Sometimes, you need that extra boost to get you past a plateau in the gym.
Or to get through that 3PM slump. Or hell, even to get out of bed (or get into it for some folks).
Don’t you wish there was a treatment for energy, strength, muscle, and recovery, all in one convenient package?
…*DHEA slowly raises its hand*…
Best DHEA Supplements
Truthfully, DHEA – also known as the mouthful dehydroepiandrosterone – could be a jack-of-all-trades when it comes to being a health supplement.
But what does the science say?
In this whopper of an article, we’ll go over what DHEA exactly is, how our bodies use it, whether it’s safe for men and women, the benefits of supplementation, and what to eat to improve your DHEA levels.
We’ll also give you dosage recommendations, as well as side effects and the top supplements reviewed.
For the nitty-gritty, let’s keep scrolling.
What is DHEA?
Dehydroepiandrosterone – phew! – is a naturally-occurring hormone that has a ton of different jobs it can do within the body.
This hormone is produced in your adrenal glands, which are just above your kidneys.
It is in fact the most abundant hormone created by the adrenals, and is actually the #1 hormone your body makes in terms of volume.
While it is a hormone, it can also be exogenously taken as a supplement.
In early adulthood, your natural DHEA levels peak.
As you age, DHEA levels start to decline slowly.
When DHEA is metabolized – brought through your systems – over 90% of the available amount is converted into DHEA sulfate.
DHEA is used for multiple processes within your body, which we’ll cover below…
What is DHEA Used For?
This is where things get interesting for DHEA.
If you aren’t lagging in either of those hormones, then DHEA will be utilized by the body as is.
It is connected to many functions within your body, like metabolism, aging, and is adversely affected by cortisol.
For the most part, dehydroepiandrosterone is a hormone balancer and helps your sex hormones out as an auxiliary hormone to help with physical performance, sexual performance, protection from injury, and overall health.
DHEA For Women (Is It Safe?)
The DHEA hormone is found in both men and women, each benefiting greatly from a healthy level.
For women specifically, DHEA can help with fighting inflammation, reducing infertility, upping libido, could potentially treat undesirable effects of menopause, and can keep women from getting osteoporosis.
It has many more benefits, but the point remains the same: Both men and women need ample amounts of dehydroepiandrosterone in there system to function at peak capacities.
Females use DHEA to increase the available estrogen in their bodies, maybe even testosterone if they are low in T.
This is the #1 studied aspect of DHEA and women, and could be a beneficial supplement to avoid osteoporosis and other bone density issues as women age.
Studies on men regarding cardiovascular health and DHEA supplementation have been done on women as well.
And while females too see an enhanced lipid profile and better heart health, it isn’t at the same level as their male counterparts.
As for the safety of supplementing as a female, there isn’t much research suggesting women should avoid taking DHEA exogenously.
There have been rare documented side effects from DHEA supplements, mostly androgenic like acne or facial hair growth.
However, these aren’t common at all and shouldn’t be worried about generally.
Of course, if you are pregnant, trying to get pregnant, or breastfeeding, it’s always smart to consult with your medical professional on whether or not supplementing DHEA is right for you.
(However, seeing as it does show positive effects on infertility, perhaps it could be ideal for you to take DHEA supplements if you’re trying.)
DHEA For Men
As for the guys, DHEA supplements should prove to be impressive testosterone boosters for the most part.
In men, DHEA is also secreted by the testes, providing a little more DHEA in the overall system.
So, with additional DHEA and increased testosterone, you can expect all of the advantages you get with upregulated levels of testosterone.
This includes enhanced libido, less inflammation, a spike in physical performance, and assistance in building muscle mass and losing body fat.
As for studies related to men, there have been findings of improvement with aging when you supplement DHEA.
The biggest effect was cardioprotective elements for men over 40; lipid profiles showed improvement with DHEA supplementation.
The full laundry list of benefits can be found below, but to be clear: Whether you are a male or a female, DHEA might be your new best hormone friend.
What Do You Do If Your DHEA Levels Are Low?
When you have low levels of DHEA, you’re more at risk for lower bone density and bone fractures.
The usual suspects for low DHEA is either aging or adrenal fatigue.
It’s unavoidable that your DHEA will decline over time, but adrenal fatigue can be reversed.
The adrenal glands secrete certain hormones for specific situations.
In short-term stress scenarios, it produces adrenaline.
For medium-term, it creates cortisol. And for long-term stress, the adrenals make and release DHEA.
Low levels of DHEA is due to your body being unable to adapt to long-term stress.
The adrenals accidentally produce too much cortisol and not enough DHEA.
Even after the stressor is past, it sometimes can’t get back to normal, continuing to release excess cortisol.
There are many common signs of low DHEA, including extreme fatigue, weakness, lethargy, mood changes, decrease in muscle mass, loss of bone mineral density, and depression.
Basically, if your body is feeling absolutely drained, it could have something to do with DHEA and your adrenals.
To combat this, you can either restore your DHEA levels naturally or supplement exogenously.
For the natural route, there are many activities that can properly rebalance your adrenal system, such as meditation or yoga or breathing exercises.
You can also do aerobic exercises.
