DMAA, DMBA, DMAE… You know that the bodybuilding and fitness community has been going nuts about these lately, but what do all of these letters mean?
You start Googling the stuff and instantly get lost in a chemistry hell (if you’re not a chemist yourself).
Dimethylamylamine, dimethylaminoethanol, dimethylethanolamine, dimethylbutylamine…
ARGH, do you people speak human?!
Perhaps, this confusion is the root of all problems. You see, many people think that these substances are more or less identical, but that’s not true at all.
Two of these substances are potent stimulants similar to amphetamine.
One of them is good for your skin and (possibly) brain.
Instead of taking your chances, stick with us for the next 5 minutes and you’ll learn everything you need to know about this letter soup.
DMAA, DMAE, DMBA: know the difference!
No one likes technobabble and jargon but bear with me here for a second.
- DMAA: DiMethylAmylAmine (also known as methylhexanamine)
- DMBA: DiMethylButylAmine
- DMAE: DiMethylAminoEthanol
Each letter in these abbreviations corresponds to a particular chemical group. While all three substances share several groups—they are entirely different.
DMAA and DMBA are powerful stimulants similar to amphetamine.
DMAE is a cholinergic compound, meaning it may boost the production of acetylcholine in the body. Acetylcholine is a messenger molecule that regulates a lot of processes in the body—from muscle contractions to nerve impulses transmission.
Let’s take a closer look at these substances and where you can find them.
What’s DMAA and how it works?
Contrary to what you may have heard, DMAA is nothing new. The substance has been introduced as a nasal decongestant in 1944 and withdrawn in the 80s.
In 2006, chemist and bodybuilder reintroduced DMAA into the market as Geranamine, affirming it’s a natural compound from the geranium plant.
(Following studies confirmed this was a big fat lie and DMAA is purely synthetic.)
A lot of stuff happened since then, but here’s the status quo right now: DMAA is prohibited in-competition, according to the World Anti-Doping Agency, but it’s still legal and sold all around in sports supplements and pre-workout blends.
So, why manufacturers include DMAA in supplements—and why athletes and bodybuilders take them?
Here’s a quick rundown of facts from scientific studies:
- The direct effects of DMAA include an increase in blood pressure and heart rate, blood vessel constriction and dilation of the bronchi. You could say it’s like a hardcore version of caffeine
- In terms of toxicity, DMAA is more powerful than ephedrine but less than amphetamine
- It doesn’t really boost objective physical performance (at least running performance)
How dangerous is DMAA?
Well, to be honest, not so much—if you don’t overdose on it and don’t have bad luck.
Studies reported that taking DMAA supplements daily for 2-12 weeks didn’t lead to any serious health issues. The spike in blood pressure reaches a peak about 60-90 minutes after taking DMAA and then goes down gradually. So why does the FDA sends warning letters to supplement manufacturers and demands them to recall and destroy their products?
It’s all a matter of potential dangers. For example, there have been several reports of DMAA being used as a stimulant party pill—resulting in at least one death from stroke in 2010, in a 21-year-old man. Take too much of the thing, and if you’re really unlucky, the spike in blood pressure could burst a blood vessel in your head. Is it worth the risk? Hardly so.
What about DMBA?
Around 2011, many countries began controlling the production and circulation of DMAA more strictly, demanding a lot of manufacturers to take their products off the market.
Of course, this led to an emergence of different DMAA alternatives that the regulatory organs weren’t aware of: DMBA (dimethylbutylamine) is one of them. And with each passing year, new stimulants are being created and put into supplements, which is a somewhat alarming tendency if you ask me.
Are they better than DMAA? Hard to tell, but the risks may be even higher: since they haven’t been researched in human trials, their safety profile remains a mystery.
Now, the good news: DMAE
If DMAA and DMBA are potentially dangerous stimulants, DMAE is a whole different story.
DMAE (dimethylaminoethanol or dimethylethanolamine) is a compound that’s naturally present in the human brain. It’s generally considered a precursor of choline, meaning it can be used to produce acetylcholine—a crucial messenger in the human body. Technically, it has a bit of a stimulating action, but it’s nothing compared to DMAA or DMBA. DMAE is used for other purposes.
The available studies are somewhat scarce, but here’s what we have so far:
- DMAE may help in regulating the proliferation and maturing of skin cells. Studies reported this effect could increase skin firmness and reduce wrinkles, particularly on the forehead and around the eyes
- In 2012, a study looked into the effectiveness of V0191 (DMAE pyroglutamate) in patients with suspected prodromal Alzheimer’s disease. DMAE showed somewhat better results than placebo, but the improvement wasn’t statistically significant.
And… That’s all we know for sure, more or less.
There have been studies on using DMAE for ADHD, boosting brain power, physical performance, and wound healing—but all of the results were inconsistent in the end.
So, unless your goal is healthier skin, there isn’t a lot of practical sense in taking DMAE.
Stimulants have been included as a standard component of pre-workout blends for as long as anyone can remember. Usually, caffeine is the go-to option.
Recently, there has been a growing public interest regarding DMAA and DMBA, and studies indicate that about 20.5% of pre-workout blend users have searched for these substances throughout the last month.
But do we really need them?
Strictly speaking, they don’t have any real benefits compared to the good ol’ caffeine, and their impact on physical performance is questionable at the very least. (Caffeine, on the other hand, is a confirmed ergogenic substance, so it really boosts physical performance.)
The available research on DMAE is scarce: right now the only thing we know is that it could be great for skin health. More studies are needed to uncover more benefits.
To summarize, the hype around DMAA, DMAE, and DMBA is mostly just that—hype. While there isn’t a single solid reason to take them, there are no absolute contraindications or terrifying dangers either, so it’s mostly a matter of personal choice.
If you would like help in finding a pre-workout, visit one of our locations and our staff would be delighted to help!
-The Cost Plus Nutrition Team