Does DHEA Increase Testosterone? – SET FOR SET

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All sorts of compounds have been investigated in the quest to boost testosterone levels. A hormone that has caused a lot of excitement in the bodybuilding community is dehydroepiandrosterone or DHEA. It’s regarded as a key ingredient in testosterone supplements, yet there’s quite a bit of confusion about how, or even whether, it works.

We’re often asked, ‘Does DHEA increase testosterone?’ so we thought we’d tackle the topic head-on. In this article, we’ll explore the science, mechanisms, and research to definitively answer whether DHEA can boost testosterone levels.

Here’s what we’ll cover:

  • What Is DHEA?
  • What Are The Symptoms Of Low DHEA?
  • DHEA And Testosterone
  • How Long Does It Take For DHEA To Work?
  • Benefits Of DHEA Supplementation?
  • Side Effects
  • Who Should Not Take DHEA?
  • Other Ways To Boost Testosterone
  • FAQs

dhea increase testosterone

What Is DHEA?

DHEA, or dehydroepiandrosterone, is a steroid hormone naturally produced by the human body in the adrenal gland. It has four interlocking rings of carbon atoms as part of its distinctive structure. Chemically categorized as a C19 steroid, DHEA is a member of the androgen hormone family. Androgens are hormones that are mainly linked to the emergence of male characteristics.

Even though DHEA is categorized as an androgen, it does not directly exhibit androgenic effects on its own; instead, it acts as a precursor to other sex steroid hormones, including testosterone and estrogen. Once produced in the adrenal glands, which sit at the top of the kidneys, DHEA is released into the bloodstream and circulates all over the body. It is delivered attached to proteins, notably albumin and sex hormone-binding globulin (SHBG).

DHEA functions as a precursor hormone, which means it can be changed into other hormones, such as free testosterone in the testes of men or estrogen in the ovaries. It also impacts other non-sex hormones, including insulin, cortisol, and growth hormone. It’s boost to these hormones may increase energy, metabolism, and immunological response.

DHEA levels often reach their peak in adolescence and then begin to fall as we become older. This decline is a normal feature of aging.

What Are The Symptoms Of Low DHEA?

DHEA functions as a flexible building block that serves as the basis for producing numerous other hormones, including testosterone. It plays a crucial role in men since it stimulates testosterone production. So, low DHEA levels signal to the body that it lacks the building blocks to produce testosterone.

Symptoms of low DHEA include:

  • Fatigue: People with low DHEA levels will be prone to ongoing exhaustion and low energy levels.

  • Low Sex Drive: Diminished DHEA levels may result in lowered libido and erectile dysfunction in men.

  • Loss Of Muscle: Low DHEA levels could result in muscle atrophy and loss of strength.

  • Mood Shifts: Low DHEA may lead to irritation, mood fluctuations, and an even higher chance of developing anxiety or depression.

  • Weight Gain: Hormonal imbalances, such as low DHEA, can alter the body’s composition and make it more challenging to maintain a healthy weight or cause weight gain.

  • Bone Health: By affecting bone density, DHEA helps to support bone health. Low levels could make osteoporosis and bone fractures more likely.

  • Changes to Skin and Hair: DHEA supports healthy skin and hair. Low levels may bring on dry skin, thinning hair, and other skin-related problems.

  • Cognitive Function: According to research, DHEA might affect cognitive function. Memory issues and cognitive deterioration may be connected to low levels.

  • Hormonal Imbalances: Low DHEA can throw other hormones out of balance, which could cause women to experience irregular menstruation periods and affect the overall balance of their hormones.

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DHEA And Testosterone

As a precursor hormone, DHEA is an essential building block for the production of testosterone. DHEA serves as the primary building block for the body’s manufacture of testosterone when levels are at their highest. Male reproductive organ development, muscle growth, bone density, desire, and general vitality all depend on this hormonal interplay.

This link between testosterone and DHEA has been established through research, indicating that supplementing with DHEA may raise male testosterone levels. In one study, eight middle-aged study participants and eight younger control subjects were given 50 mg of DHEA the night before a five-session, two-minute high-intensity interval training (HIIT) cycling workout. The middle-aged men experienced significant increases in circulating DHEA and free testosterone levels [1].

The link between DHEA and serum testosterone levels in women is also important. Despite having lower testosterone levels than men, women’s bodies still produce some testosterone, thanks to DHEA. Maintaining adequate DHEA levels supports the delicate hormonal balance that influences female reproductive health, energy levels, and general well-being. Studies suggest that women taking DHEA supplements may improve their sexual performance, mood, and vitality [2].