As for taking things, anti-inflammatory herbs, adaptogenic herbs, and anti-inflammatory foods help. Vitamin C, magnesium, and zinc provide your adrenals with a healthy boost as well.
The great thing is DHEA supplements have a lot of these herbs, vitamins, and minerals.
DHEA Supplement Benefits
There are a ton of advantages to supplementing DHEA:
- Rebalances hormones, especially sex hormones: Based off what your body needs, DHEA will turn into either testosterone or estrogen. This should eliminate any imbalance you have with your hormones, including reduced testosterone for males.
- Lowers inflammation: People with metabolic syndrome, which is associated with high inflammation and its risk factors, is oftentimes due to low DHEA. Supplementing DHEA would decrease inflammation, the #1 cause for loads of immune diseases and body deterioration.
- Increases bone density: Especially with post-menopausal women, a lack of estrogen results in bone mineral loss. More DHEA equals more estrogen production, which aids in bone density throughout aging.
- Could improve muscle size and strength: With aging comes unwanted fat gain and muscle loss, as well as a decrease in metabolism effectiveness. DHEA supplements curtail all of these problems, providing your metabolism with a hormonal boost. It also enhances your lean muscle mass, which helps with fat loss when resting. While studies are lacking, there is an obvious increase in testosterone with DHEA supplementation, which could potentially lead to more skeletal muscle mass.
- Potentially enhances fat burning: DHEA moves glucose to your cells for energy, reduces insulin levels, and triggers the burning of fat. Interestingly, studies have shown that supplementing DHEA in rats has caused a decrease in caloric intake, specifically fatty foods. And DHEA-sulfate is associated with heightened satiety. These could lead to a reduction in overall body fat.
- Fights depression, mood swings, and cognitive decline: When your hormones are balanced, your emotions tend to become more level as well. DHEA supplements have been researched to help limit depression and other mood issues. However, these results have been seen in people with adrenal insufficiencies, whereas healthy individuals don’t recognize similar mood benefits.
- Boosts sexual function, libido, and fertility: There are multiple accounts showing DHEA has helped individuals with sexual dysfunction, including improved libido, loss of ED, and decreased menopausal symptoms. When males get nerve damage or diabetes, they sometimes deal with sexual dysfunction symptoms like impotence or low libido; 25 mg of DHEA could reverse these problems when taken daily for at least six months.
- Keeps adrenals functioning properly: Adrenal insufficiency is a condition some people have that leads to the adrenal glands producing insufficient amounts of hormones, such as excess cortisol. Supplementing with DHEA has been shown to help with symptoms – fatigue, weakness, change in blood pressure – while normalizing hormone production. For women specifically, DHEA supplements decreased feelings of anxiety and depression, further showing its effect on mood and benefit for females.
- Aids in heart health: DHEA has another intriguing job in the cells of your body. Though research isn’t 100% clear, this hormone could offer protection to your endothelium (blood vessel walls) and increase vessel health in general. It also prevents the hardening of arteries, as in atherosclerosis. Add on top of that its effects on metabolism, usage of glucose, lowering of inflammation, and decrease of body fat (visceral fat to be specific), and you’ve got a great heart warrior. (Plus it may lower lipoproteins and cholesterol.)
- Lowers diabetes risk: Speaking of glucose metabolism, the research on DHEA has found that it increases insulin sensitivity for men with hypercholesterolemia. Sadly, there are just as many studies that claim DHEA has no effect on insulin sensitivity, and it gets even less conclusive when you factor in healthy individuals. Nevertheless, DHEA has been linked to lower risks of blood clots, clogged arteries, and insulin resistance/diabetes throughout the scientific literature. While dubious at best, DHEA might be helpful with insulin and glucose metabolism.
- Overall beneficial to longevity: All of the above considered, it could be theorized that DHEA has a profound benefit to your lifespan as a whole. The biggest factor in this is the decrease of inflammation in the body, the culprit for many aging ailments. A healthier heart, balanced hormones and emotions, increased lean muscle mass, and added bone mineral density don’t hurt how long you live either.
As you can see, the list is ridiculous when it comes to the benefits additional DHEA gives you.
And while some of the claims are more heavily researched than others, it’s pros definitely outweigh the cons (see side effects below).
What Foods Are High In DHEA?
Luckily, you can get a decent extra kick of DHEA through your diet.
However, technically there aren’t foods that have straight-up DHEA within its chemistry.
Rather, you can consume nutrients and compounds that will help boost your DHEA production.
So essentially we’re looking for foods that upregulate your thyroid and help your adrenals out.
DHEA is also created from cholesterol, so we’re on the lookout for HDL-rich foods as well.
Here are some foods you can eat to help your DHEA levels:
- Omega-3 fatty acids, found in oils, ghee, butter, and cod liver (omega-3s are healthy fats that make cholesterol in your body, which in turn creates DHEA)
- Sea vegetables, like kelp, seaweed, nori, and dulse (these help out your thyroid)
- Do NOT eat too much sugar (sugar makes your blood go slightly acidic, which leads to inflammation and decreased organ function…like your adrenal glands)
It’s also important to get enough sleep so your adrenal glands can get the proper rest for the next day.
