Creatine is a supplement that has become very popular over the last decade. Many athletes swear by it, claiming that it helps them build muscle mass faster. But does it also cause hair loss?
With a quick search online, you can find claims saying that creatine helped to build muscle on some individuals, but made them lose their hair as a price.
While these testimonials on online message boards may be true, they shouldn't be taken as absolute facts.
The truth about creatine is that there isn't that much research done on whether it causes hair loss. Most of the knowledge online on this topic is purely speculation.
In short, there isn't any scientific evidence that states creatine and hair loss are related. However, the opposite is also true.
There isn't any evidence that completely rules hair loss out as a consequence of creatine.
We'll cover this topic in more detail in this article, including what creatine is, possible side effects from the supplement, and whether you should worry about creatine affecting your hair growth cycle.
What Does Creatine Do?
Creatine is a naturally occurring substance found in meat, fish, dairy, eggs, and vegetables. It’s often added to sports drinks or protein powders as a way to boost performance.
It's used by the body for energy production, especially during intense exercise. When you perform high-intensity exercises like sprinting, weightlifting, or jumping rope, your body uses up all of the available ATP within seconds.
This means that you need to replenish your supply of ATP with new ATP molecules before you can continue exercising.
When you consume creatine supplements, it gets absorbed into your bloodstream, where it's then broken down into its parts: phosphocreatine (PCr) and adenosine triphosphate (ATP).
ATP is an important source of energy for muscles, while PCr stores energy inside cells so that when needed, it can quickly provide energy to muscles.
The human body does produce creatine, but only in small amounts. Creatine supplements can help increase the amount of creatine in the body, which allows for greater energy levels and better workouts.
Advantages of creatine are improved muscle mass, better athletic performance, and better brain function.
Some studies have suggested that creatine may even help prevent diabetes and help those with Parkinson's Disease manage their condition, though more research is needed on these topics.
However, creatine can also have side effects. These include muscle cramps, tiredness, weight gain, and dizziness. Hair loss may also occur, which we'll cover in more detail below.
Creatine & DHT
Dihydrotestosterone (DHT) is made from testosterone, the main sex hormone within a male's reproductive system.
Testosterone is also the main hormone responsible for healthy hair follicles, which is why men tend to be hairier than women.
DHT is made from testosterone, but it is stronger. Most of the processes that are carried out by testosterone can only happen after it has been converted into DHT.
This conversion is related to male pattern baldness phases and other hair loss conditions.
Creatine can increase the rate of this conversion. Taking creatine can cause testosterone to convert to DHT faster, which could lead to increased hair loss.
Greater DHT levels affect hair growth by increasing the rate of the hair growth cycle.
The process starts with the formation of the hair follicle, followed by the development of the bulb, and ends with the shedding of the outer root sheath.
If the rate at which DHT converts testosterone increases, the hair growth cycle will move through each stage faster.
If the hair growth phases are shorter, the hair strands can become thinner and break off easily. In some cases, the hair follicles may not develop properly, leading to thinning or complete hair loss.
Does Creatine Cause Hair Loss?
A 2009 study placed several rugby players on creatine supplements for a week, then a lower level of creatine for a maintenance period afterward.
The results displayed a 50% increase in DHT levels during the first week. These levels remained 40% higher for the following period.
Keep in mind that this study didn't look at hair loss specifically, but the increased DHT levels should be of interest.
Those that have a genetic history of hair loss should take note, as they may be more susceptible to DHT effects.
However, this study also used a small number of participants who took a very large amount of creatine. There need to be more studies to determine if creatine can specifically cause hair loss.
Similarly, while no studies have proven creatine doesn't cause hair loss, this doesn't mean that it can't be completely ruled out.
It's possible that taking too much creatine can cause hair loss, but there isn't enough evidence to prove this.
Men and women that take creatine will all have different side effects. Some may be fine introducing creatine into their diet, while others may experience a few side effects, like hair loss.
Even if there needs to be more research on the topic, don't ignore signs of hair loss, especially after taking creatine supplements.
If you believe that sudden hair loss is a result of a lifestyle change, talk to your doctor immediately to go over your concerns.
If your doctor does suspect creatine may be an issue, they may place you under tests to check your DHT levels.
Things You Can Do If You're Experiencing Hair Loss
- If you have tried cutting back on creatine and haven't seen a difference in hair loss rate, here are a few things you can try.
- Look at your overall diet to ensure you're getting plenty of protein and healthy fats. Both of these nutrients support hair growth and can help keep your body strong and healthy.
- Talk to a nutritional specialist to see if you have any nutritional deficiencies. A lack of nutrients can lead to hair loss, so it's a good idea to ensure you're getting everything you need.
- Take a high-quality multivitamin supplement daily to ensure you're meeting your daily vitamin requirements. Look out for vitamin supplements that are specifically designed to improve hair, skin, and nail health. These may contain ingredients such as biotin, iron, and vitamins C, E, and K.
- Make sure you're getting enough sleep each night. Lack of sleep has been linked to hair loss, so make sure you get around 7 hours of restful sleep every night.
Unfortunately, there aren't enough studies that look into creatine and hair loss. If you have a genetic disposition towards hair loss, it may be worth avoiding creatine supplements as they can increase DHT levels.
Those without a history of hair loss shouldn't be put off taking creatine, but if you're worried about hair loss as a side effect, start slowly and monitor your hair pattern for a few weeks.
If you experience hair loss after taking creatine, cut back or stop taking the supplement. A few minor side effects may happen when you stop taking creatine, but your body will be able to bounce back in a matter of weeks.
Always consult your doctor if this occurs, especially if the hair loss occurs suddenly without warning.
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