DHEA, or dehydroepiandrosterone, is a naturally-occurring hormone that is usually made in the body’s adrenal glands. Much like testosterone, DHEA production begins to drop off around the age of 30. DHEA benefits become apparent in these individuals, but there are also plenty of benefits for athletes and fitness buffs, too.
What Does DHEA Do?
DHEA is one of the most widely misunderstood hormones in the body. In fact, scientists and researchers still debate its exact function, but most agree that it is a precursor for many other hormones – including estrogen and testosterone. What’s more, there are dozens of published studies on DHEA benefits, which suggest that it can be incredibly beneficial to your overall health in a number of ways:
- It boosts free testosterone levels during and after exercise.
- It helps to regulate the mood by balancing hormones like serotonin and cortisol.
- It increases the thickness and hydration in the top layer of skin.
- It helps to reduce muscle soreness and fatigue when used regularly for at least five days.
- It may help treat sexual disorders in men such as erectile dysfunction and lack of libido.
What DHEA Does Not Do
Although DHEA is a very popular supplement among athletes and bodybuilders, many of the most commonly-touted DHEA benefits are myths. For example, men often believe that supplementing with DHEA will increase their testosterone levels enough to help them gain incredible mass in a very short period of time, but this is not the case. Furthermore, some people believe that DHEA will help them become stronger. Studies show that while this may be the case in older adults over the age of 60 who have naturally low levels of DHEA, the compound does not generally improve strength in men who are not DHEA-deficient.
Why You Should Use DHEA
Although DHEA alone cannot pack on muscle mass or make you feel like Superman, there are still plenty of DHEA benefits that can make it a valuable part of your overall supplement regimen. Because it boosts free testosterone levels as you exercise, it may make you feel more energetic during your workouts. What’s more, if you use other supplements or compounds for performance enhancement that influence your mood, DHEA can help provide balance. Finally, athletes and bodybuilders may experience mild to moderate pain relief, especially in the muscles, since DHEA contributes to relieving soreness.
Although DHEA is relatively safe when used as directed, there are a few things to think about before you make it a part of your everyday routine.
- DHEA can affect the way insulin works in your body. If you have diabetes, you may not be able to use DHEA safely.
- Some studies show that the compound may be directly responsible for lowing your levels of HDL, or good cholesterol. If you are battling cholesterol problems, talk to your doctor before you start taking DHEA.
- DHEA is metabolized through the liver, which can worsen existing liver problems or cause new problems when used regularly with other agents that have an impact on the liver.
DHEA is a very popular supplement, and many people refer to it as “the fountain of youth”. Nonetheless, the DHEA benefits are only truly apparent in certain situations, so be sure to weigh the benefits against the side effects before you commit to taking it.