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Does Pre-Workout Cause Hair Loss? (According to a Doctor)

Tyler Sellers
Published by Tyler Sellers
Fact checked by Donald Christman, BHSc FACT CHECKED

My typical routine as a fitness trainer often involves training clients and recommending nutrition and bodybuilding supplements that will help them get the best results.

Recently a new client asked me: does pre-workout cause hair loss? I assured him that the claims that pre-workout supplements cause baldness are just not true.

But to back my word, I decided to consult a medical doctor with whom I went over some scientific material to further research the cause of baldness and whether pre-workouts have a role in the same.

Let's dive in.

Quick Summary

  • There is still no scientific study proving that pre-workout supplements cause hair loss.
  • Dihydrotestosterone (DHT), an active hormone brought about by the reaction of testosterone and a certain enzyme, might be responsible for hair loss.
  • You can reduce DHT levels by avoiding stress, exercising regularly, sleeping enough, and consuming foods that block DHT, such as kale, spinach, and flax seeds.

Does Pre Workout Cause Hair Loss?

Pouring pre workout powder supplement

No, pre-workouts do not cause hair loss. Claims to the contrary don't have concrete scientific backing since no study has proven that they directly cause male pattern baldness.

Critics argue that some pre-workout ingredients contribute to male pattern baldness.

But as you will see, the claims are not based on verifiable science.

In any case, some pre-workout ingredients like caffeine and some B vitamins have been associated with hair loss prevention. More on that later.

“Male pattern baldness is the most common type of hair loss in men. Hair at the temples and on the crown slowly thin and eventually disappear.”

- Tim Newman, Medical News Today

Now, to properly answer the question of whether pre-workouts cause loss of hair, let’s examine some common ingredients that you'll likely find in a pre-workout supplement:

  • Caffeine
  • Creatine Monohydrate
  • BCAAs
  • B-Vitamins
  • Nitric Oxide precursors

Now, let's explore each ingredient in detail.

Caffeine

Top view of caffeine close up image

Among the benefits of caffeine, and the reason you will see it in most pre-workout supplements, is that it helps improve physical and mental performance.

Of course, it has some adverse side effects when used excessively [1]. The effects include:

  • Jitters or extreme nervousness
  • Anxiety
  • Insomnia

But does pre-workout cause hair loss because of it? Not at all.

Studies show that caffeine actually promotes female and male hair growth.

A 2007 study investigating the effects of caffeine and testosterone on human hair revealed that caffeine helps block dihydrotestosterone (DHT), an androgen hormone responsible for hair loss [2].

Scientists pointed out that the stimulant prolonged the anagen hair growth phase and promoted hair shaft elongation, resulting in broader and longer hair roots in males.

The same study also found growth-promoting effects on female hair, thanks to the stimulant.

Branched Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs)

Like caffeine, there is no scientific study linking BCAAs to baldness.

Existing claims allege that high doses of BCAAs, in addition to an exercise regimen, may lead to increased testosterone levels which can negatively impact the hair.

However, research has found that this boost in T production is independent of amino acids’ supplementation [3].

Creatine

Scoop of a creatine powder

Gym-goers love creatine because of its benefits in energy provision and muscle growth. However, critics claim that it contributes to the production of hormones that promote male pattern baldness.

Still, no conclusive evidence supporting the same has not been tabled.

The thinking behind the claims is that some pre-workout ingredients, especially creatine, stimulate the production of hormones like testosterone which negatively impact the hair.

However, additional studies on the subject have proven that even without strength training, creatine does not impact your T levels [4].

B-vitamins

B vitamins affect your hair, but does pre-workout cause hair loss because of them?

Quite the contrary – a deficiency in essential B vitamins such as biotin (B7) and B12 has been linked to hair loss.

Research asserts that only a handful of B vitamins have been associated with the loss of hair [5]. They include: 

  • Riboflavin (B2)
  • Biotin (B7)
  • Folate (B9)
  • vitamin B12

Interestingly, although a deficiency in B12 may contribute to hair loss, research is yet to find that supplementing with the same will boost hair growth [6].

On the other hand, research has shown that supplemental biotin (B7) may be beneficial, but only in people with a deficiency [7].

Nitric Oxide Precursors

Supplement pill close up image

Studies suggest that a basal level of nitric oxide may help in hair growth [8].

The function of nitric oxide in pre-workout supplements is to stimulate blood flow by widening blood vessels.

Two common precursors in pre-workout ingredients include; L-citrulline and L-arginine [9].

That said, proponents allege that by helping relax blood vessels and improving blood flow, especially to the scalp and the bases of hair follicles, L-arginine may help the hair.

The logic checks out, but the claim has yet to be scientifically proven.

