to determine if oral DHEA supplementation had any effect on “free” testosterone in middle-aged men (averaging 49 years of age) recovering from from intense exercise.
The experiment was conducted with two groups: (1) middle-aged men who took 50 mg DHEA supplements, and (2) young men who took placebos. Both groups underwent a 5-session, 2-min cycling exercise and of course, appropriate parameters were measured. Let’s check out the results of the DHEA supplementation.
- Increased circulating DHEA-S
- Increased “free” testosterone
- No significant difference on total testosterone
In addition to these results, the research also says that both groups suffered a decline in both DHEA and total testosterone with intense exercise but the DHEA group’s “free” testosterone remained unaffected.
These results tell me that DHEA does have potential to be a sports supplement because it helps maintain “free” testosterone after a workout and obviously, testosterone plays a huge role in bodybuilding and athletics. Keep in mind though that these benefits were observed in older men.
Increase testosterone and reverse catabolism
I’ve already told you that DHEA declines with age. What you didn’t know is that the GH-IGF-I system also declines as we get older which according to this research, has a recognized relationship with catabolism (tissue breakdown) and aging.
What hasn’t been established yet though, is the relationship between the declining levels of DHEA and the shift from anabolism to catabolism so this next research aimed to do just that. They did so by experimenting on 13 men and 17 women aged 40-70 years old and gave them either placebo or 50 mg oral DHEA supplement over 3 months. Here are some of the results:
- DHEA and DHEA-S levels were restored to youthful levels within 2 weeks of DHEA supplementation
- in women, there was a 2-fold increase in androgens (androstenedione, testosterone, and dihydrotestosterone)
- in men, only a small increase in androstenedione
According to the research, they also observed a significant increase in IGF-1 and a significant decrease in IGFBP-1 which pointed to a net increase in bioavailable IGF-1. As the research states, these results are “associated with a remarkable increase in perceived physical and psychological well-being for both men (67%) and women (84%)“.
The same researchers of the previous research did a follow-up study on DHEA but this time, they used a larger dose of 100 mg and a longer time frame of 6 months.
The results of this follow-up research states that with DHEA supplementation, both men and women had their DHEA levels returned to youthful levels but on several other parameters they measured which included androgens (androstenedione, testosterone, and DHT), SHBG and IGF-1, the women displayed better results.
For both studies, the researchers declared oral DHEA supplements as safe. This is good. However, the results of both studies also show that the testosterone boosting effects of DHEA seem to favor women more than men.
All the previous studies I’ve referenced to have one key limiting factor and that is a small sample size. This makes them at least a little bit unreliable. This last research though, conducted their research on a large sample size of 280 men and women aged 60–79 years old.
The research ran for a full year where the researchers divided their subjects into either placebo or DHEA (50 mg) groups. Let’s check out the results of DHEA supplementation for each gender.
- For men
- DHEAS levels increased to young adult values
- no significant increase in testosterone
- significant trend for estriadol to increase
- For women
- DHEAS levels increased to beyond young adult values
- increase in testosterone
- significant increase in estriadol but remained below the levels observed in the early follicular phase
For the most part, these results were pretty much the same as the previous researches where DHEA and testosterone levels after DHEA supplementation were better in women. However, this last study did show a result that the previous researches didn’t.
As the results show, DHEA supplementation also led to higher levels of estriadol (the most potent estrogen). For older women who’re undergoing an estrogen drought brought about by menopause, this may be good news. To us men, though? No chance.
Another fascinating thing that this research has brought to the table is the researchers concluded that DHEA supplementation “normalized some effects of aging, but does not create “supermen/women” (doping)“.
This is intriguing to me because a lot of sports organizations have banned the use of DHEA because it is a steroid precursor which may give its users some kind of unfair advantage over the rest of the competition. As this research shows, that’s apparently not true. It’s still banned though.
How Do I Take DHEA?
Looking at the researches I’ve referenced here, the highest dose of DHEA that was deemed ‘safe’ was 100 mg per day. As such, my advise is to not take any more than 100 mg daily because you might be putting yourself at risk of side effects.
Also, a lower dose of 50 mg daily already shows to be effective and there doesn’t seem to be any indication of higher dosages providing better results. That said, my personal recommendation would be to take DHEA as a supplement at around 25-50 mg per day.
When we were so much younger, we couldn’t wait to get older. When we actually did get older and responsibilities and other adult things kicked in, we wished for some kind of way to turn back the clock to our younger years. It’s cliche, I know, but it also rings true to many of us.
In that sense, DHEA is looking like a wonderful supplement. Its anti-aging promise is legit and it has also shown to benefit skin through hydration, thickness, and several other things. In terms of testosterone boosting though, DHEA still looks a little bit more than sketchy.
Basing on what research DHEA has currently, I personally wouldn’t rely on it too much. Yes, there’s testosterone boosting potential but it’s more pronounced in women. When it does happen in men, it also looks more beneficial to the older generation. Plus, it’s a banned substance so that slims down the available demographic even more.
TESTOSTERONE BOOSTERS THAT USE DHEA
- Free Test XRT – Hitting a wide variety of manly benefits with the help of DHEA in one of its prop blends
- Blade Test Booster 1.0 – A 6-ingredient testosterone booster using 25 mg of DHEA
- MDrive Prime – Designed for men who want to regain their prime, this product has DHEA in its prop blend
- Progene – Expensive for its quality but it still does use 50 mg of dehydroepiandrosterone
- Nova X – A highly potent bodybuilding supplement that uses Androsterone – a natural metabolite of DHEA