DHEA Before And After

Anecdotal data from different internet sources, like Reddit, indicates a range of DHEA supplementing experiences. Some users claim that the drug has improved their mood, libido, and energy levels, while others report little difference. While personal experiences can differ, most people agree with the scientific test results showing how DHEA affects testosterone levels.

Here are a couple of typical comments from Reddit:

“My doc added DHEA to my TRT protocol, and I feel better with it. More energy, better sense of well-being over Test alone. I will have to see what my June labs look like, but I feel great with it added and am having zero sides.” (source)

“DHEA supplementation should only help if you’re DHEA deficient, at least as far as I can understand. DHEA levels typically decrease with age. I am 51 and have been supplementing with DHEA for about two years. Both my libido and work capacity went up significantly for me when I started, and I have stayed up since. So I’d go ahead with this plan only if you have test results showing you have low DHEA or you’re an old bugger like me. In addition, I’d dial down the dosage; I take 25mg/day.” (source)

How Long Does It Take For DHEA To Work?

Depending on dosage, personal response, and particular health objectives, DHEA effects can take different amounts of time. The limited research on the timetable for DHEA’s effects varies depending on the particular outcomes being researched.

In one double-blind placebo-controlled study, after 12 weeks of DHEA administration, improvements in women’s sexual function were noted [3]. This indicates that it can take a few weeks to notice changes in some outcomes.

A study on how DHEA affects bone density found significant improvement after six months of supplementation in women, though not in men [4] Other studies showed no improvement over shorter periods, showing that DHEA’s influence on particular health factors may not become apparent for a few months.

Studies looking at the effects of DHEA on muscle strength and body composition have slightly recorded changes after periods of 8-12 weeks. This suggests that DHEA’s impact on outcomes involving muscles may become apparent within a few months.

Anecdotal evidence from Reddit conversations provides a variety of perspectives on people’s experiences with DHEA. Some users claim to notice an increase in libido, mood, and vitality within a few weeks, while others say it takes a few months to see noticeable results.

The following variables may affect when DHEA takes effect:

  • Dosage: The amount of DHEA taken can affect how soon benefits are felt. Higher doses may cause changes to occur more quickly, but caution should be taken to prevent overconsumption.

  • Individual Reaction: Everybody has a unique body. While some people may react to DHEA’s effects more quickly and detect improvements, others may need more time.

  • Specific Health Goals: The timing may be affected by the particular outcomes you’re trying to improve, such as libido, mood, or physical strength.

  • Overall Health: How rapidly DHEA’s effects display themselves depends on the individual’s health level, age, and any existing hormonal balance.

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Benefits Of DHEA Supplementation

DHEA supplementation has drawn interest, whether to naturally increase testosterone, sustain hormonal balance, or pursue particular health objectives. Let’s explore the potential benefits of using DHEA for testosterone, taking into consideration both the needs of women and men:

DHEA Benefits for Men

Men can expect the following benefits:

  1. Support For Testosterone: DHEA’s function as a precursor promises to help normalize levels for men looking to naturally raise their testosterone levels.

  2. Increased Physical Performance: Increased strength, enhanced athletic performance, and optimal testosterone levels have all been connected. DHEA supplementation may be a viable option for guys looking to support their testosterone production and improve lean body mass. However, studies looking at muscle mass and strength improvements to date have been disappointing, with no or only slight increases after several months of supplementation [5].

  3. Cognitive Improvement:Some studies point to DHEA as a potential modulator of cognitive processes like memory and focus [6]. This may lead to improved memory, focus, and processing ability.

  4. Energy And Vitality: DHEA is thought to be involved in generating energy and general vitality. Taking DHEA supplements may help prevent fatigue and keep you feeling energized.

  5. Improved Sexual Function: DHEA’s ability to promote testosterone production may help overcome sexual dysfunction.

DHEA Benefits for Women

For women, supplemental DHEA provides:

  1. Hormonal Balance: DHEA aids in synthesizing estrogen and testosterone in females. This makes it a vital component in preserving hormonal balance, which affects menstrual regularity, emotional stability, and general well-being.

  2. Bone Health: The link between DHEA and bone health is especially important for women because hormonal changes during menopause might damage bone density. The risk of osteoporosis among postmenopausal women may be decreased, and bone health may be supported by DHEA supplementation

  3. Sexual Function: DHEA has been researched for its ability to improve female sexual function. According to some research, using a DHEA supplement for women may increase libido and sexual satisfaction [7].

