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DHEA stands for Dehydroepiandrosterone, and is a naturally occurring hormone in the body.
It is produced in the adrenal gland which is an endocrine gland situated on top of the kidneys. The gonads, and the brain also produce it.
DHEA is what is known as a prohormone, this is because it is responsible for manufacturing steroid hormones.
In other words, increasing your DHEA levels can help to increase steroid hormones such as testosterone or oestrogen depending on what the body requires.
In theory, if you had low testosterone levels and you increased your DHEA levels, the DHEA could be converted into extra amounts of testosterone.
As we get older, our bodies tend to reduce the amount of DHEA that we produce. This is one of the reasons why men see a significant reduction in testosterone production after they hit 30.
According to Sean Nalewanyj “By 75 years of age, a person’s DHEA plasma levels are 80% lower than they were when they were in their 20’s” .
How can you increase DHEA?
One of the easiest ways to increase DHEA levels is to reduce stress.
Try to reduce the amount of stressful situations you encounter, and look for better ways to deal with stress (relaxation techniques etc).
You can also increase sleep quality and duration, and exercise each and every day (both of these methods have been found to improve mood and reduce stress). This will result in higher DHEA levels.
The hormone DHEA is made in the adrenal gland from cholesterol, meaning that a higher cholesterol will lead to higher DHEA levels.
Most people believe that a high cholesterol is really bad for you, but remember there are two types of cholesterol. Good cholesterol is known as High Density Lipoprotein (HDL Cholesterol) and bad cholesterol is known as Low Density Lipoprotein (LDL Cholesterol).
Eating foods that are high in “good” fats such as Olive Oil, avocados, nuts, seeds, and oily fish, is a great start. Even fats that come from foods that some people consider bad, such as dairy and red meat, will benefit you.
Studies have consistently shown that the vegetarian diet (that has no red meat, and may have little dairy too) has led to lower testosterone levels than a non-vegetarian diet .
But however you get your daily fats from, look to increase it. Because this will increase HDL Cholesterol, which will increase DHEA, which will hopefully increase testosterone.
Another possible way to increase DHEA levels is to supplement with Vitamin C.
While there aren’t too many studies that discuss this, the ones that do have found a significant reduction in Cortisol, and a significant increase in DHEA production .
You can get Vitamin C from many sources such as Oranges and other citrus fruits, cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, Kale, Brussels Sprouts), and red and green peppers.
Whatever plan you have for increasing DHEA (we’ll be looking at supplementation in a second) following these natural ways is still a good idea. Not just because they can increase DHEA levels, but sleeping more, exercising often, and eating healthy food have many other benefits.
Supplementation for DHEA
There are two forms of DHEA supplements, there are the ones that use ingredients that naturally increase DHEA levels, such as Tongkat Ali, Vitamin C (which we looked at earlier), and Tribulus Terrestris.
Then there are oral and topical DHEA supplements, that contain the prohormone.
We will look at the natural supplements first, before looking at the prohormone supplements afterwards.
Tongkat Ali (also known as Eurycoma Longifolia) is a plant that is found in Asia, and in parts of Africa.
It has been proven to work as an aphrodisiac and it may block oestrogen and boost testosterone.
Studies have shown that supplementing with Tongkat Ali can boost DHEA levels in men with low levels of testosterone . It can also reduce stress (which protects testosterone), improve feelings of well being, and boost your libido.
Tribulus Terrestris is another plant that is used in traditional medicine in Asia, it is believed to increase testosterone (probably through increasing DHEA), studies have found it to increase testosterone in infertile men (who have low testosterone and DHEA levels).
It also increases libido and lowers blood pressure. Making it a great all round supplement ingredient.
Magnesium out of the three, is the supplement ingredient that has the least evidence backing it up, but many bodybuilders believe that they have seen a difference when taking Magnesium.
At the moment this is purely anecdotal, and there is no scientific evidence proving this. But considering the many other benefits, you should consider taking this supplement.
There are two forms of direct DHEA supplementation, either oral DHEA (capsules) or transdermal DHEA, which would be a cream that you can apply to your skin (much like how men with low testosterone use Androgenic patches rather than needles).
Oral DHEA – The less commonly used method is oral intake of DHEA, though it may be the most direct.
A dosage of around 200 mg appears to be effective in young males, though older males could use significantly less and still see an increase in DHEA and therefore testosterone .
Topical DHEA Cream – DHEA is usually sold as a cream, this is because it is often used to improve skin quality. That does not mean that it doesn’t reach the blood though.
In fact, topical use may lead to increased testosterone production when compared to oral administration.
What are the Benefits of Supplementation?
There are two ways to classify the benefits of supplementation with DHEA, there is the direct benefit (increased serum DHEA) and then there are the indirect benefits of having increased serum DHEA.
So we’ll look at the direct benefit first, before moving on to the indirect.
Direct Benefits of DHEA
When you supplement with DHEA (either through oral or topical administration) you will get raised serum DHEA.
This will be converted in steroid hormones: testosterone, and oestrogen.
If you have high cholesterol, then the increased DHEA will help to balance out your Cortisol/DHEA ratio. But it doesn’t lower Cortisol per se. This is a direct benefit. The increase in DHEA leads to an increase in testosterone in men.
Other direct benefits include a suspected increase in IGF-1 in elderly men, an anti-ageing hormone that also increases growth. DHEA may also increase bone density.
Indirect Benefits of DHEA
Because DHEA increases testosterone production you can attribute all of the benefits of increased testosterone to DHEA supplementation.
Increased testosterone can increase muscle protein synthesis, which leads to bigger muscles and increased strength gains.
A 2012 study by Nordstrom et al. found that increased testosterone (from androgenic steroid) led to higher muscle mass, and reduced body fat levels in athletes .
Increased testosterone can also help you sleep better (which will help regulate appetite, improve mood, reduce stress, and improve physical performance).
It can also improve mood, and cognitive performance (improving decision making, short and long term memory, and problem solving).
Testosterone can also enhance libido and improve sperm motility.
Are there any Side Effects to taking DHEA?
The side effects of taking DHEA are roughly the same as those of taking testosterone, but you must remember that the public understanding of the likelihood of side effects is overblown.
Just because a side effect can occur, doesn’t mean it will.
If you read the side effects of paracetamol with the same paranoia that people have regarding the side effects of testosterone you would never use it again.
But now that we’ve got that out of the way let’s take a look at the side effects. As with testosterone bad skin and acne are possible, hair loss, and increased blood pressure .
The side effects are more pronounced in women, which is to be expected as women usually have low levels of testosterone.
The side effects are very rare, but facial hair and deepening of the voice is possible.
What is the Correct Dosage of DHEA?
The correct dosage of DHEA is influenced by the age of the man in question, a younger man will require higher levels to notice a difference.
So supplementing with 200 mg would be fine . But older men could take doses that are as low as 25 mg.
It would be sensible for anyone to start off with the lower dose and see how it works. Then you can increase it once you have ascertained how effective it is.
Are DHEA Supplements Legal?
As with any supplement, once it has been established that the product works it isn’t long before the authorities have to make a decision on whether it is legal to use or not.
The first thing that you should be aware of is that DHEA is a banned substance for athletes.
If you are an Olympic athlete or professional sportsman then steer well clear (and look to increase it naturally as described above).
If you live in the UK then forget about it, DHEA is a class C controlled drug and is illegal to purchase or sell.
In Canada or Australia you can purchase it if you have a prescription – this wouldn’t be as hard to get as you’d think though, as many men are deficient. Ask your physician if you can have a test for it.
In the United States DHEA is a perfectly legal supplement that can be purchased in supplement stores and online.
So if you want to you can buy some now. It might be an idea to have your DHEA levels tested by a physician first, but it is not necessary.
The Top DHEA Supplement Available
In this section we are going to look at one of the best DHEA supplements currently available on the market right now.
Remember that if your country has banned them then you should think twice before ordering. If however you can legally order it, then the following product should be the first one that you check out!
Drill Master contains 33 mg of DHEA per serving as well as a number of other proven muscle building ingredients, including Whey Protein 450 mg, L-Isoleucine 300 mg, L-Valine 300 mg, L-Leucine 75 mg and Tribulus Terrestris 75 mg.
Using this product will help ensure that you experience the following benefits:
- Gain muscle faster & easier
- Extreme strength & stamina
- Boost nitrogen retention
- Amplify focus & drive
You can buy Drill Master for $64.99 (RRP $79.99) and as this product is not available for trial you can relax knowing that there are no hidden charges or repeat orders to worry about.
The Bottom Line
For the American readers DHEA looks like a no-brainer, particularly if you are over 40 years old.
There are no side effects likely to occur, the benefits are scientifically backed, and it is a legal supplement.
If you are reading this from outside the United States then you can either consider getting a prescription (Canada, Australia) or look at natural ways to increase it.
Supplements that contain Eurycoma Longifolia, Tribulus Terrestris, Vitamin C (high doses), or possibly Magnesium.
You should also consider regular exercise, improved sleep, an improved diet that contains lots of healthy fat sources (particularly Omega 3). But then you should be considering that anyway!
 Howie, B., Shultz, T. 1985. Dietary and hormonal interrelationships among vegetarian Seventh-Day Adventists and non vegetarian men. The American Society for Clinical Nutrition 42(1): 127-134
 Komindr, S., Nichoalds, G., Kitabchi, A. 2006. Bimodal effects of megadose Vitamin C on adrenal steroid production in man. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences 498(1): 487 – 490
  Tambi, M., Imran, M., Henkel, R. 2012. Standardised water-soluble extract of Eurycoma Longifolia, Tongkat ali, as testosterone booster for managing men with late-onset hypogonadism. Andrologia 44(Suppl. 1): 226-30
 Nordstrom, A., Hogstrom, G., Eriksson, A., Bonnerud, P., Tegner, Y., Malm, C. 2012. Higher Muscle Mass but Lower Gynoid Fat Mass in Athletes Using Anabolic Androgenic Steroids. Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research 26(1): 246-250