As you can see, these common pre-workout ingredients do not cause hair loss. So, this begs the question of why many top bodybuilders are bald-headed.

Why Do Bodybuilders Go Bald?

Bodybuilders go bald because of genetics, stress, and anabolic steroids.

Hair loss is one of the side effects of using anabolic steroids. Many male bodybuilders and top fitness competitors use it to increase muscle mass. This is why many of them are bald [10].

But when it comes to pre-workout supplements, they don't contain anabolic steroids, so there is no need to worry.

The Cause of Baldness

A hair comb with hair loss

According to scientists, baldness is caused by an androgen hormone known as dihydrotestosterone (DHT) [11].

DHT plays a vital role in the sexual development of adolescent males. Before we get to its link to hair thinning, let's examine DHT’s role in the body.

It's responsible for the sexual differentiation of organs in the embryonic stage [12].

It also plays a vital role in the adolescent stage of a young male adult. DHT is responsible for the following in young adults:

  • Prostate growth
  • Sebaceous gland activity
  • Development of body, facial and public hair

Now, DHT is the product of a reaction between testosterone and enzyme Type II 5-alpha reductase, a catalyst that helps convert testosterone to DHT [13].

This might mean that anything contributing to increased T levels might also contribute to high DHT levels.

By this logic, even lifting weights alone without a pre-workout can also boost testosterone levels [14].

What I’m trying to say here is you cannot avoid testosterone, and you certainly don't want to keep your T levels low.

Related Articles:

Benefits of Testosterone

Testosterone has numerous benefits, especially for men [15]. It contributes to the following:

  • Bone density
  • Muscle strength and mass
  • Red blood cell production
  • Sex drive
  • Sperm production

Unfortunately, boosting testosterone by exercising with or without pre-workouts also increases DHT, which can accelerate hair loss, mainly for those genetically predisposed.

But even with a family history of hair loss, you might be able to avoid or stave off losing hair by eating healthily and exercising regularly.

In any case, if signs of a receding hairline start to show, they can still be reversed, especially if detected early. More on this shortly.

Symptoms of Too Much DHT

A woman with face acne

Too much DHT in your bloodstream often leads to hair loss [17]. Other symptoms include: 

  • An enlarged prostate
  • Acne
  • Increased sweating
  • High blood pressure

If you see these signs, don't wait until scalp micropigmentation is the only alternative. Consult your doctor for early hair loss treatment.

Reducing DHT levels

Once the alarming DHT levels are confirmed, the doctor should give a prescription and a list of things you can do to reduce it and promote healthy hair.

They may prescribe medications such as finasteride which has been shown to reverse hair loss [18]

And where necessary, they may insist that you change your diet and include some foods that act as natural DHT blockers [19]. The foods include:

  • Spinach
  • Kale
  • Banana
  • Green tea
  • Flax seeds

The key to keeping your hair healthy is making healthy choices. This means a balanced diet and regular exercise.

Here are more tips to combat hair loss:

  • Reduce stress
  • Sleep regularly
  • Reduce your overall body fat
  • Conduct regular scalp exercises and massages that increase blood flow to the top of your head

Benefits of Pre-workout Supplements

With hair loss concerns out of the way, let’s take a brief look at some hard-to-miss benefits that come with taking a pre-workout supplement [16].

They include:

  • A boost in blood flow and, therefore, increased energy and athletic performance
  • Enhanced focus
  • Supports muscle development and weight loss
  • Essential nutrients for faster recovery

So, Does Pre-workout Cause Hair Loss?

After extensive research, we’ve concluded that there’s no significant evidence linking pre-workout and hair loss.

There have been, however, some rare cases of rogue manufacturers adding steroids to their pre-workout supplements, which might lead to hair loss.

That’s why we are always careful when vetting the ingredients and testing all products before recommending them to our clients.

Based on our test data and client feedback reports, the top pre-workout products on the list above provided excellent improvements in performance, and clients did not record any side effects.


References:

  1. https://medlineplus.gov/caffeine.html
  2. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1365-4632.2007.03119.x
  3. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30411393/
  4. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19741313/
  5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6380979/
  6. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/318403
  7. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5582478/
  8. https://www.mdpi.com/2223-7747/11/3/330/htm
  9. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/326381
  10. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3827559/
  11. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/68082
  12. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK557634/
  13. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4174066/
  14. https://www.webmd.com/men/features/exercise-and-testosterone
  15. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2701485/
  16. https://blogs.cornell.edu/learning/what-are-the-benefits-of-pre-workout-supplements/
  17. https://www.webmd.com/connect-to-care/hair-loss/symptoms-of-high-dht
  18. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6609098/
  19. https://www.webmd.com/connect-to-care/hair-loss/can-dht-blockers-reverse-hair-loss
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