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Side Effects

It’s crucial to approach dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) supplementation with a balanced understanding of potential adverse effects. Here’s an overview of the potential side effects of DHEA supplementation:

  • Hormonal Imbalance: Excessive DHEA supplementation can cause hormonal imbalances in testosterone and estrogen, among other hormones. Unwanted consequences may include mood swings, abnormal menstruation cycles in women, and even hair growth in inappropriate places.

  • Skin Problems: DHEA has been shown to boost the production of the oily substance sebum, which may cause such skin problems as acne or oily skin.

  • Cardiovascular Issues: Prolonged DHEA supplementation may lead to slight cardiovascular irregularities, such as causing changes in lipid levels.

  • Drug Interactions: DHEA supplements may interact with some drugs, including corticosteroids, hormone-related drugs, and drugs that influence blood sugar levels.

  • Psychological Effect: DHEA supplementation has occasionally been linked to changes in mood, including irritation and anxiety.

Who Should Not Take DHEA?

The following populations should either avoid taking supplemental DHEA or consult with a medical professional before doing so:

  • People With Hormonal Imbalances: Those with pre-existing hormonal imbalances, such as polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), may experience a worsened condition by taking supplemental DHEA.

  • Pregnant Or Nursing Women: Pregnant or nursing women may experience hormonal disturbances that could affect the health of both mother and child,

  • People With Hormone-related Cancers: Those suffering from prostate, breast, or ovarian cancer should not take a hormonal supplement like DHEA.

  • People With Liver Conditions: The liver is where DHEA is metabolized. People with liver issues should exercise caution because using DHEA supplements may further stress the liver.

  • Children And Adolescents: Before age 18, a person’s hormonal system is still developing. Their testosterone levels are also naturally surging. As a result, they should not take any hormonal supplementation.

  • People With Cardiovascular Problems: Folks with heart disorders, high blood pressure, or a history of cardiovascular problems should speak with a medical expert before taking DHEA.

  • People Taking Medications: DHEA supplements may interfere with such medications as corticosteroids, blood sugar stabilizers, and hormones. Check with your doctor beforehand.

  • People With Mood Disorders: Mood changes have been identified as a potential DHEA side effect. As a result, those with a history of mood disorders should use DHEA cautiously.

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Other Ways To Boost Testosterone

Having done a deep dive into DHEA as a testosterone booster, let’s now explore some alternate methods for raising testosterone levels:

1) Dietary Changes

Incorporating foods high in healthy fats into your diet, such as avocados, nuts, seeds, and fatty fish, will help you get the vital nutrients you need to produce hormones like testosterone.

One mineral, zinc, is well-known for helping to produce testosterone. Oysters, lean meats, legumes, and nuts are among the foods that are good sources of zinc.

Finally, adequate vitamin D levels are associated with normal testosterone levels. Getting sunshine exposure and eating foods high in vitamin D can support maintaining appropriate levels. To learn more, check out: Does Vitamin D Boost Testosterone?

2) Consistent Training

Resistance training workouts can increase the level of testosterone in the body. Squats, deadlifts, and bench presses are excellent examples of compound workouts that may boost ‘T’ levels.

Studies have also shown that HIIT workouts may increase testosterone levels [8]. These exercises consist of brief bursts of vigorous effort followed by short rest intervals.

For more on this, read our article: Does Working Out Increase Testosterone Levels?

3) Adequate Sleep

To properly control hormones, including testosterone, ensure you get enough restorative sleep. Try to get between 7-9 hours each night.

4) Stress Management

Stress promotes the release of cortisol, which can inhibit testosterone production. Mindful meditation, yoga, and deep breathing strategies can help manage stress.

5) Organic Supplements

Maca root, a plant native to Peru, has been found to support libido and hormone balance. Studies suggest possible advantages of these nutritional supplements for men’s sexual health [9]. Fenugreek is another herb that has also shown promise in boosting testosterone levels. Research indicates that it might improve sexual function and muscle strength [10].

6) Lifestyle Decisions

High alcohol intake might have a negative effect on testosterone levels. To keep your hormones in balance, practice moderation. Avoid tobacco and other chemicals that may interfere with the regulation of hormones.


Let’s round out this exploration of DHEA to increase testosterone by addressing the most frequently asked questions:

Does DHEA increase testosterone in females?

Yes, DHEA can help females have higher testosterone levels. Although women naturally make less testosterone than males, the body still converts the precursor hormone DHEA into both testosterone and estrogen. There is a likelihood that DHEA supplements given to women may cause a slight rise in testosterone levels.

How much DHEA should a woman take to increase testosterone?

The most frequently recommended dosages, based on clinical study amounts, for DHEA supplementation range between 25 and 50 mg per day. Women should err toward the lower end of this range.

