Gym supplements and hair loss
Reviewed by Dr Jean Wong
What are gym and sports supplements?
- Micronutrients - vitamins and minerals
- Macronutrients - such as protein
- Substances linked with a performance benefit - such as creatine, sodium bicarbonate or nitrate
People often take supplements to maximise performance. Supplements can also help to prevent nutrient deficiencies that may limit performance and make it easy to get the energy and nutrients needed during intense workouts.
If you’re trying to enhance your performance, or increase muscle mass, it’s likely you’ve been told to eat more protein and take a supplement, such as creatine. You might have heard that there’s a link between creatine and hair loss. This article will explore the relationship between the two.
Sports supplements are not essential when taking part in competitive and non-competitive sports and exercise. Most people can get what they need from eating a varied and healthy diet.
What is creatine?
Creatine exists naturally in the body as a compound (a chemical substance) produced by the liver, kidneys and pancreas. It can also be found in protein rich foods, such as meat and fish. Studies have shown that when taken as a supplement, creatine can improve exercise performance. There is also evidence to suggest that creatine supplementation can help to prevent injury and aid recovery after exercising.
You should not use a creatine supplement if you have kidney disease or diabetes. If you have heart disease and want to take creatine, talk to your doctor first. When starting creatine, it’s best to talk to someone who knows about using supplements as part of a healthy lifestyle change or improving performance. Start with your GP, a dietician or nutritionist.
Side effects of creatine
Although evidence is limited, some reports suggest that the side effects of creatine include:
- Muscle cramping
- Kidney dysfunction
- Pain in the stomach
It’s always best to stick to the recommended dose to avoid it making you feel uncomfortable.
Does creatine cause hair loss?
It’s mostly speculation. One study on male rugby players in South Africa showed that creatine supplementation caused an increase in a hormone linked with hair loss (DHT). However, the results from this study have not been replicated anywhere else. You will not need to take any preventative measures to avoid hair loss when taking creatine. However, if you’re noticing more hair loss than usual, talk to your doctor.
Other supplements that cause hair loss
Some studies show that too much vitamin A can cause hair loss. However, more evidence is needed. To be safe, you should always stick to the recommended dose when taking any supplement. As well as potentially making you feel unwell, too much supplementation is wasteful. Many supplements are expensive.
Vitamin deficiency and hair loss
In rare cases, a vitamin deficiency can contribute to hair loss. This is usually an iron deficiency. If your hair loss is caused by a vitamin deficiency, a supplement may help. If you don’t have a deficiency, then supplementing extra vitamins will have no effect on your hair loss. Talk to your doctor if you’re worried you might have a deficiency.
Hair loss at Online Doctor