DHEA Supplements: Should You Take Them?

May 30, 2013 | Katie Davis

Must See Nutrition Videos

Strong muscles are in high demand among athletes. Regardless of the sport, athletes want powerful muscles, and the faster they can build them the better.

For this reason, DHEA (dehydroepiandrosterone) supplements have become popular in some weight rooms. DHEA is an androgen/testosterone precursor produced naturally by your adrenal gland before it produces testosterone.

DHEA has been marketed to build muscle and decrease body fat. In fact, many stores sell it over the counter. But DHEA supplements aren't backed by the FDA (no supplements are) or the NSF Certified for Sport®. So should athletes take it? Judge for yourself after reading answers to the following questions: Is it safe? Is it effective? Is it legal?

Is it safe?

DHEA supplement users have reported several adverse effects, including hair loss, hirsutism (excessive hair growth where it wouldn't normally appear), voice deepening in women and irreversible enlargement of breast tissue in men.

DHEA supplementation also decreases "good" cholesterol or HDL. Some research also shows concern for an increased risk of uterine and prostate cancer. Therefore, DHEA supplementation has not been proven safe.

Is it effective?

Research involving DHEA supplementation showed no increase in the body's testosterone levels and no changes in strength or body composition in athletes. Therefore, DHEA has not been proven effective for athletes.

Is it legal?

In 2005, the FDA classified DHEA as a controlled substance. The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), International Olympic Committee, NFL, NBA, MLB, NCAA, state-level high school associations and other governing bodies also ban its use.

This means that if you knowingly (or unknowingly) take a product containing DHEA and test positive, you will lose your eligibility. Therefore, DHEA supplementation is not legal.

My advice as a sports dietitian

Don't take DHEA. It's not safe, effective or legal. Check the ingredients list of any supplement you are taking or considering. If it contains DHEA, do not take it, or stop taking it immediately. If you're in doubt about a supplement, you can check it out by visiting www.nsfsport.com. Even multi-vitamins should be checked to make sure they are clean (meaning they contain no banned or illegal substances).

Katie Davis
- Katie Davis, MS, RD, CSSD, LDN, helps ordinary athletes become extraordinary competitors by using whole-food-based nutrition to improve their performance. She is the owner of...
Katie Davis
- Katie Davis, MS, RD, CSSD, LDN, helps ordinary athletes become extraordinary competitors by using whole-food-based nutrition to improve their performance. She is the owner of...

Featured Videos

Tim Tebow's NFL Off-Season Workout Tim Tebow's NFL Off-Season Workout Views: 153,019
Path to the Pros 2015: Trae Waynes Path to the Pros 2015: Trae Waynes Views: 80,502
Path to the Pros 2015: Marcus Mariota Path to the Pros 2015: Marcus Mariota Views: 1,270,518
Load More

Resources

STACK Fitness

Everything you need to be fitter than ever

STACK Conditioning

Sport-specific conditioning programs

Coaches and Trainers

Tips and advice for coaches and trainers

Magazine

Latest issues of STACK Magazine

STACK 4W

Women's sports workout, nutrition and lifestyle advice

Gamer

Gaming, entertainment and tech news

Basic Training

Military-style training for athletes

News

Find the latest news relevant to athletes

Most Popular Videos

Peyton Manning Dumbbell Bench With 80+ Pounds Peyton Manning Dumbbell Bench With 80+ Pounds
Views: 43,626,320
Drew Brees Will Not Be Denied Drew Brees Will Not Be Denied
Views: 12,144,153
Colin Kaepernick's Core Workout Colin Kaepernick's Core Workout
Views: 896,437
Robert Griffin III Pocket Presence QB Drill Robert Griffin III Pocket Presence QB Drill
Views: 6,866,256
Ohio State Football Open Field Plyo Drill Ohio State Football Open Field Plyo Drill
Views: 9,501,395

Load More
More Cool Stuff You'll Like
Ask the Experts: Is Caffeine Safe for Athletes?

Ask the Experts: Is Caffeine Safe for Athletes?

Why You Need Vitamin D in Your Diet

Why You Need Vitamin D in Your Diet

DHEA Supplements: Should You Take Them?

DHEA Supplements: Should You Take Them?