Who should not take DHEA?

DHEA supplements should not be taken by those who have hormone-related cancers, are pregnant or nursing, have liver ailments, are children or teenagers, are taking certain drugs, have cardiovascular problems, have mood disorders, or are looking for quick remedies.

What are the symptoms of low DHEA?

Fatigue, a loss of muscle mass, mood swings, a lack of libido, diminished cognitive ability, and a compromised immune system are all signs of low DHEA. A disruption in general well-being, as well as hormone irregularities, may also occur.

Can you take DHEA instead of HRT?

No, taking DHEA instead of HRT or hormone replacement therapy is not a good idea. HRT involves replacing specific hormones to restore them to a normal level. In contrast, DHEA is a precursor hormone that can convert into several different hormones.

DHEA And Testosterone: Final Say

If you’re looking for a natural way to boost testosterone levels, oral DHEA supplementation should definitely be part of the mix.

Its function as a precursor hormone highlights its importance in maintaining hormonal balance and acting as a testosterone stimulator. Look for it on the testosterone booster ingredient label, with a 25-50 mg dosage range.

Find out more about the best natural testosterone boosters with our complete guide to the 8 Best Supplements To Increase Testosterone Naturally.

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  2. Smith, T., & Batur, P. (2020). Prescribing testosterone and DHEA: The role of androgens in women. Cleveland Clinic Journal of Medicine, 88(1), 35–43.
  3. Tang J, Chen LR, Chen KH. The Utilization of Dehydroepiandrosterone as a Sexual Hormone Precursor in Premenopausal and Postmenopausal Women: An Overview. Pharmaceuticals (Basel). 2021 Dec 29;15(1):46. doi: 10.3390/ph15010046. PMID: 35056103; PMCID: PMC8781653.
  4. Weiss EP, Shah K, Fontana L, Lambert CP, Holloszy JO, Villareal DT. Dehydroepiandrosterone replacement therapy in older adults: 1- and 2-y effects on bone. Am J Clin Nutr. 2009 May;89(5):1459-67. doi: 10.3945/ajcn.2008.27265. Epub 2009 Mar 25. PMID: 19321570; PMCID: PMC2677000.
  5. Ostojic SM, Calleja J, Jourkesh M. Effects of short-term dehydroepiandrosterone supplementation on body composition in young athletes. Chin J Physiol. 2010 Feb 28;53(1):19-25. doi: 10.4077/cjp.2010.amh090. PMID: 21789881.
  6. de Menezes KJ, Peixoto C, Nardi AE, Carta MG, Machado S, Veras AB. Dehydroepiandrosterone, Its Sulfate and Cognitive Functions. Clin Pract Epidemiol Ment Health. 2016 Apr 29;12:24-37. doi: 10.2174/1745017901612010024. PMID: 27346998; PMCID: PMC4894834.
  7. Genazzani AR, Stomati M, Valentino V, Pluchino N, Pot E, Casarosa E, Merlini S, Giannini A, Luisi M. Effect of 1-year, low-dose DHEA therapy on climacteric symptoms and female sexuality. Climacteric. 2011 Dec;14(6):661-8. doi: 10.3109/13697137.2011.579649. Epub 2011 Sep 26. PMID: 21942655.
  8. Ambroży T, Rydzik Ł, Obmiński Z, Błach W, Serafin N, Błach B, Jaszczur-Nowicki J, Ozimek M. The Effect of High-Intensity Interval Training Periods on Morning Serum Testosterone and Cortisol Levels and Physical Fitness in Men Aged 35-40 Years. J Clin Med. 2021 May 15;10(10):2143. doi: 10.3390/jcm10102143. PMID: 34063524; PMCID: PMC8156527.
  9. Gonzales GF, Córdova A, Vega K, Chung A, Villena A, Góñez C, Castillo S. Effect of Lepidium meyenii (MACA) on sexual desire and its absent relationship with serum testosterone levels in adult healthy men. Andrologia. 2002 Dec;34(6):367-72. doi: 10.1046/j.1439-0272.2002.00519.x. PMID: 12472620.
  10. Wankhede S, Mohan V, Thakurdesai P. Beneficial effects of fenugreek glycoside supplementation in male subjects during resistance training: A randomized controlled pilot study. J Sport Health Sci. 2016 Jun;5(2):176-182. doi: 10.1016/j.jshs.2014.09.005. Epub 2015 Mar 7. Erratum in: J Sport Health Sci. 2018 Apr;7(2):251. PMID: 30356905; PMCID: PMC6191980.

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