Before we dive into if working out does increase DHT levels, let’s have a very quick recap on what DHT actually is. DHT stands for Dihydrotestosterone.
What is Dihydrotestosterone?
It’s responsible for developing male characteristics - maturation of the penis and scrotum at puberty, growth of facial, body and pubic hair, and development and maintenance of the prostate gland and seminal vesicles.
High or excessive DHT levels are not the sole cause of hair loss.It’s actually hair follicle DHT sensitivity. In genetically predisposed males, certain areas on the scalp, their hair follicles are more sensitive to the effects of DHT
Let’s talk about the link between hair loss and exercises.
Exercise and Hair Growth
In general, exercise has a number of benefits for your hair:
- It enhances circulation. When you’ve got healthy, normal circulation, it means that all of the lovely vitamins and minerals from your food, your fruit, your green tea - it’s all making its way, via your blood to your scalp.
- Exercise helps to ensure that fats don’t build up in your veins and arteries so that those nutrients can get to your scalp.
- Exercise also helps to reduce Stress. Research shows that Cortisol, the stress hormone can sometimes cause hair to prematurely shift into the shedding phase.
Hair transplant surgeon Dr Thomy Kouremada-Zioga told Express that some protein shakes cause an increase in testosterone and DHT, which can accelerate baldness.
But Dr Leona Yip, spokesperson for the Australasian College of Dermatologists, told Coach that protein shakes alone wouldn't accelerate balding – you would have to take anabolic steroids or supplements that contain testosterone or DHT. And even then, you would have to have a family history of balding for it to have an effect.
"Protein shakes on their own is not a problem – it's only if it's testosterone based supplements," she says.
"If you were just doing weight lifting to build muscle, you wouldn't be able to produce enough androgens like testosterone and DHT to produce baldness – it has to be supplement mediated."
Can Creatine Cause Hair Loss?
Creatine is a popular supplement meant to aid in muscle recovery and growth.
Dermatologist Dr Rod Sinclair told Coach that aside from taking anabolic steroids, very few lifestyle factors influence the rate of balding.
"Baldness is one of the strongest genetic traits," he says.
"Identical twins go bald at the same rate, age and pattern so they continue to look identical as they grow older. Diet, lifestyle and other environmental factors have very little influence."
Dr Yip says it's quite common for buff men to come into dermatologists' offices seeking treatment for balding.
"It's quite common in gym junkies and they often have acne as well," she says.
"They have usually done their own research and come in saying, 'I'm taking these supplements, is it causing me to bald quicker?' I ask them about their family history and there usually is one so it's likely the [steroid] supplements are accelerating their baldness and I advise them to stop taking them."
If you're genetically predisposed to baldness, your hair follicles are more sensitive to testosterone and DHT hormones.
Weight lifting and hair loss
"It's not because there are higher levels in the bloodstream that are causing you to go bald," Dr Yip says.
If you were predisposed to bald at 40 or 50, Dr Yip says taking these supplements could see you start getting a receding hairline at 20 or 30.
Stopping the supplements won't cause your hair to grow back. Rather, Dr Yip says you'll likely pause the balding where it's at until the age when you would have naturally gone bald.
If you stop the supplements, there are medications you can take to slow balding and stimulate some re-growth, but Dr Sinclair says you need to act sooner rather than later.
"There are good treatments so if people are concerned about hair loss, rather than focusing on their exercise regime or diet they can go and get treatment to stop the hair loss in its tracks or help re-growth," he says.
In 2017 Dr Bessam Farjo, a UK based hair transplant surgeon stated that
“Whey protein exaggerates or accelerates the hair loss process because there is evidence it increases the level of testosterone when combined with muscle-building exercise.
Whey Protein causes Hair Loss
High levels of branched-chain amino acids in whey protein isolate - known as BCAA - play a significant role in raising testosterone levels, research has found.
Farjo also mentioned that his son was a regular gym goer and user of whey protein when he began to experience hair loss but since stopping Whey Protein his hair has regrown.
This reasoning was supported by a 2010 study.
According to Dr Thomy Kouremada-Zioga, a Hair Transplant Surgeon at The Private Clinic of Harley Street, there has been a surge in men experiencing accelerated hair loss due to the use of powdered protein and the activity they participate in at the gym.
Reportedly, certain ingredients in protein shakes increase testosterone and a chemical called DHT, which has been linked to hair loss.
Dr Kouremada-Zioga said: “Protein shakes will very often contain growth hormones such as Creatine and DHEA, which not only increase muscle mass, but also increase testosterone levels in the bloodstream.
“Testosterone produces a chemical known as DHT, which actually contributes to baldness when the hair follicles become exposed to too much. Sadly, this is something that most men are unaware of, until they notice that their hair loss has already become more apparent.”
The research seems to conclude that a healthy diet including a variety of protein sources is best. Including It Really Works vitamins is a great way to support healthy hair growth. Our vitamins contain over 22 natural vitamins and minerals to block DHT and help your hair grow.