7 Fiber Supplements: More Than Just For Weight Loss

7 Fiber Supplements: More Than Just For Weight Loss

HGH Use Among Teens on the Rise, According to Survey

HGH Use Among Teens on the Rise, According to Survey

Make Sure You're Getting Enough Calcium

Make Sure You're Getting Enough Calcium

This Just In: Boost Your Workout With Peppermint

This Just In: Boost Your Workout With Peppermint

7 Sketchy Marketing Phrases Used By Supplement Companies

7 Sketchy Marketing Phrases Used By Supplement Companies

L.A. Galaxy's Safe Supplementation for Soccer Players

L.A. Galaxy's Safe Supplementation for Soccer Players

Iodine: An Overlooked Essential Mineral for Female Athletes

Iodine: An Overlooked Essential Mineral for Female Athletes

Why Creatine Is the Best Sports Supplement

Why Creatine Is the Best Sports Supplement

The Truth About Muscle-Enhancing Supplements

The Truth About Muscle-Enhancing Supplements

3 Supplements to Boost On-Ice Performance

3 Supplements to Boost On-Ice Performance

Fuel for Thought: Gels, Bloks and Beans

Fuel for Thought: Gels, Bloks and Beans

Blueberry Supplements: Better Than Actual Blueberries?

Blueberry Supplements: Better Than Actual Blueberries?

ZMA: Is This Mysterious Supplement Right for You?

ZMA: Is This Mysterious Supplement Right for You?

Use Sodium Bicarbonate to Get More Out of Creatine

Use Sodium Bicarbonate to Get More Out of Creatine

3 Reasons Why You Should Take a Fish Oil Supplement

3 Reasons Why You Should Take a Fish Oil Supplement

4 Muscle-Building Supplements That Don't Work

4 Muscle-Building Supplements That Don't Work

The One Thing You Need to Do to Build Muscle

The One Thing You Need to Do to Build Muscle

Should I Take Creatine?

Should I Take Creatine?

Can Baking Soda Improve Your Training Gains?

Can Baking Soda Improve Your Training Gains?

The Powerful Health Benefits of Turmeric

The Powerful Health Benefits of Turmeric

6 Supplements That Power Quality Workouts

6 Supplements That Power Quality Workouts

Soy vs. Whey Protein

Soy vs. Whey Protein

Workout Supplements: Do You Really Need Them?

Workout Supplements: Do You Really Need Them?

What is Casein Protein?

What is Casein Protein?

5 Rules You Must Know Before Taking a Fish Oil Supplement

5 Rules You Must Know Before Taking a Fish Oil Supplement

Demystifying Popular Smoothie Boosters

Demystifying Popular Smoothie Boosters

4 Creatine Myths Exposed

4 Creatine Myths Exposed

Why Basketball Players Should Ditch Energy Drinks

Why Basketball Players Should Ditch Energy Drinks

7 Rules That Would End PED Use in Baseball Immediately

7 Rules That Would End PED Use in Baseball Immediately

The 6 Most Promising Weight-Loss Supplements

The 6 Most Promising Weight-Loss Supplements

The Best Post-Workout Supplements and Nutrition

The Best Post-Workout Supplements and Nutrition

The Best Time to Consume Creatine

The Best Time to Consume Creatine

Why You Can't Ignore Pre- and Post-Workout Nutrition

Why You Can't Ignore Pre- and Post-Workout Nutrition

Do You Need a Probiotic Supplement?

Do You Need a Probiotic Supplement?

EXOS Launches New Line of Supplements

EXOS Launches New Line of Supplements

Powder Hour: Is It Time to Add Protein Powder to Your Diet?

Powder Hour: Is It Time to Add Protein Powder to Your Diet?

4 Best Supplements for Football Players

4 Best Supplements for Football Players

The Positive Side Effects of Creatine (Besides Building Muscle)

The Positive Side Effects of Creatine (Besides Building Muscle)

The 5 Essential Sports Supplements

The 5 Essential Sports Supplements

Should You Be Taking BCAAs?

Should You Be Taking BCAAs?

Do Athletes Need Zinc Supplements?

Do Athletes Need Zinc Supplements?

What's Missing From the Female Athlete's Diet, Part 2: Iron

What's Missing From the Female Athlete's Diet, Part 2: Iron

2 Safe Pre-Workout Supplements

2 Safe Pre-Workout Supplements

YardBarker