Fitness & Hair Loss – What’s The Relationship?
A trip to the gym can benefit everything from our physical health to our mental state. But some people might be deterred by the rumours that those gym workouts can cause hair loss.
The rumour originates from the role exercise has in increasing our hormone levels — particularly testosterone and, importantly, dihydrotestosterone (DHT), the hormone that impacts hair growth.
Here’s the good news: bodybuilding and gym workouts shouldn’t cause hair loss directly. But the things you’re doing outside the gym — including taking supplements to support your workouts — could affect your locks.
Studies have found that taking too many protein supplements and performance-enhancing drugs could induce or accelerate hair loss.
Let’s take a look at the science and the supplements so you can lift those weights worry-free.
First, a Look at the Role of Hormones in Hair Growth
The reason many people make a hairy connection between exercise and hair loss is because of hormones — in particular, testosterone.
Yes, you’ll probably know it as the male sex hormone. But testosterone is found in both men and women — just in differing amounts (called T levels).
But a particular type of testosterone can convert into dihydrotestosterone (DHT), which is known to shrink hair follicles and make it harder for hair to grow
So Do Gym Workouts Cause Hair Loss?
Your daily visit to the gym probably won’t affect the hairiness of your head. Few studies have made any links between exercise and hair loss.
One observational study on hair loss and exercise — the biggest of its kind — found no links between the types or severity of hair loss and different intensities of exercise.
The study did find that more people had alopecia, or hair loss, in the group that engaged in low-intensity exercise as the exercise frequency increased. But it doesn’t provide enough evidence to prove that exercise causes hair loss.
Can Bodybuilding Cause Hair Loss?
Let’s nip this in the bud. No connections have been made between the act of bodybuilding and hair loss.
The level of testosterone in the body does increase temporarily after endurance and resistance exercise (such as weight lifting). But it’s unlikely that those short-term spikes have any long-term impact on hair loss.
Doctor Sinclair listed one exception: the performance-enhancing drug, anabolic steroids.
The link between hair loss and bodybuilding may have less to do with the physical activity involved but with the performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs) and supplements many bodybuilders take.
These supplements might help increase testosterone to levels that may accelerate the rate of hair loss — but only if you’re already genetically predisposed to the condition.
Let’s take a look at each of the main supplements and PEDs in turn.
Can Supplements Cause Hair Loss?
Many athletes and avid fitness fans take nutritional supplements to help them build muscle mass and recover more quickly from workouts.
There are a whole host of supplements available over the counter. Even supermarket aisles have dedicated sports sections featuring supplements to take pre and post workout.
Common workout supplements include creatine, amino acids, and protein supplements.
Creatine, or creatine monohydrate, is a chemical in your body’s muscle cells that decreases blood sugar levels while increasing brain function and muscle mass.
While it’s found naturally in your body, red meat, and seafood, you can also consume it as a pill or powder supplement.
Creatine is popular among athletes for its muscle-building benefits. Many people take creatine supplements before a workout to boost their energy and increase sports performance. It also helps improve your recovery time after a heavy workout.
Some people try creatine loading, where they consume large amounts of creatine in a short amount of time to build up muscle mass — though we recommend consulting your doctor before making any big dietary changes.
Creatine is generally safe to consume but some side effects may include bloating or stomach upset, muscle cramps, and dehydration.
But does creatine cause hair loss?
When you look at the limited research, there’s little evidence to suggest there’s a link between creatine and hair loss. More research is needed.
The concern about hair loss mostly centres around one study that found a connection between creatine and boosted levels of DHT.
That’s the hormone converted from testosterone that’s been known to shrink hair follicles.
Though DHT is made from converted testosterone, most studies have found that creatine has no effect on testosterone levels.
Amino acids are the building blocks for dietary protein and are among the top five most popular sports supplements. Your body can make some amino acids itself. The rest — called essential amino acids — is obtained through diet.
Essential amino acids can be found naturally in food rich in protein, such as meat, eggs, fish, and soybeans.
Many athletes also take amino acids as supplements to enhance their athletic performance.
Amino acids are believed to help improve performance, aid recovery, and improve mental fatigue. Researchers suggest consuming amino acids within 1-3 hours before or after exercise may help increase muscle mass.
But do amino acids cause hair loss?
Few studies make any links between any amino acids and hair health, including hair loss. But there’s a chance amino acids may improve hair growth. After all, hair is mostly made up of keratin, which itself is made up of several different amino acids.
Through research, we’ve learned that amino acid deficiencies may contribute to hair loss. But our understanding of the impact of amino acids on hair health remains limited.
Researchers have conducted multiple trials of amino acid and protein supplements because of their promise for hair growth, with inconclusive findings.
Amino acids are the building blocks of protein so it should come as no surprise that we’d turn to protein supplements next.
Protein is believed to be so beneficial in building and preserving muscle mass that researchers recommend that athletes consume small amounts of protein — whether as supplements or in whole foods — before and after exercise training.
Despite the National Academy of Sciences stating that no additional dietary protein is necessary for healthy adults undertaking resistance or endurance exercise, protein is arguably the most popular sports nutrition supplement in the world.
One of the most common protein supplements is whey protein, made from liquid whey, which is produced from cheese.
Whey protein is available in two forms: as a whey protein concentrate (WPC) or a whey protein isolate (WPI). As the name suggests, the isolate provides more pure whey protein and has higher protein content.
It’s an important distinction to make when looking at whey protein supplements if you’re concerned about hair loss.
Do whey protein supplements cause hair loss?
While there’s no evidence that whey protein can cause hair loss, it may affect those who already have some degree of hair loss.
A 2017 study found that WPI supplements can accelerate hair loss in males who are experiencing some degree of hereditary male pattern hair loss, or androgenetic alopecia.
On the other hand, protein deficiency may cause hair thinning and hair loss, although it’s generally unclear what role protein supplements may have in improving hair growth.
A Quick Word on Performance Enhancing Drugs
Many athletes are tempted to try performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs) to build muscle mass, increase alertness, and boost recovery times.
The main types of PEDs include anabolic-androgenic steroids (AAS), human growth hormones, erythropoietin (EPO), beta-blockers, stimulants, and diuretics.
Anabolic steroids are particularly troublesome. These drugs, made from testosterone, don’t just help build muscles. They can also reduce muscle damage to help speed up recovery from a workout.
They’re approved for some medical uses, but not for performance enhancement. Hair loss is listed as an adverse effect of AAS.
Are the Side Effects Reversible?
Time for some good news! Any hair loss caused by performance enhancing drugs or supplements can be reversed.
Once you stop taking the supplements, there are medications you can take to slow the hair loss and stimulate regrowth. But it’s important to take early action.
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The Hairy Pill® contains two active ingredients proven to treat hair loss at its roots, along with a blend of vitamins, essential elements, and amino acids designed specifically for your health.
Looking to Get Treatment for Your Hair Loss?
There’s no need to worry whether a particularly rigorous workout will result in any excessive hair shedding. But some supplements and drugs may contribute to hair loss — particularly if you’re already predisposed to it.Luckily, there’s an easy way to reverse your hair loss with The Hairy Pill®. Learn more about our men’s hair loss treatment today and book an appointment to start reclaiming a healthy head of hair.