Can creatine actually cause hair loss? This is a common question among athletes, or other people, who use creatine as part of their dietary supplements. Today, we’ll cover this topic in greater detail. Stay tuned!
Creatine is a dietary supplement consumed to gain muscle mass. However, it seems to have a disadvantage concerning hair health. Therefore, many wonder if creatine could cause hair loss.
Before we reach any conclusions, let’s take a closer look at what creatine is and other interesting facts. Read on, so you don’t miss a thing!
Creatine is, in essence, an amino acid, i.e., it is the raw material from which the human body can form proteins. Its natural state is found in the body’s muscle tissue, actively participates in contraction, and is involved in energy processes.
During the 90s, people started noticing that by ingesting it as a supplement, creatine in the muscle could be increased.
Nowadays, experience has shown that in fact, it does have some effect on muscle mass.
Also, it may be able to increase muscle strength progressively.
The popularity of this supplement has been accompanied by myths surrounding its effects and adverse reactions. Some of the doubts are whether this supplement may be able to cause hair loss.
How does creatine work?
Creatine emulates the action of natural substances in the muscle since ingesting it as a supplement causes the body to use that surplus that did not exist before. This, combined with regular exercise, can provide benefits.
It could improve muscle strength by up to 10%, as stated in a document published in the Journal of Applied Physiology.
It has been noted that this effect is greater in weightlifting gymnasts because their muscles work in that direction.
For other modalities, the data is more scattered and of a smaller amount. It is estimated that muscle strength in the pectorals increases by up to 5% with proper intake and corresponding exercise. For the lower limbs, the increase would be 8 %.
Creatine use in many sports and exercise modalities has been investigated. Also, some studies sought to determine whether creatine was able to increase intellectual capacity.
In general, the results showed some degree of decrease in mental fatigue but no increase in mental capacity.
Where did the question about hair loss start?
The question comes from a study conducted by the Clinical Journal of sports medicine in a sports medicine journal. The research evaluated the effect of creatine supplementation on twenty rugby players.
The subjects were divided into two groups. The first group received creatine, and the second did not. At the end of the stipulated time, dihydrotestosterone concentrations were measured in both groups.
Among the supplement users, the substance increased by more than 50% compared to the others.
After running the corresponding mathematical formulas, the study concluded that a creatine supplement of 5 grams per day increased dihydrotestosterone by up to 40%. Testosterone, on the other hand, was unchanged.
The possible mechanism by which creatine causes hair loss
Most forms of baldness are androgenic alopecia; that is, it happens in males because of the hormone in question.
In the male body, testosterone is converted to dihydrotestosterone and weakens the hair follicles. Not in all men, but in those who are born with a genetic predisposition to baldness. Dihydrotestosterone does not have the same effect on everyone.
You may want to read: Scarring Alopecia: Guide and Treatment
Thus, by increasing muscle strength, creatine causes hair loss by stimulating the increased manufacture of dihydrotestosterone.
Again, it is emphasized that this only happens in those individuals with sensitive genetics, as several international studies have shown.
Why can’t we conclude that creatine causes hair loss?
It could not be concluded outright that creatine causes hair loss. The study that raised the doubt does not meet all the requirements to be considered definitive.
Besides, from the methodological point of view, it only included 20 participants.
In addition, the differences in dihydrotestosterone concentration between creatine users and non-users should be significant to attribute an effect to creatine. In the study mentioned, the difference was only 0.30 nanomoles.
On the other hand, rigorous scientific studies consider multiple variables. In the one that generated the doubt, it is not known if the effect would be only in rugby players or in other sports, and the specific and punctual training they performed is unknown.
In conclusion, it is more accurate to state that creatine does not cause hair loss by itself. Still, it could do so in people with prone genetics, that is, males with a congenital predisposition to baldness.
Even so, it is complicated to know if they would not suffer alopecia anyway due to genetics, aside from creatine consumption.
Uses and benefits of creatine
The body has different energy systems, with phosphocreatine being the main fuel of the anaerobic system, by far the most explosive, and fatigues the fastest.
Creatine supplementation facilitates the regeneration of this scarce fuel, allowing you to perform some extra reps or use a little more weight. The result will be more strength and more muscle.
A review of 22 studies finds average improvements of 8% in strength and 14% in repetitions performed with submaximal weights. There is another review of hundreds of studies that finds similar results in 70% of cases.
You may want to read: Does Creatine Make You Gain Weight? Myths and Truths
Muscle and strength gains come mainly from the extra energy input, which allows training with more intensity, but there are other factors.
For example, greater muscle volume is achieved, as creatine favors increased muscle glycogen and intracellular water retention, optimizing protein synthesis.
The extra glycogen also improves performance in activities that use the glycolytic system, such as CrossFit or high-intensity training in general.
If you specialize in endurance activities, the direct benefits (phosphocreatine supply) are not as clear, and the extra muscle volume may not help you perform better.
A marathon runner does not need big biceps. But the increase in glycogen reserves is interesting, and creatine has been shown to aid recovery after long-distance competitions, for example, by reducing muscle damage and inflammation.
But its benefits go beyond maximizing your squats or sprint speed:
- It improves glucose control in diabetics
- It prevents muscle loss and bone weakness in older men and women
- Although 90% of creatine accumulates in the muscles, it is also important in the brain and has been shown to improve cognitive ability in the elderly
- It improves mood in cases of mental fatigue due to lack of sleep and reduces symptoms of depression
- Increases fat burning in veteran athletes (>50 years) who practice strength training
Finally, remember that no plant food has creatine, so vegetarians have lower levels. Thus, for “veggie lovers,” supplementation improves physical and cognitive performance more than in omnivores.
