The Betterment Project

What Is A Prohormone: How Do They Affect The Body?

The human body relies on hormones for many vital functions, including metabolism, sexual function, growth, development, and mood. Hormones (for example, testosterone) are powerful chemical messengers, and any breach in regulation/maintenance of them can affect the whole body. 


For this reason, direct consumption of extra hormones (in the form of steroids) can be very dangerous, and is actually illegal without a prescription.


What, then, are prohormones? What is their relationship to hormones? And will they have any effect, negative or positive, on the body? This article aims to answer all of this and more, while also looking at a specific prohormone, DHEA, and prohormone supplementation. 

What Is A Prohormone?


The prefix pro- can mean for or forward. Either way, it makes the definition of a prohormone somewhat self-explanatory. 


Prohormones are anabolic steroid precursors -- substances that the body can use to make actual anabolic steroids. They exist for hormone creation, and will be used in the body as hormones.


Prohormones differ from steroids in that they are not actually hormones. Rather, they introduce a pathway for the body to create its own hormones naturally. Prohormones are only converted into hormones once they are inside the body and visited by enzymes.


Prohormones are also different from steroids because they are easier for the body to regulate. When the body is producing hormones itself, it knows when it needs to stop and when it needs to go. This is true even when prohormones are used to stimulate this production. On the other hand, steroids already come in hormone form, and are therefore harder for the body to keep a handle on. 


Prohormones are precursors specifically to anabolic steroids, which refers to both natural and synthetic substances involving the male sex hormone testosterone. The word anabolic means building muscle, which is what most anabolic steroids are thought to do.


What Does Testosterone Do?


Testosterone is the male sex hormone. It plays a role in the production of red blood cells and sperm in men. It also manages male sex drive, bone mass, muscle mass, bone and muscle strength, and fat distribution. Testosterone is responsible for developing traditionally masculine features such as facial hair and a deepened voice, especially during puberty. 


Although, as the male sex hormone, testosterone is typically associated with masculinity, it is also produced by women. It is also very rare for men to have too much testosterone in their body without the use of some kind of steroid, whereas a lack of testosterone is much more naturally common. 


There is no clear idea of what normal testosterone levels are, as the need differs from person to person. If you have symptoms of low testosterone levels, such as limited body and facial hair, hot flashes, low libido, and weak bones and muscles, consult with your doctor about your care options.

How Do Prohormones Affect The Body?


When prohormones enter the body, they are converted by enzymes into anabolic hormones, which then stimulate protein synthesis and muscle growth. As previously mentioned, the term anabolic is linked with building healthy muscle, and prohormones are thought to promote muscle growth and increased lean muscle mass. 


In addition, prohormones are androgenic, meaning they cause male features. These features may include body and facial hair, and a deeper voice. Given that prohormones are precursors to anabolic steroids, this is not surprising.


Also relating to anabolic steroids, prohormones will likely be converted into testosterone and will therefore help generate stronger bones, increase sex drive, and other actions associated with the male sex hormone. 


Prohormones are appealing to athletic people and/or people looking to build an athletic body because they may enhance athletic performance, reduce body fat, and improve overall body image. They are also appealing because of how effective they can be even within a short period of time. 


Prohormones are most effective when they are paired with a healthy, well-balanced diet and regular exercise (especially physical activity involving weight training and cardio). In other words, you cannot expect prohormones to work magic if you do not exercise and live a healthy lifestyle. As with any supplement, they are meant to be just that -- a supplement to your health, rather than a replacement for a healthy lifestyle. 


The prohormone DHEA is currently the only steroid precursor that is available legally without a prescription. 

The Most Popular Prohormone: DHEA


DHEA is a precursor hormone, and its name stands for dehydroepiandrosterone (hence the shortened nickname). DHEA occurs naturally in the body -- in fact, it is the highest circulating steroid present in the bloodstream. The adrenal gland is responsible for producing DHEA.


DHEA is not a hormone on its own and needs to be converted in order for the body to be able to turn it into a usable substance. Instead, DHEA is used as the starting material to make hormones like testosterone, which then go on to influence the body in many ways. 


Production of DHEA is controlled by the brain through a process called negative feedback. Essentially, if the brain learns that DHEA levels are declining, it switches production on, and if the brain sees that DHEA levels are increasing, it switches production off. This process is what allows the brain to maintain healthy levels of DHEA in the body.


The amount of DHEA we are able to produce reaches its peak in early adulthood, but from there it starts to slowly decline. As such, our hormone levels start to decline naturally as well. Many people use DHEA supplements to combat this inevitability, and for DHEA’s many other potential benefits. 

DHEA Supplements


Many studies on the potential advantages of DHEA supplementation show promising results. DHEA supplements may:


For its award-winning, patented ingredients, backed by clinical studies, and its optimal dosage of DHEA, ASYSTEM Superhuman Supplements can help you unlock your potential and supercharge your well-being. 


With the support of DHEA and other powerful adaptogens, nutrients, and nootropics, you can achieve sustained energy, healthy immune system function, better focus, quality sleep, better managed stress, and improved mental health, all from one convenient pack of pills. 


Anyone that is planning to use DHEA supplements (or any new supplement, for that matter) should check with their primary care provider first to go over any potential side effects. If you take any other medications, make sure to clarify that DHEA will not interact with your other drugs. Athletes should also note that certain athletic organizations prohibit the use of DHEA.

In Summary


Prohormones are anabolic steroid precursors that allow the body to naturally produce more hormones, such as testosterone. Potential benefits include stronger bones and muscles, increased sex drive, and better athletic performance. 


DHEA is the only prohormone widely available without any need for a prescription, and its potential benefits may include healthy energy, immune and cognitive function, and higher resistance to stress. Find DHEA in its optimal dosage in ASYSTEM Superhuman Supplements.


Meet our Experts

This article has been reviewed by members of our Scientific Advisory Board.

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