Since the dawn of time, hair has been associated with beauty, power, and virility. As such, hair has always been considered as a major component of a person’s appearance.
The media constantly saturates us with images of the ‘perfect’ body.
Bulging muscles, tight abs, chiselled bone structure, and a head full of luscious, thick hair are just some of the characteristics Western media has convinced us is what makes a person beautiful and happy.
While we may not be able to control our bone structure without taking extreme measures, there are steps an individual can take to build strength and fitness. Not to mention taking care of the health of their hair.
However, did you know the ways in which you are developing your muscle growth may be directly affecting your hair line?
Hair loss and self-esteem
There can be no doubt that hair loss can result in low self-esteem.
Popular culture often portrays male pattern balding as negative and unappealing, with the ‘loser’ of a film or tv show always shown to be overweight and balding.
Similarly, cosmetic and health products often focus on hair and other features, which are considered attractive, when comparing before and after pictures of people who have purportedly used their products.
It can be no surprise that both men and women who suffer from hair loss may find it a stressful experience.
However, for people who are thinning out on top, but are hitting the gym and taking protein supplements in an attempt to look their best and getting a toned, ripped, good-looking body, you may actually be doing their scalp even further harm.
Protein is believed to be the number one source of muscle growth.
It also provides maintenance and repair of other tissues and functions, boosts the immune system, and provides energy.
Also, protein is the only food group that doesn’t store.
If you are not replenishing your body’s protein levels every day, your body starts to break down existing muscle to get the protein it needs to function.
Getting enough protein is a major factor for many athletes, along with extreme gym fanatics who like to indulge in HIIT (high-intensity interval training).
To ensure they are getting enough protein, many people look to supplements to ensure they are getting the right amount of protein to maximise performance.
There are many sources of protein, with protein from animals providing the highest quality rating of food sources. This is primarily due to the ‘completeness’ of proteins from these sources.
Other sources include Casein and Bovine Colostrum, which are sourced from Bovine milk, and vegetable and soy, which are important sources of protein for vegetarians and vegans.
However, one of the most common sources of protein found in powder supplements is whey protein.
Whey is the term that typically means the translucent liquid part of milk that remains following the process of cheese manufacturing.
From this liquid, whey proteins are separated and purified using various techniques yielding different concentrations of whey proteins.
Whey is one of the two major protein groups of bovine milk, accounting for 20% of the milk while casein accounts for the remainder.
One of the biggest health benefits of whey protein is the fact it does not clog up your arteries, nor does it slow down your metabolism, like many sources of animal protein can, such as burgers, sausages, bacon, and cheese.
Also, whey is a complete protein whose biologically active components provide additional benefits to enhance human function.
It contains a number of other proteins that positively affect immune functions, such as antimicrobial activity.
It has also been found to be an essential ingredient for recovery, as well as healing the body and repairing tissue. This is due to a high concentration of branched chain amino acids (BCAA) that are important for their role in the maintenance of tissue and prevention of catabolic actions during exercise.
So, while taking whey protein supplements before a workout session won’t necessarily boost your performance, it will greatly help your muscles recover post-workout because it gives your body many more essential amino acids that help rejuvenate muscle protein supply.
Whey protein is also said to decrease stress and reduce cortisol concentration levels, enhance energy levels, improve mood and memory loss under stress, and, of course, help build lean body mass and reduce body fat.
The link between protein supplements and hair loss
Unfortunately, for gym fanatics who enjoy having a thick head of hair, there is bad news regarding your sports supplement choice.
A study by Australian hair transplant surgeon, Jennifer Martinick, suggests that modern dietary intakes could play a major part in hair loss in men, especially regarding protein shakes.
The report singles out protein shakes used as part of an exercise regime as being one potential cause of hair loss.
However, the study goes on to say that not all dietary or sports supplements affect hair loss. It is the number of additives certain supplements contain which can affect the hormone balance of the person using them.
The science behind it
Some protein shakes contain additives, such as inorganic growth hormones and creatine, which are intended for the growth of muscle mass.
However, in doing so, they greatly raise testosterone levels within the bloodstream.
This elevated testosterone can be problematic for certain people because of the way their bodies handle the hormone, particularly men who are genetically predisposed to balding.
Basically, testosterone is broken down by an enzyme which creates a chemical called Dihydrotestosterone (DHT) which stops or slows the growth of new hair cells on your scalp.
The more testosterone in the body, the higher the levels of this chemical, which is detrimental to hair growth and restoration.
Certain men will start thinning and losing hair in a normal shedding process because the DHT stops new growth.
However, it is not the rich level of protein in these shakes which causes the hair loss.
It is the additives some shakes may contain, such as creatine, which accelerate the balding process in men with a family history of androgenic alopecia.
What is Creatine?
Creatine has become a popular nutritional supplement among athletes. Research has also suggested that there may be a number of potential therapeutic uses of creatine.
But what exactly is creatine?
Creatine is an organic compound that’s already found in your muscle and brain tissue. When creatine bonds with a phosphorus and oxygen compound, it can regenerate ATP, which is the energy source for your cells.
It is for this reason that bodybuilders and lifters use creatine as a dietary supplement, so their muscle cells have plenty of energy to power through tough workouts.
Health benefits of creatine include increased brain and memory function
It is also believed to regulate blood sugar levels and help prevent diabetes.
While beneficial in moderate doses for most individuals, for men susceptible to Androgenic Alopecia, increased levels of creatine can be devastating for their already receding hairline.
What to do if taking powder supplements and suffering from hair loss?
What if you are feeling rather thin on top but eager to keep up that fitness lifestyle, protein shakes and all?
The first step for men experiencing accelerated hair loss as a result of their fitness regime is to cut out protein shakes containing growth hormones, such as creatine and DHEA, and switch to an organic alternative, such as The Plant Era range.
Also, the type of physical exercise has also been found to play a part in hair loss. This is regardless of what dietary supplement you may be taking.
HIIT training and weightlifting can elevate testosterone levels to a point which could start to influence hair follicles and their efficiency. As with growth hormone-induced testosterone levels, increased hair loss is again the logical outcome.
A move away from strength building workouts to more aerobic forms of fitness, such as running, swimming, and cycling, is recommended.
As well as a great way to keep fit, aerobics is also a better way to keep your hair, as it helps reduce the levels of androgens generated in the bloodstream, thus helping protect hair follicles from attack.
So, does whey protein cause hair loss?
The study which has linked sports and powder supplements to hair loss has stressed that the main reason for the enhanced rate of hair loss amongst certain men is due to inclusion of creatine and inorganic growth hormones in certain supplements, which push testosterone levels through the roof.
As whey protein is the liquid remainder of milk once it has been curdled and strained, it does not contain creatine or any other inorganic hormones, unless it is purposefully added.
Therefore, whey protein does not directly cause hair loss.
However, we recommend you check the product content of all protein supplements you are thinking of purchasing before you do.