Bodybuilders are always looking for that extra edge, that little bit of chemical assistance to take them onto the next level. Creatine, DHEA, even Red Bull have all been tried by our more adventurous brethren in an attempt to extract maximum gains from their hard work. 

The urge to get ahead of your competitors is never stronger than during competition season, when every slight advantage can make or break a career.

That’s why today’s spotlight looks at two familiar substances which are starting to crop up with increasing regularity in pre-workout supplements: DMAA and its close cousin DMHA. Let’s see if they’re good enough to give you the winning edge.

Both DMAA and DMHA are stimulants used in many supplements designed to eke those last couple of reps out of your muscles and get the most out of your workouts. 

They’re both classified as ‘research chemicals’ due to their ability to improve focus and concentration while simultaneously increasing energy levels and stimulating the central nervous system.

What is DMAA?

DMAA is an acronym for N,α-dimethylphenethylamine.  It has many other names, including methylhexanamine, 2-amino-4-methylhexane, 4-methyl-2-hexanamine, and geranium extract.

It functions as a neuromuscular blocking agent which relaxes the jaw muscles to alleviate toothaches or improve dentures.

Its effects are typically classified as a solid mental/physical stimulating effect with mild euphoria. Since it was first introduced into supplements around 2006, it has been controversial due to safety concerns.

How does DMAA work?

DMAA works by acting as a releasing agent of norepinephrine. Norepinephrine is a neurotransmitter that acts on the sympathomimetic nerve endings to elicit an adrenergic response—this stimulation results in increased alertness, awareness, and focus.

Additionally, DMAA stimulates the release of dopamine, which can result in mood improvement.  Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that acts on the brain’s reward center to deliver feelings of pleasure and satisfaction.

DMAA as a fat burner

DMAA is often included in fat-burning supplements due to its stimulatory effects. How it facilitates weight loss is not fully understood. But some speculate that it acts on the central nervous system to increase adrenaline levels and decrease appetite.

Also, since it stimulates the release of norepinephrine, a lipolytic or fat destroying hormone, it increases the metabolic rate. This means that one will burn more calories per day since the body’s basal metabolic rate has been raised.

DMAA Pre-Workout Booster

DMAA is often included in Pre-workout supplements because it acts as a powerful stimulant. This is because it facilitates the release of norepinephrine and dopamine, which results in feelings of improved mood and alertness.

It is also a potent vasodilator that enables greater blood flow to the muscles during exercise.  In turn, this enhances the ability of one’s workout since more oxygen is being delivered to the muscles, and lactic acid build-up in muscle tissues is reduced.

DMAA as a nootropic

Nootropics are supplements that improve mental performance.  One of the primary mechanisms by which DMAA is thought to exert nootropic effects is dopamine release. Dopamine improves mood and has been shown effective for improving cognitive function.

Side effects of DMAA

DMAA is a relatively potent stimulant that carries the risk of;

  • Causing mild hypertension
  • Tachycardia
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Facial flushing
  • Headaches
  • Nasal congestion
  • Dizziness.

It has also been shown to raise blood pressure by constricting blood vessels which can be dangerous for users with high blood pressure or heart problems.

Is DMAA Legal?

DMAA was at one point considered a dietary supplement by the FDA, but in April of 2012, the US military removed it from all products sold to soldiers due to safety concerns.  

It is no longer considered a dietary supplement and banned in many countries, including Germany and Canada.

Do not use if you have any pre-existing medical conditions nor when you take other stimulants.  DMAA can interact with MAOIs, anti-depressants, and certain medications to combat high blood pressure.

What is DMHA?

DMHA is the N,α-dimethyl analog of the compound 2-amino-5-methylheaxane.  It operates through three mechanisms to elicit its effects.  

First, it causes high levels of norepinephrine release, which increases fat burning by raising the metabolic rate and blood pressure.  

Secondly, it inhibits the PDE4 enzyme to prolong the effects of norepinephrine in the nervous system.  Lastly, it stimulates dopamine release, which increases mood.

The unique combination of these three mechanisms makes DMHA highly effective at increasing energy levels. It is thought that this may be its mechanism for improving cognitive function, but no studies have been conducted yet to confirm this hypothesis.

How does DMHA work?

DMHA stimulates the release of norepinephrine, which improves mood and decreases appetite.  It also raises blood pressure by dilating blood vessels and increasing oxygen flow to the brain and muscles.   

It is used in supplements because it stimulates the release of dopamine, which has an effect similar to caffeine.

DMHA as a fat burner

DMHA is a powerful fat burner.  It works by increasing metabolic rate and suppressing appetite through the release of norepinephrine. Additionally, it has been shown to increase norepinephrine-induced lipolysis, which breaks down fat cells for energy.

DMHA as a pre-workout supplement

DMHA works primarily by heightening cognitive function by releasing dopamine in the brain.  This is similar to caffeine and stimulants like ephedrine.

There is some evidence to support the use of DMHA as a pre-workout supplement, making it particularly effective by enhancing endurance and work capacity.

DMHA as a nootropic

DMHA stimulates the release of dopamine, which has many effects on cognitive function. Its primary mechanism of action is by releasing dopamine in the nervous system, similar to caffeine. Research has shown that it can increase locomotor activity and cognition in rats.

DMHA for fat loss

Like DMAA, DMHA’s primary mechanism for facilitating weight loss is through norepinephrine release.  Boosting this hormone significantly increases metabolism since it mobilizes glucose and fatty acids from fat cells and increases the body’s ability to burn fat for energy.

Note: Do not combine with other stimulants since it is highly potent and may cause overstimulation.

Side effects of DMHA

This compound does not seem to offer any serious side effects when taken in appropriate doses.  However, people currently taking prescription drugs or pre-existing medical conditions should consult a physician before use.

It is also recommended that you begin with a low dose and work your way up because this compound can cause overstimulation, nausea, and vomiting if taken in excess.

Is DMHA legal?

DMHA was patented in Japan in 2002, where it has been used for over a decade as an ingredient that sharpens mental focus and enhances concentration. It is currently being studied in clinical trials to improve cognitive function.  The FDA does not now ban DMHA, but it is also not approved as a dietary supplement.

Conclusion: DMAA vs. DMHA

Both DMAA and DMHA are stimulants that have been shown to improve cognitive function.  Unfortunately, since they are still relatively new, there is limited scientific evidence available on how they work.  

Based on the studies conducted so far, it seems as though these compounds may be effective through releasing dopamine in the nervous system, which has similar effects to caffeine.

DMHA is more likely to cause overstimulation than DMAA due to its increased potency.  However, DMHA also causes more minor bloating of the face and hands.


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