The True Story Behind the Legal Steroid
It’s 2005. A storm is brewing.
Mark McGwire, the hero to so many baseball-mad kids with dreams of cranking a big homer, is on the stand in front of a series of Congressmen, alongside other major league sluggers. Why?
For his involvement with anabolic steroids. The big question hangs over the courtroom like an adolescent funnel cloud, ready to touch down: did he use steroids to break the record and become the all-time home-run leader?
At the same time, in the smoke that is being kicked up by prosecutors, the media and the general public alike, a chemical cousin of anabolic steroids slinks its way onto a bill that is being surreptitiously passed through Congress.
It has similar qualities to anabolic steroids, with similar effects: huge muscle, more power and lots of strength.
It’s name? Dihydroepiandrosterone, also known as D.H.E.A.
DHEA is a powerful muscle-building supplement, that is chemically very similar to anabolic steroids. Although not chemically identical, DHEA is the most abundant steroid found in the body.
If you’re like most people, you probably jumped to conclusions here without considering that steroids are an essential hormone, naturally occurring in the body.
The trouble with steroids only comes when you start jamming an anabolic steroid-filled syringe into your batting partner’s left cheek during Spring Training. At the same time, that doesn’t mean that DHEA gets off completely scot-free either. It’s banned by a few different sports organizations, including the NCAA, the World Anti-Doping Agency(responsible for setting Olympic standards) and more.
Given the loaded term “steroids” and the fact that it’s banned in collegiate sports, DHEA can get a bad rap. But I bet you didn’t know that it’s a useful treatment for people suffering from HIV, Multiple sclerosis, and scores of other diseases. It’s this medical logic that allowed DHEA to furtively sneak through the Congressional steroid uproar of 2005.
Like most misunderstood, yet highly-publicized scientific concepts, DHEA’s perception by society can range from helpful muscle-builder in some circles, to horrible PED in other circles.
So in order to clear up some of the misconceptions about DHEA, the AMA crew is here, to illuminate the ill-informed public that seems to be trawling the dark woods of misinformation when it comes to this potentially powerful supplement.
What is it?
Dihydroepiandrosterone is a naturally-produced hormone that cycles throughout the body of both men and women. It’s produced in the adrenal glands, and is responsible for the synthesis of sex hormones like testosterone in men and estrogen in women.
It’s found in abundance in the body, especially in those 25 years old and younger. The evidence suggests that DHEA production peaks in the body at the mid-to-late 20s, which can lead to hypogonadism(lack of testosterone in men). As a result of this decrease of DHEA, many men have looked to supplement their diets with DHEA in the hopes that it will increase their testosterone levels, and thereby increase libido, muscle, energy and sexual performance, and decrease body fat, depression and fatigue.
How does DHEA work?
DHEA works as a chemical precursor to a number of naturally-occuring hormones, specifically testosterone. Since DHEA is responsible for taking raw materials and producing testosterone from these materials, it is an increasingly popular supplement for increasing testosterone levels in the body.
Increased testosterone levels, in turn are responsible for a number of benefits, like increased muscle mass, decreased fat levels, more sexual drive and energy, improved erections and sexual performance, and more amounts of overall energy and alertness.
With all of these benefits of added testosterone, and the generally low amount of side effects from a DHEA supplement (as opposed to, say, a testosterone shot or patch), it makes sense that DHEA would become a popular supplement.
There’s several different uses for DHEA, ranging from HIV treatment to muscle growth. Here’s the main ones that DHEA is used for.
There’s a reason why DHEA is banned in the NCAA — it’s a powerful supplement for improving physical ability. There’s no question that more testosterone can increase muscle gains, and since DHEA can effectively increase these testosterone levels, many non-collegiate athletes have turned to a DHEA supplement to help them reach their maximal level of performance.
DHEA also works to reduce the production of cortisol in the body. Cortisol is the central catabolic hormone, also known as a “stress” hormone, that breaks down your muscle tissue. Restriction of this tissue; therefore, would be a huge benefit to men looking to increase their muscle mass.
Obviously, the NCAA found something wrong with DHEA — probably due to its status as a “steroid”, although it’s not nearly as extreme — so they banned it. i
There’s also a huge connection between DHEA and male sexual health. Obviously, more testosterone levels can improve the level of sexual performance.
Testosterone is responsible for almost all of the sexual functions in males, from desire levels and erectile function, to stamina and general energy levels.
For example, a 1999 study of 40 erectile dysfunction patients, men who received a daily dose of DHEA for six months experienced significant improvement in their ability achieve or maintain an erection sufficient for satisfactory sexual performance.
The sexual health benefits of DHEA are far-reaching in men, and can improve every aspect of a man’s sex life.
Most surprisingly, DHEA is also linked with the ability to decrease anxiety and depression symptoms in men.
In a 2005 study, scientists found that DHEA supplementation saw a meaningful decrease in depression and depression-related symptoms amongst people 45 and older, both men and women.
By decreasing the levels of stress hormone cortisol, people who were supplementing with DHEA saw decreases in depression, and increases in feelings of well-being and happiness. It has also been linked to decreasing anxiety, an ailment that seems like it affects everyone in America these days.
Although the majority of people taking DHEA are looking for muscle growth and erectile health, it seems the benefits extend to mental health as well.
Despite it’s negative connotations, the “steroid” DHEA is actually an effective and powerful supplement for any man looking to gain muscle, improve his sexual life, or decrease the effects of depression.
Although DHEA is widely available at muscle and supplement stores, it’s important to make sure you’re consulting with your doctor before starting a regimen of DHEA, as it is when starting any new supplement.
However, the current evidence suggests that not only is DHEA completely safe — unlike anabolic steroids — but it can have powerful effects on every aspect of a man’s body, from sexual health to muscle growth and mental stability.
Find out more about DHEA clinical studies here: