The topic of exercise causing increased hair loss is frequently brought up by my male patients, and even a quick google search will show that this is something the general public is discussing at great length. However, the exercise and exertion in and of itself are not the primary cause of a sudden increase in hair loss for men who actively work out. So why are some men experiencing hair loss and others not? There is a relationship between testosterone, supplements, and more importantly genetics that must be understood to answer this question.
What Can Boost Hair Loss?
1. Increased Testosterone Levels
The most common cause of hair loss for men is androgenetic alopecia, also known as male pattern baldness. The term originates from the male hormone group known as androgens, and one of those hormones is testosterone. However, the connection between testosterone and hair loss is an indirect one.
Testosterone is converted to DHT (dihydrotestosterone) when it reacts with an enzyme in the body called 5-Alpha-reductase 2 (which processes hormones for male sexual development). Over time DHT can create such severe follicle miniaturization that these miniaturized follicles can no longer respond to medical restoration treatments, meaning, a hair transplant is your only treatment option. So simply put, DHT is the enemy of hair follicle health in men.
So what is the link between testosterone levels and hair loss? Higher testosterone levels provide a substantial supply source of DHT. What is the supply source? If you're experiencing hair loss after taking up a workout regimen, the focus needs to be on the performance enhancer/supplements in your program which can boost testosterone levels, and in turn, become the supply source raising DHT levels.
2. Performance Enhancers
Creatine supplements are popular among bodybuilders, and competitive athletes. Often recommended as a performance enhancer which can boost muscle mass, enhance athletic performance, particularly during high-intensity, short-duration sports (like high jumping and weightlifting), creatine is an attractive supplement for men looking for quick results from their workout regimens. This nutrient, produced from the amino acids glycine and arginine, hasn’t been shown to have a direct connection to hair loss, but it has been shown to cause increased testosterone levels and therefore more DHT.
Unhealthy Protein Shakes
Some see the benefit of incorporating protein shakes into their workout program. Immediately following a workout, after ingestion, it only takes about 30 minutes for amino acids in protein shakes to reach the muscles versus solid food which needs more time to digest and break down protein before traveling to muscles.
But it's not the actual protein which causes hair loss, but the various additives which increase testosterone levels and in turn DHT.
Protein shakes often contain:
Whey Protein Isolate
Taking Whey Protein Isolate after exercising is extremely common. WPI contains Branched Chain Amino Acids (BCAA) isolated in very high levels which are extremely fast acting in the bloodstream, ideal for recovery after workouts. But BCAAs raise testosterone levels, making whey protein isolate incredibly anabolic and side effects causing hair loss.
Artificial growth hormones (such as DHEA)
It is important to note that not all protein shakes are created equal. A healthy protein shake which does NOT contain creatine, WPI, or DHEA or other harmful additives can actually benefit hair and muscle growth. We carry a protein shake, created for hair growth, that has a low anabolic profile.
Men can have a genetic predisposition for androgenetic or genetic alopecia (from both mom or dad's side of the family) already placing them at risk of losing hair during their lifetime.
Going back to our original question, does exercise cause hair kiss? Ultimately, hair loss from increased DHT levels and workout supplements will depend on your GENETICS. Again, the exercise and exertion in and of itself are not the primary cause of a sudden increase in hair loss.
If you are one of the multitudes of men who will lose hair during their lifetime, other external factors can speed up the onset of the hair loss, meaning, you could start to experience hair miniaturization 5-10 years before your genetics had "planned."
What are other external factors? The performance enhancers discussed above related to exercise can speed up the process of your genetic hair loss.
However, if you are not going to lose your hair genetically, then these supplements probably do not have any effect on hair loss. Which may be why, for example, your buddy is also taking creatine, but not having the same side effects as you.
What won’t cause hair loss?
- Cardio Workouts
- Intense Heavy Weight Lifting
Solutions for Men
If you’re just beginning to experience hair loss, early intervention can open up more options for us to help you reverse it and in many cases regrow healthy hair. Surgical treatment options include FUE (Follicular Unit Extraction) and FUT (Follicular Unit Transplant), and advanced low-level laser therapy. We also offer the full range of the latest therapies. The first and best step you can take toward restoring your healthy hair is to contact us today for a consultation with Dr. Gray.