Plus, avoid raising your insulin too many times in a day.
Avoiding high-sugar foods, eating less frequently throughout the day, and sticking to low-GI foods all help with insulin spikes and sensitivity.
Check out our guide on 7-Keto-DHEA Metabolite.
DHEA Supplement Dosage
According to the Natural Institute of Health, the proper dosage for DHEA falls in between 20 and 50 mg per day.
This is considered safe for men over 30 years old to take.
As a younger individual, your body should only make somewhere in the 40-70 mg range.
That means you can take DHEA in small doses and still reap the rewards.
Sometimes, there are severe disorders, such as heavy depression, where outrageous amounts – we’re talking hundreds of milligrams – are administered to individuals.
We do not recommend this, as it is for rare and critical conditions.
As such, there have been reported dose ranges depending on what you want to cure.
For example, bone healing and bone mineral density is achieved on a 50-100 mg daily dose of DHEA. For erectile dysfunction, 25-50 mg is ideal.
If you’re a regular person who just wants the potential body composition effects, then 25-100 seems to be your ball field.
Test out different amounts and experiment to see what dosage works best for you, but for the most part stick to this wide range.
When Should You Take It?
As for a timeline, it doesn’t necessarily matter when in the day you take it.
Preferably, take it with food, and ensure it’s before your workout for optimal results.
Seeing as the dosage is so low, you can take it all in one sitting.
When you supplement before meals, also make sure you have a decent amount of fat with your food so that the DHEA can absorb better.
How Long Does It Take To Work?
Like many other similar supplements, DHEA takes a few days (up to a week) to see results.
In studies, DHEA has been safely used for as long as two years without severe side effects. (A full list of side effects can be found below.)
Does DHEA Need To Be Cycled?
Seeing as DHEA is a steroidal prohormone, it should be cycled. This is especially important for men below age 40 and women below age 35.
Past those limits, you don’t have to cycle because your body isn’t making as much anymore.
You can cycle like other steroids, with two weeks on and one week off.
Run experimental doses to figure out what amount you should have during your cycle.
DHEA Supplement Side Effects
Side effects are uncommon and relatively minor.
They include acne, greasy skin, and increased hair growth in the armpit and pubic areas.
As a word of caution, it’s advised to NOT supplement DHEA if:
- You have cancers affected by additional sex hormones (especially prostate cancer in men and breast cancer in women)
- You are pregnant or breastfeeding
- You take blood thinners or other medication for diabetes, as well as heart or liver problems
- You have any serious medical condition
Essentially, use common sense when supplementing DHEA.
Top DHEA Supplement Reviews
First up on our list is 100% DHEA from Sheer Strength Labs.
This maximum strength DHEA only has a few extra ingredients: Rice flour and vegetable cellulose for the capsule.
Each pill has 100 mg of DHEA, which is double our recommended dose.
A way to keep your levels from getting out of whack is to take a single pill every two days instead of daily.
Due to the fact that DHEA isn’t found in any food in its pure form, Sheer Health provides you with high-quality dehydroepiandrosterone.
And with 60 servings every other day, you have a lot of DHEA for a great price.
For a non-GMO, clear-cut, no BS DHEA supplement, go with the bros over at Sheer Strength Lab.
Next is EBYSU DHEA, another 100 mg-per-serving capsule that provides pure DHEA.
This particular supplement is very similar to the previous one, except it includes a few more ingredients like magnesium stearate and silicon dioxide.
Again, this is 100 milligrams, which is 2x what you need for a daily allotment, so go with just a single pill per two days.
The one benefit to this supplement over Sheer Health is the price on Amazon currently.
The cost per serving is a tad cheaper, but with it you do get additional ingredients. The choice is up to you on deciding which one works best.
For a simple, inexpensive DHEA supplement, EBYSU dehydroepiandrosterone could be a great option.
Finally, we have what might be an ideal DHEA supplement with extra strength from Havasu Nutrition.
The reason why it could be perfect is the serving size; each capsule gives you 50 mg of DHEA, which is the top end of our recommended range.
It also only has rice flour and gelatin as its other ingredients, so you get a clean, pure DHEA.
With 60 servings, you get a few months’ worth of balanced hormonal levels, increased muscle mass and fat loss, and boosted energy levels.
All of these supplements are non-GMO, as well as supported by the FDA. That way, you know you’re getting the best bang for your buck.
For a supplement that you can take daily and get the perfect amount in your system, look no further than the Havasu Nutrition Extra Strength DHEA 50 mg Supplement.
DHEA is one of the most vital and pivotal hormones in your body; supplementing could be the key to unlocking massive gains throughout your entire system.
Now that you’re a semi-expert in the world of DHEA, you know how many benefits you get with optimal DHEA levels.
For both men and women, you must have your adrenals functioning at full force and supplying your body with a steady stream of dehydroepiandrosterone.
When you’re feeling a little lackluster in the DHEA department, follow the advice in this article.
Eat the recommended foods, get adequate sleep, and supplement when you want to enhance your physical performance in the gym and beyond.
Take a look at our suggested supplements and find the one that’s right for you. Then go kick some ass!