If you’re a dedicated athlete, you may take a creatine supplement to help boost performance and recovery. In addition to increased muscle mass, individuals who regularly consume creatine through supplements might also notice side effects like water retention, weight gain, and maybe even some hair loss.
If you are concerned about hair loss and its possible link to creatine usage, read below to find out if taking creatine supplements increases the risk of hair loss or if losing your hair from creatine is just a myth.
Creatine is an amino acid naturally produced in the body by the liver, pancreas, and kidneys and stored in the muscles. Its primary function is to give the body energy through ATP while undergoing difficult or high-intensity exercise. Creatine can also be consumed through foods such as red meat and fish or in the form of supplements.
Taking creatine for better athletic performance first gained notoriety when British sprinter Linford Christie used creatine monohydrate supplements to give him an edge and boost his athletic performance enough to help him win gold in the 100m sprint at the Barcelona Olympics . Since then, athletes all over the world have been using creatine supplements to give them more energy, allowing them to train longer without becoming tired.
Like whey protein, creatine is a safe and legal nutritional and sports supplement designed to increase muscle mass and strength . It’s available for consumption in powders, liquids, and tablets and is not a steroid.
Taking creatine supplements helps muscle cells store phosphocreatine. During high-intensity exercise, the body takes the phosphocreatine stores and uses them to increase the production of adenosine triphosphate (ATP) which in turn is used as energy for muscle contractions.
In a high-intensity aerobic activity such as training or participating in a team sport, the demand for phosphocreatine is greater than the supply . Taking creatine supplements, therefore, help the body stock up on necessary muscle fuel which in turn allows the athlete to perform for longer.
Athletes who regularly take creatine supplementation as part of their training program report better endurance and increased strength.
Even though creatine is a naturally occurring organic compound that is produced naturally in the body, taking additional supplements of creatine may have some negative side effects  which may include the following:
In general, creatine taken at an appropriate dosage in healthy individuals is considered safe . Recent studies have shown that the link between regular consumption of creatine and these side effects is largely anecdotal and not scientifically founded and is most likely due to the consumption of various supplements in addition to creatine being taken together. In fact, scientific research has shown that creatine might even have protective effects on heart, muscle, and neurological diseases .
In addition to promoting muscle growth and increasing stamina, taking creatine supplements may also be beneficial to your overall health including fighting fatigue and muscle cramps.
Scientific studies have found that individuals who suffer from muscular dystrophy saw an increase in muscle strength by taking a creatine supplement.
Early clinical trials have shown that taking creatine can be helpful in the treatment of depression .
Creatine in combination with regular exercise may help Type 2 diabetics improve their glycemic control (the management of optimal blood glucose levels in the body) .
Creatine has been shown to slow the progression of neurological diseases such as Huntington’s and Alzheimer’s when provided early . Creatine supplementation has also shown promising results in improved memory and overall brain function .
Creatine has been linked with hair loss since 2009, when the results of a small-scale research study were published. Researchers found that creatine use in a small group of college-age rugby players increased DHT . DHT — or dihydrotestosterone — is the sex hormone responsible for male pattern hair loss.
The study found a DHT increase of 56% following the first week of a creatine supplement regimen where the rugby players were creatine-loading. For the following 2 weeks after when the athletes tapered down their creatine intake to maintenance levels, the DHT amount in the rugby players’ blood remained 40% above baseline.
However, researchers stopped observing the rugby players after these three weeks. As a result, they were not able to determine in this short period of time if hair loss occurred nor were they assessing for hair loss in the rugby players.
It’s unlikely that noticeable hair loss would have occurred during this short period. So it’s impossible to determine if these raised DHT levels actually contributed to hair loss in this instance. The researchers were only interested in measuring the DHT to testosterone ratio after creatine consumption.
Furthermore, it should be noted that the rugby players’ DHT levels were 23% lower than those in the placebo group to which they were compared. Even when the DHT levels increased in the rugby players, the DHT levels remained at normal levels. Further studies regarding creatine supplementation have taken place since the 2009 South African study and have found no evidence to support the link between creatine use and hair loss due to increased DHT levels .
Despite the methodology of the study and evidence linking creatine to hair loss being tenuous at best, the study helped to fuel speculation and rumours that creatine was responsible for hair loss. Most evidence connecting creatine supplementation to hair loss is largely anecdotal. This may be due to the link between anabolic steroids and hair loss.
DHT is a product of testosterone metabolism that occurs in both men and women, although men produce substantially more DHT than women. This explains why men are more susceptible to male pattern baldness.
DHT binds to hormone receptors in the hair follicles. This causes them to stop producing hair, disrupting the hair growth cycle and leading to visible hair loss. Genetics also play a big part in the impact of DHT on your hair. So for most people, hair loss is simply down to genetics.
It’s not a given that more DHT means more substantial hair loss. Research suggests that the sensitivity of the anabolic hormone receptors to DHT and the amount present in an individual play a bigger role than the actual amount of DHT in the body . So although there may be a link between creatine and higher levels of DHT, it’s not necessarily an indirect cause of hair loss. Further research is needed to determine whether hair loss is caused by an increase in DHT levels or by the enzyme that converts testosterone to DHT in the body which can disrupt the hair growth phases.
In fact, new analysis claims that current scientific evidence doesn’t support the link between creatine and hair loss . Most studies also dispute the link between creatine and DHT found in the 2009 study, so it’s unlikely that creatine use leads to hair loss.
While there’s a tenuous link between creatine and high DHT levels, there’s little evidence to suggest that creatine causes hair loss. So if you take creatine supplements, you don’t need to worry about their effect on your hairline.
However, there are many other factors that may be causing you to lose hair. Male pattern baldness affects around 16% of men under the age of 30, and 53% of 40-49-year-olds .
Some reasons why you might be losing hair may include:
Anxiety can also cause hair loss, which may lead you to seek out how to regain hair after stress.
Anorexia nervosa can cause hair loss. Restricted diets have also been linked with excessive shedding. Learn how to prevent hair loss during weight loss including how to practice intermittent fasting without experiencing hair loss.
Maintaining a healthy diet is not only good for your body, mind, and overall health but it’s also important for the health of your hair. Vitamin deficiencies or too much Vitamin A can negatively impact the hair growth cycle causing shedding.
If you’re losing your hair, you need to find out what’s causing it. Book a free consultation with a trichologist to determine the cause of your hair loss and create a personalised hair loss treatment plan.
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