Athletes and trainers looking for performance-enhancing supplements usually reach out for creatine for hair, which is a safe and extensively studied lean muscle mass and strength booster with various other benefits. However, people remain cautious due to its suspected effect on the surge in blood DHT levels.
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What is creatine (and creatine for hair)?
Creatine is a well-known nutritional compound that is derived from amino acids. It is predominantly present in the muscles and brain, where it works as a mediator of energy metabolism. Protein-rich foods such as red meat and seafood can be consumed to boost the production of creatine in the body.
It can also be obtained as an exogenous supplement and is specifically useful for vegetarians and vegans. Creatine is responsible for the development of lean muscle mass, helps in the restoration of muscles after high-intensity exercise, and enhances strength levels.
Due to these beneficial properties, creatine is widely used among athletes and older adults.
What are the benefits of creatine?
Supplemental creatine has many research-supported advantages, a few of which are as follows:
- Increase in muscle energy stores
- Enhance the post-workout recovery
- Lower the risk of injury
- Augment lean muscle mass
- Amplify brain function
- Boost athletic performance
- Benefit neurodegenerative disorders
How does creatine create these benefits?
Increase in muscle energy stores
Creatine is a component of phosphocreatine that is employed by muscle cells to produce energy-carrying ATP. In this way, supplementing with creatine increases the energy stores for the muscle cells in people.
Enhancement of post-workout recovery
High-intensity physical training can cause muscle soreness and induce inflammation in the joints. But the use of creatine has been reported to decrease inflammatory markers and improve post-workout recovery. Intake of creatine and carbohydrates before any exhaustive training session leads to a higher rate of glycogen restoration afterward, which means more energy is recovered.
Low risk of injury
Creatine supplementation is linked to a less chance of getting dehydrated, developing muscle cramps, and bearing musculoskeletal injury during a training session. Various studies show less risk of injury in athletes who supplemented their diet with creatine as compared to those who did not take creatine before or during heavy exercise.
Augment lean muscle mass
The intake of creatine with resistance training is also suspected to increase muscle protein synthesis which results in higher lean muscle mass. It is also suspected to hinder sarcopenia (progressive skeletal muscle mass loss).
Amplify brain function
An improvement in cognitive and neuropsychological performance has been observed due to an increase in the creatine stores in the brain after supplementation with exogenous creatine.
Boost athletic performance
High-intensity short duration exercises and resistance training by professional athletes demand high energy levels and fast recovery periods. When these training sessions are coupled with creatine supplementation, it amplifies endurance, strength and improves overall performance.
Beneficial for neurodegenerative disorders
Some cellular and animal studies display a favorable role of creatine in neurodegenerative diseases. The conditions mediated through a phosphocreatine deficiency in the brain have been shown to improve with exogenous creatine supplementation.
What are the side effects of creatine?
The use of creatine in the form of a supplement has been criticized over the years for its speculated side effects. Some of these ramifications are discussed below:
- Water retention
- Muscle cramps
- Weight gain
- Renal dysfunction
- Potential hazards
How does creatine cause its side effects?
Exogenous creatine can induce water retention in the short term as supported by initial studies performed to evaluate its role with total body water. But as indicated by other studies, it does not cause a change in total body water or long-term water retention.
Dehydration and muscle cramps
This concern roots from the thought that creatine is an active osmotic substance that can disturb the fluid and electrolyte balance in the body. Although there is no research-based evidence that supports this theory.
People who couple intense exercise schedules with creatine supplementation may find an increase in overall body mass but that is largely attributed to a gain in muscle mass. Various studies show no meaningful connection between an increase in fat mass and the use of exogenous creatine supplements.
The myth that a consistently high protein diet is linked to renal disorders is the basis for the speculation that creatine and can potentially cause kidney damage. Research shows that the recommended intake of creatine does not cause any renal problems in healthy individuals.
Lack of safety
Based on the presently available data creatine supplementation is deemed safe and tolerated well in all groups, with minimal to no side effects. However, more research is required to observe the effects of long-term supplemental creatine use.
It is important to take no more than the indicated dose of creatine which is usually 0.1 gram per kg body weight daily. Contact a doctor in case you have fever, nausea, dizziness, and vomiting after starting creatine supplementation.
What is DHT?
Dihydrotestosterone, also known as DHT, is a chemical component synthesized from testosterone. An enzyme called 5 alpha-reductase plays a crucial part in this conversion.
The leading reasons behind the occurrence of androgenetic alopecia (pattern hair loss) are a genetic predisposition to alopecia, increased 5 alpha-reductase activity, high levels of circulating DHT, and heightened hair follicle sensitivity.
The role of DHT in the initiation of hair loss can be attributed to its capacity to bind with the highly receptive follicles present mainly on the frontal and vertex scalp. Once DHT gets deposited on these areas, it shrinks the hair follicles by altering their growth cycle.
Due to the shortening of the anagen (growth) phase and the subsequent elongation of the telogen (resting) phase, the long terminal strands are converted into small vellus hair.
The science behind creatine and DHT linked hair loss
To date, there is only one study that instigates that the use of supplemental creatine can lead to a surge in DHT and eventually cause hair loss. The study involved college rugby players who took creatine supplements over 3 weeks with subsequently high DHT levels as compared to the placebo group, observed at the end of the experiment.
This claim was further encouraged due to an already existing and proven link between DHT and some types of alopecia. However, the levels of free testosterone were not monitored in this study. As DHT is a derivative of testosterone, the link between it and creatine is of significance.
Many studies have shown insignificant to no increase in the levels of testosterone with the use of creatine supplementation. So although more research is required to find conclusive results, there is a possibility that supplemental creatine could boost the activity of 5 alpha-reductase and thereafter raise DHT levels.
Is there any alternative to creatine for muscle growth?
There are potential alternatives of creatine that either enhance overall performance or build muscles and are backed by strong evidence proving their efficacy. Some of these supplements are listed below:
Beta-Alanine amino acid
A non-essential amino acid that enhances muscle endurance during intense exercise.
A dietary supplement derived from the amino acid leucine that improves athletic performance and preserves muscle mass.
Essential amino acids (EAA)
These indispensable amino acids can only be supplied exogenously to the body and play a crucial role in muscle growth and repair.
Sodium bicarbonate and sodium phosphate
Supplements and sports drinks consisting of sodium bicarbonate and sodium phosphate are associated with enhancing performance during high-intensity exercise.
It is a form of protein obtained from dairy products. Supplementation with whey protein increases recovery after resistance training and boosts protein metabolism.
However, creatine monohydrate is the only dietary supplement that is classified as both a performance enhancer and a lean muscle mass booster.
Will my hair grow back if I stop taking creatine?
As discussed above, creatine is not directly responsible for causing a surge in hair fall. Alopecia can be induced due to a plethora of reasons. Androgen-related alopecia in men is dependent on several contributing factors and is not limited to only high levels of DHT.
Hair loss is not listed as a side effect of creatine because there is not enough evidence linking the intake of supplemental creatine to an increase in testosterone levels or DHT activity.
So if you’re experiencing hair loss, it is important to get it diagnosed and start proper treatment to hamper further progress. However, anyone who is predisposed to alopecia should remain cautious with the use of creatine.
Creatine for hair: does it work?
Hair loss is a distressing ailment for both men and women and remains a cause of mental stress.
Although there is a possibility, this claim is not backed up by enough studies, therefore, creatine for hair can’t be held as solely responsible for the onset of alopecia.
Keep in mind to always check in with your doctor to diagnose the underlying problem behind any hair loss condition.
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