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Can DHEA Supplements Boost Testosterone In Males?

Tyler Sellers
Published by Tyler Sellers
Fact checked by Donald Christman, BHSc FACT CHECKED
Last updated: March 31, 2022

Dehydroepiandrosterone or DHEA is a popular supplement used by some athletes, bodybuilders, or individuals who want to boost their testosterone levels.

Despite its popularity, there are concerns about its effectiveness and claimed benefits.

So, we read published literature about the effect of DHEA on testosterone and asked for expert opinions to give us answers to these pressing concerns.

After a month of research, we're sharing everything we learned in this article.

Quick Summary

  • A couple of studies suggest DHEA has positive effects on testosterone. 
  • Taking DHEA can provide several benefits, but it has some risks, too.
  • DHEA is safe when used in prescribed amounts.

DHEA’s Effects on Testosterone

stack of supplements

Several studies show DHEA’s can be effective in increasing testosterone.

In a 2020 study, researchers reviewed different published studies on DHEA supplementation on testosterone.

Results showed that taking DHEA is associated with increased testosterone levels. It further revealed that response to testosterone could be gender-specific as the increase in testosterone was higher in women than in men [1].

A similar study among middle-aged men who took DHEA the night before their HIIT session showed that DHEA could increase testosterone levels and prevent testosterone decline during HIIT exercises [2].

However, how DHEA exactly works in boosting testosterone isn’t fully understood.

What’s known is that DHEA is a precursor hormone or prohormone to sex hormones, including testosterone and estrogen. Precursor hormones are substances our body converts into other hormones [3].

This suggests that an increased circulation of DHEA in the body can stimulate more testosterone [4,5].

Other studies, however, contradict the claims that DHEA positively impacts testosterone.

One study where men who participated in resistance training took either DHEA or placebo showed that DHEA did not enhance their serum testosterone levels. Further findings showed that men who took either DHEA or placebo had the same increase in strength and lean body mass [6].

So far, research remains inconclusive about the effectiveness of DHEA on testosterone levels.

How Long Dhea Affects Testosterone Levels?

Like other supplements, there is no exact time frame for everyone, and little available data is investigating how long DHEA takes effect on men's hormones.

However, several sources suggest DHEA supplementation isn't a quick fix either.

Some studies show that DHEA takes about six months to show the effects [7]. Some people even use it for one to two years.

Is Taking DHEA with Testosterone Boosters Safe?

man holding his head in pain

Generally, DHEA supplementation of 50-100 mg per day for no more than two years is considered safe. DHEA supplements can potentially be unsafe if you take more than 100 mg per day or use them for longer than two years.

However, people respond differently to DHEA. Here are the possible side effects:

  • Headache
  • Fatigue
  • Insomnia
  • Nasal congestion
  • Stomach upset
  • Oily skin and acne breakouts

It’s better to seek your medical provider’s advice before taking DHEA.

Other Benefits of Taking DHEA

men working out outdoors

We've listed here some of the benefits of DHEA supplements.

1. Improve Athletic Performanceis Protein Powder Bad for You

Some athletes use DHEA to increase their muscle strength and exercise endurance. That's because DHEA is said to increase testosterone, and increased T may improve athletic performance [8].

However, it is noted that DHEA is banned in several sports leagues, including National Football League or NFL, and is considered a prohibited anabolic agent in sport in the US.

2. Decrease Fat Mass and Prevent Obesity

There is some evidence that DHEA can reduce fat and prevent obesity. One study showed that participants who took DHEA for six months had a significant decrease in abdominal fat [9].

3. Increase Sex Drive

DHEA also has claimed benefits on sex drive. Several studies have shown that DHEA can improve libido and sexual well-being [10]. However, research in this area is limited and remains inconclusive [11].

4. Boost Energy

People who need more fuel for their workouts or training also use DHEA because it claims to provide more energy.

DHEA Dosage

The dosage depends on your specific needs or formula, but DHEA should generally be taken at 50-100 mg per day for no more than two years to avoid adverse effects  [12].

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FAQs

Should I Take Dhea in the Morning or at Night?

DHEA supplements are often taken during the morning to mimic the body's natural rhythm of producing DHEA [13].

Why Is Dhea Banned?

The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) lists DHEA as a prohibited substance. It's because using DHEA can lead to dose-dependent (effects change when dose change) increase in circulating androgens, which may reach greater than normal levels in the body [14].

Efficacy of DHEA in Boosting Testosterone

There is some evidence that DHEA can increase testosterone. DHEA is converted to testosterone, suggesting that increased DHEA in the body can stimulate testosterone production.

However, studies on its effectiveness are mixed, and its mechanism isn't completely understood yet. Taking DHEA can provide benefits, such as increased energy, enhanced endurance, and improved libido.

When it comes to its safety and risks, taking DHEA in its prescribed dosage is generally safe and has no severe side effects. Minor side effects may include headache, acne, and fatigue.

Though DHEA may boost testosterone, using it must be weighed with its risks. People with health conditions must consult their healthcare provider before using these supplements.


References:

  1. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0531556520304587
  2. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs00421-013-2607-x
  3. https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/agricultural-and-biological-sciences/dehydroepiandrosterone
  4. https://academic.oup.com/endo/article/145/3/1039/2877953
  5. https://academic.oup.com/endo/article/145/3/1039/2877953
  6. https://journals.physiology.org/doi/full/10.1152/jappl.1999.87.6.2274
  7. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/9876338/
  8. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3264812/
  9. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/15536111/
  10. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6119841/
  11. https://academic.oup.com/humupd/article/13/3/239/2457836
  12. https://medlineplus.gov/druginfo/natural/331.html#Dosage
  13. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0003426607001655
  14. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/20122454/

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