Does Creatine Cause Hair Loss? Debunking Common Creatine Myths

Everything You Need to Know about Creatine Supplementation 

Did you know that creatine is one of the most popular sports supplements on the market!?

As a safe and beneficial way to promote muscle growth, increase skeletal muscle performance, and even boost brain health, it’s no wonder so many people are raving over creatine!

While the effects of creatine are certainly positive, it’s important to look at the use of supplementation from all angles. 

We are here to answer some of your pressing questions about supplementation like “Does creatine cause hair loss?” and “How much creatine is necessary to increase muscle mass?”

You’re not going to want to miss this! 

What Is Creatine?

Creatine is an amino acid that’s produced naturally in our bodies every day by the liver, kidneys, and pancreas. Since amino acids are the building block for protein, creatine can also be found in abundance in animal-based products such as fish, poultry, and even dairy [1]. 

After creatine metabolism has run its course, it can be used to supply energy to our skeletal muscle cells to perform work. Here, the effects of creatine can be used for boosting muscle performance during resistance training, enhancing muscle power during high-intensity interval training, and so much more [2]. 

How Does it Work?

After creatine enters the body or once it’s been produced naturally, it binds with a phosphate molecule to create creatine phosphate. This newly formed compound is the key to providing our skeletal muscles with immediate energy.

Adenosine triphosphate, better known as ATP, is the driving source of energy for numerous processes in our body — from a single muscle contraction to a full-on sprint. ATP is beneficial for supplying energy to our anaerobic system for up to 30 seconds [3]. 

Now that we have creatine phosphate floating around our bodies, these extra phosphate molecules can be hydrolyzed and transferred onto adenosine diphosphate (ADP) to regenerate ATP. After this process is complete, the leftover creatine passes out of the body in our urine [4]. 

The Inside Scoop on Taking Creatine Supplements

Considering the impressive effects of creatine on our muscle performance, it’s only natural to consider supplementation! 

To get a better understanding, it’s important to discuss what exactly a creatine supplement is, along with its many benefits, potential side effects, recommended doses, and best times to supplement. 

Creatine Monohydrate Supplementation: What Is it?

Creatine monohydrate is the most popular sports supplement within the creatine family. Although some people still consider most types of creatine powder to be similar to anabolic steroids, this dietary supplement is anything but that! In other words, creatine monohydrate supplements are all-natural, safe, and legal.

Compared to natural forms of creatine which is 100% creatine by weight, creatine monohydrate includes a hydrogen molecule which makes it less potent (90% creatine by weight). 

Ultimately, creatine monohydrate offers the same benefits as natural creatine when taken at the recommended dose. 

Benefits of Creatine Supplements

Taking creatine supplements is a popular trend among athletes and bodybuilders to enhance muscle growth, strength, and power. 

Here are some of the most impressive benefits they have to offer on exercise performance [5]: 

  • Creatine supplements help increase intramuscular creatine storage 

  • Creatine supplements improve the quality and duration of strength-based or cardiovascular workouts 

  • Creatine supplements may help boost adaptation to high intensity exercise and improve post-exercise recovery time

  • Creatine supplements can help reduce the frequency of dehydration, muscle cramps, and incidence of injury (i.e. muscle strains, sprains, or tears)

  • Creatine supplements may boost functional performance in those with muscular dystrophy 

In addition, brain creatine levels can also be increased with creatine monohydrate supplementation. Here are some of the top brain health benefits [6, 7]: 

  • Creatine supplements help to boost brain function and memory 

  • Creatine supplements can reduce the severity and duration of a mild traumatic brain injury by providing concussion and/or spinal cord neuroprotection  

  • Creatine supplements can help increase cognitive processing strength (which may also be beneficial to reducing fatigue and boosting athletic performance) 

  • Creatine supplements offer some protection against a range of neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s and Huntington's disease

Side Effects of Creatine Supplementation 

According to the International Society of Sports Nutrition, creatine supplementation is a generally safe and effective way to increase intramuscular levels of creatine. Since the unused creatine is excreted through urine, there are no serious adverse effects reported regarding over-consumption [8, 9]. 

Some minor side effects to consider when taking creatine supplements include [10]: 

  • Minor bloating due to water retention 

  • Mild stomach aches or discomfort

  • Excess loss when taken in high doses 

How Much Creatine Should I Take?

 

The standard recommended doses of creatine for most healthy individuals is about 0.5 grams per kilogram of body weight during the “creatine loading phase” and 0.075 grams per kilogram of body weight during the “creatine maintenance phase” [11]. 

For example, if you’re a 70-kilogram athlete, you should be taking 70 x 0.3 = 21 grams of creatine every day for about a week. After this time your maintenance dose of creatine can drop down to 70 x 0.075  = 5 grams of daily creatine intake. 

Does it Matter When I Take Creatine?

Timing your creatine supplements based on exercise can help optimize muscle loading and overall muscle performance. 

Contrary to popular belief, the greatest muscle strength gains and other related benefits are found when athletes take creatine immediately post-exercise [12]. 

Debunking Creatine Supplementation Myths 

Like most other supplements on the market, including protein powder, branched-chain amino acids, and even the classic daily multivitamin, it’s only natural to have a few false accusations tied to it!  

We are here to debunk the latest creatine supplement myths using research and expert opinions.

Myth #1: Creatine causes hair loss 

This myth stemmed from a study stating that increased levels of serum dihydrotestosterone (DHT), a metabolite of testosterone, can cause hair loss. Although DHT is found to cause the shrinkage of certain hair follicles leading to baldness, it has nothing to do with creatine! 

A current study looking at creatine supplementation in men found that there was no significant increase in total testosterone in the creatine group. In fact, this group measured a 23% decrease in DHT to testosterone ratio following supplementation [13]. 

Myth #2: Creatine causes kidney damage or disease 

Currently, no scientific evidence supports the claim that creatine supplementation causes kidney disease. 

Although creatine supplements are not shown to affect kidney function in healthy adults, there may be implications for those with pre-existing kidney conditions. In this case, we recommend speaking with your healthcare provider before taking creatine supplements.

Myth #3: Creatine makes you gain fat

The biggest problem many new athletes face while engaging in a heavy lifting training program is figuring out if their weight gain is caused by fat or muscle mass.

Although taking creatine supplements does help you gain weight (especially during the loading phase), it’s typically in the form of muscle mass. In fact, research has found that after 30 days of high-dose creatine supplementation, participants gained roughly 3.75 pounds of lean muscle mass [14]. As a result, having more muscle mass can help burn more calories throughout the day!

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