Creatine's popularity has grown over the years due to its performance-enhancing effects in athletics. Since the Barcelona Olympics in the early 1990s, it has erupted in popularity with athletes.
Weightlifters gravitated to it for its ability to increase lean muscle mass, performance, and recovery. Athletes from all walks of life, from bodybuilders and college football players and weekend warriors to professional athletes, consider creatine an essential supplement.
While the human body creates it naturally, you can also gain it from eating fish and red meat. Supplementing with creatine can improve more than just the physique. Creatine monohydrate is one of the most extensively studied supplements on the market. It is medically linked to improving cognitive brain function.
The Debate About Creatine Supplementation and Hair Loss
In 2022 the US Vitamin & Supplement Manufacturing industry made $37.2 billion from supplement sales. The industry. With the eruption of social media trainers, strength athletes, and pop-up supplement companies, you’ll likely see an ad … or four.
Yet, skeptics argue that regular creatine use is linked to thinning hair and hair loss in men. If you could have brolic muscles like Dwayne "The Rock'' Johnson, look shredded like Jason Statham, or move big weights like Larry Wheels, but you had to give up your hair, would you do it?
If you lurk in Reddit groups with the gym bros long enough, you'll come across heated debates about creatine causing hair loss. But, you shouldn't buy into these kinds of conversations without facts. Let’s find out if using creatine will take your workouts to the limit, or cause you to lose your luscious locks.
Is There a Link Between Creatine and DHT (dihydrotestosterone)?
Dihydrotestosterone or DHT is a metabolite of testosterone and plays a vital role in the sexual development of males. In the womb, it handles the differentiation of sexual organs. During adolescence, it affects puberty and the changing of the voice, the development of acne, and the body hair. Later in life, DHT regulates the prostate.
Testosterone levels are tightly linked with DHT levels, in that an enzyme converts testosterone into DHT. Higher DHT levels can speed up the hair growth phase cycle, leading to accelerated male pattern baldness. Due to this increase, a stigma of creatine causing balding has evolved and taken over the web.
Is There Research that Suggests Creatine Can Cause Hair Loss?
Most research points to enhanced benefits of taking creatine supplements. In 2022, The International Society of Sports Nutrition reported that creatine is one of the most extensively studied and scientifically validated nutritional ergogenic athletic aids.
Despite the positive research, a 2009 Clinical Journal of Sports Medicine study continues to resurface. A South African college rugby team was given 25 grams of the supplement as part of a creatine loading phase during off-season training. Their DHT levels were tested after 7 and 21 days of use. The levels increased 56% during the first week of use and remained 40% above the initially based line after 14 days.
While the DHT levels increased for the creative group, they were 23% lower than the placebo group. It also reported that the DHT ratio remained well within normal limits. The study concluded that further investigation is needed to understand the effects of long-term usage.
It's important to note that there have not been any additional studies to replicate these findings nor was the study specifically looking to assess hair loss. Recent research reports positive benefits in individuals, but no evidence of physical loss in hair follicles.
The Facts About Creatine Supplements and Hair Loss
DHT is produced in the body and handles hair growth. Individuals with higher levels are predisposed to patchy hair loss and hair thinning over time. Creatine isn't approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) but is classified as a GRAS (Generally Recognized as safe). Despite this, for individuals with no prior conditions like kidney disorders, creatine is considered safe for recreational and medical use.
If proper dosages are used (3-5 g/day or 0.1 g/kg of body mass/day), research has shown that the body well tolerates creatine supplementation. However, caffeine can interfere with usage and has been shown to cut the effectiveness of creatine. So cut back on pre-workout drinks and coffee before workouts.
Risk of Hair Loss vs Reward: Should I Take Creatine?
Only you can decide for yourself if taking creatine is worth it. While there is a chance of experiencing some side effects, water retention and weight gain are among the chief complaints. You know that bloated, Stay Puft Marshmallow Man feeling?
Due to creatine's osmotic properties. This means that small amounts of water are held but can hyper-hydrate muscles and be used as energy. Most water retention will last only the first few days during the loading phase. Regardless, it’s still important to During high-intensity exercise, especially in extreme heat, it’s essential to stay hydrated to prevent loss of electrolytes and muscle cramping,
One study reported on a group of Division I college football players that reported players experienced greater increases in squats, deadlifts, and bench press scores, as well as lean muscle mass compared to a placebo group.
What are the Benefits of Creatine?
Creatine is responsible for moving ATP into the muscle cells. In other words, it helps muscles produce energy faster, increases protein synthesis (muscle growth), and decreases muscle breakdown (fatigue). This allows athletes to squeeze out a few extra reps barbell curls, recover between deadlift sets, or go ham during a Crossfit WOD.
Other benefits of using creatine include:
Gain lean muscle mass - Enhances muscle fiber development and helps improve protein synthesis (i.e., muscle size and strength).
Improve cognitive brain function - Creatine is used to help manage symptoms of Parkinson’s disease by increasing dopamine levels, which affects cognitive and motor function.
Decrease muscle fatigue - Creatine increases the production of ATP in the body, which is used as energy to improve muscle recovery.
Decreased muscle cramping - Increased creatine levels in the body can maintain water in the muscles for energy production.
There is no research on the long-term effects of creatine usage in healthy individuals. Next, we’ll examine other supplements that could lead to hair loss.
Are There Supplements That Can Cause Hair Loss?
Creatine aside, there are supplements found at nutrition shops and grocery stores that are thought to cause hair loss. The debate is a double-edged sword because the effects can come from both overconsumption and nutrient deficiencies in the body.
Some of these supplements include:
Excessive vitamin D can cause too much calcium in the blood, resulting in hyperglycemia.
Vitamin A deficiencies can cause hair loss, but over-usage can have the same effect. According to the American Academy of Dermatology, medications containing vitamin A can also trigger hair loss but can also be reversible.
Iron deficiencies can drain the body of energy. The Mayo Clinic reported that symptoms of Anemia include muscle weakness and fatigue, shortness of breath, and hair loss.
Anabolic Steroid use produces side effects like severe acne, roid rage, shrunken testicles, infertility, and pattern hair loss.
Genetics and severe nutrient deficiencies can contribute to hair loss. Whether you train in the gym or not, vitamins and supplementation paired with a balanced diet and regular exercise can optimize the body for peak performance.
Bottom Line: Creatine and Hair Loss Concerns
The question of creatine being worth taking is the only one you can answer. While there are some critiques of the supplement, they're based on a lab test, opposed to an actual field study that links creatine use to hair loss.
Outside of this, more recent scientific research is positive. The supplement is in good standing with the FDA and annual sales generate millions of dollars for the vitamins and nutrition supplements industry. Despite this information, there still isn't enough recent evidence to confirm the effects of long-term use or acceleration of male pattern hair loss.