Creatine dosage and recommendations
The general recommendation is to take 5g daily. It is sufficient to achieve the desired effect and is completely safe.
Obviously, a 120kg powerlifter should take more than a 65kg ectomorph. If you want more precision, aim for 0.08g/kilo. That is, if you weigh 100kg, you will take 8 grams.
Many studies use an initial loading phase, with doses of approximately 20g/day to quickly saturate the reserves, then moving to the maintenance dose (5g/day approx).
You may want to read: Hemp Protein vs Whey: Which One is Right for You?
With few exceptions, we do not recommend initial loading. Stomach discomfort has been reported with high doses and, unless you need to notice the effect in very few days, I prefer a more gradual accumulation.
Some recommendations when taking it:
- Best after training. It is easier to add it to the post-workout shake, and the evidence points to it generating greater muscle gain
- The benefit of an insulin spike in its absorption is not clear, but if you add it to your post-workout shake, the whey protein’s own insulin response would be sufficient. No need to add juice or any other high GI carbohydrate
- On rest days, you can stop taking it or reduce its dosage by half, depending on the intensity of your workouts and the goal you are aiming for
Bonus: 7 foods to prevent hair loss
Anyhow, if losing hair (or if you’re already losing it) is something that concerns you, here’s a list of foods that you must include in your diet.
Since a good diet is crucial to promote healthy hair, we tell you which nutrients you need and in which foods you can find them.
Fruits and vegetables are the greatest sources of natural antioxidants you can find. Including them frequently in your diet is key to strengthening hair and stimulating its growth, as they help to inhibit oxidative stress.
As detailed in a study published in the International Journal of Trichology, oxidative stress is one factor that accelerates hair aging, leading to excessive hair loss.
It is recommended to increase, above all, the consumption of those fruits and vegetables rich in vitamin C, such as:
- Kiwi fruit
This vitamin is key in collagen production, a vital component that keeps your hair and skin in top shape.
Selenium is an essential trace element that plays an important role in protection against oxidative damage and hair follicle morphogenesis.
However, evidence on its relationship with alopecia is limited. In any case, it is recommended to increase its consumption to prevent hair loss. It is found in foods such as:
- Red meat and fish
- Green leafy vegetables
- Brazil nuts or Amazonian chestnuts, pine nuts
- Seafood, eggs, chicken and liver, canned tuna
- Grains, whole grains, brewer’s yeast, wheat germ, wheat flour, pasta, etc.
3. Zinc to prevent hair loss
Currently, there is limited information on the effects of zinc supplementation on hair growth.
However, few studies are suggesting that consumption of this mineral may help control hair growth cycles. In addition, its deficiency is associated with problems such as alopecia.
One of the sources of zinc is meat, which also contains iron, protein, vitamins B6 and B12, associated with the prevention and treatment of hair loss.
Zinc is also present in other foods such as:
- Oysters (king of zinc)
4. Foods with biotin
Hair thinning and loss are both problems associated with biotin deficiency. However, according to information published in the National Institute of Health (NIH), there is little scientific evidence to support that biotin improves hair health.
In any case, to increase the intake of this nutrient, foods such as those mentioned below can be taken:
- Yeast bread
- Wheat bran
Again, although there is no solid evidence, it is believed that the consumption of foods with biotin may benefit your hair.
5. Vitamin A to prevent hair loss
Other studies have found that dietary vitamin A serves to activate hair follicle stem cells. For this reason, it is a key nutrient for the prevention of hair problems such as hair loss.
However, excessive intake should be avoided, as hypervitaminosis A has a strong link to hair loss and other health problems. This vitamin can be obtained through foods such as:
- Fortified milk
- Fish, sunflower, and olive oil
6. Vitamin E
Although vitamin E is included among the group of antioxidants, it is worth a special mention. Its proper assimilation contributes to stronger and healthier hair.
Supplementation with tocotrienol, a member of the vitamin E family, increases the amount of hair in patients suffering from excessive hair loss. Foods rich in vitamin E include the following:
- Wheat germ and sunflower oil
- Nuts and seeds
- Green leafy vegetables (such as spinach and broccoli)
7. Fatty acids
The deficiency of polyunsaturated essential fatty acids is related to changes in the hair, such as excessive loss and scalp problems.
Therefore, when it comes to preventing hair loss, it is advisable to consume foods such as:
- Oily fish
- Nuts and seeds
- Olive oil and avocado
Foods for hair loss: what to remember
You can include these foods in your diet as a preventive measure for hair loss problems. However, if you already have this problem or notice other signs such as weakness and breakage, it is best to consult a dermatologist.
As you can see, proper nutrition has positive effects on hair health. Although many people ignore it, the foods we include in our regular diet play an important role in the growth and strength of hair strands.
In fact, micronutrients such as vitamins and minerals are essential for proper hair follicle development and immune function. Therefore, obtaining them in optimal amounts will help you prevent alopecia.
Other factors that may contribute to hair loss and weakness:
- Frequent use of chemicals and hair drying tools
- hormonal changes
- Nutritional deficiencies
- Bad habits such as alcohol and tobacco consumption
As always, and when in doubt, consult with your local specialist. This professional will be in charge of determining the best treatment depending on the root cause of your particular problem.