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Does Pre Workout Cause Hair Loss?

Knox Beasley, MD

Reviewed by Knox Beasley, MD

Written by Lauren Panoff

Updated 02/22/2024

When living the gym-rat life, your goal is probably to increase muscle mass, lose fat and improve your overall health and fitness. Maybe you want quads of steel, to max out on your bench press or to trade your six-pack of beer for a six-pack of abs.

To aid in these endeavors, many men turn to supplements like pre-workouts. Perhaps you’re considering adding one to your gym routine, too, but you’ve heard rumors about potential side effects — like losing your hair. 

Unless your scalp is already polished to perfection, Mr. Clean might not be your ideal celebrity look-alike. After all, while you may want to leave the gym with your muscles glistening, not everyone wants the same for the skin on their head. 

If you have signs of telogen effluvium, a type of hair loss caused by a stressor to your hair or scalp, it’s possible your pre-workout is playing a role. However, there’s no evidence pointing to a direct relationship between using pre-workout supplements and a higher risk of unwanted hair loss.

All pre-workouts aren’t created equally. There could be instances in which certain ingredients trigger hair changes in some men, especially if you have a predisposition to thinning hair.

So, could using pre-workout leave you down a few follicles? Sure — but there’s more to the story of losing hair. Keep reading for insight.

Before we jump into the possible relationship between your pre-workout and your hair, let’s cover the basic mechanisms of hair loss.

There are three phases to the hair growth cycle: anagen (growth), catagen (transitional) and telogen (resting). When hair follicles are damaged or enter the resting phase too soon, hair loss is more likely to occur.

Factors that can increase the risk of this happening include:

  • Autoimmune disorders

  • Nutritional deficiencies

  • Medications

  • Infections

  • Medical reasons, like undergoing chemotherapy

Androgenetic alopecia is also known as male (or female) pattern baldness. It’s characterized by thinning hair and a receding hairline and is thought to have hormonal and genetic factors.

For example, male pattern baldness is influenced by the increased presence of the hormone dihydrotestosterone (DHT), which binds to hair follicles and makes them contract, thin and stop growing. DHT is produced when the hormone testosterone interacts with an enzyme called 5-alpha reductase.

So, where do pre-workouts fall in the conversation about hair loss? Let’s start by taking a look at what’s in these supplements.

hair loss treatment

balding can be optional

Pre-workouts aren’t super well-defined in the supplement world. They’re often a collection of ingredients with alleged health benefits, marketed to improve your workout experience.

Several ingredients are frequently used in pre-workouts. You’re likely to find at least one of these, regardless of what product you purchase:

  • Caffeine, a stimulant that increases activity of the brain and nervous system

  • Creatine, an amino acid located mostly in the muscles and brain that can support muscle growth and enhance athletic performance

  • Amino acids, especially branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs), which support muscle growth and recovery and decrease muscle soreness associated with exercise

  • Beta-alanine, an amino acid that may help reduce muscle fatigue by preventing acid buildup that makes it harder to keep working out

  • Nitric oxide precursors, such as L-arginine, L-citrulline or beetroot juice, which may help boost oxygen and nutrient availability to muscles

Additionally, most pre-workouts contain proprietary ingredients, which indicates a mixture of substances — many of which aren’t publicly disclosed.

Pre-workouts are typically meant to be mixed with a liquid, like water or a protein shake, and taken around 30 minutes before hitting the gym.

Pre-workout supplements are somewhat controversial in terms of efficacy and safety. Unlike pharmaceuticals, supplements lack rigorous research, clinical testing and approval from the FDA (U.S. Food and Drug Administration) before being put on the market. Not to mention, they all contain different ingredients, formulations and doses.

As a result, using pre-workouts inherently comes with a higher risk for side effects. Some of the most commonly reported adverse effects include:

  • Nausea

  • Diarrhea

  • Increased heart rate or a racing heart

  • High blood pressure (hypertension)

  • Tingling in the extremities (limbs)

Note that hair loss isn’t on that list — but that doesn’t mean pre-workouts are automatically in the clear when it comes to maintaining your luscious locks.

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The use of pre-workout supplements isn’t inherently responsible for triggering or worsening hair loss. However, some supplements might include ingredients that could affect your hair.

All this to say, the question of whether pre-workouts cause hair loss doesn’t have a black-and-white answer. But several ingredients are worth a closer look.

Caffeine

Many pre-workouts contain caffeine because the stimulant helps enhance your alertness and ability to focus on your workout. Some people report feeling more energized when using caffeinated pre-workouts compared to non-caffeinated options.

Research finds that caffeine likely offers several positive effects on health, including for your hair, when used in moderation. One review concluded that caffeine may be a promising alternative to drug-based approaches for treating hair loss.

In a small test-tube study, hair follicles from 14 biopsies were taken from the highest points on the heads of men with androgenetic alopecia. The follicles were placed in concentrations containing testosterone and/or caffeine for 120 to 192 hours.

The follicles in testosterone only experienced significant growth suppression, whereas those in caffeine-only mediums experienced significant stimulation. When caffeine was included with testosterone, it counteracted the growth-suppressing effects of the hormone on the follicles.

So from what we can gather, it’s probably not the caffeine in your pre-workout that’s promoting hair loss.

Creatine

Creatine is widely accepted as a safe workout product for most people.

Having said that, there’s a widely circulated misconception that creatine causes hair loss, which stems from a single study of college-aged rugby players. The athletes were given 25 grams of creatine supplements daily for one week, followed by five grams daily for two more weeks.

The study found an association between creatine ingestion and increased DHT — remember, that’s the hormone that stimulates male characteristics like hair loss. But these results haven’t been replicated in other studies.

Overall, the majority of current evidence doesn’t indicate that creatine increases male hormone levels or promotes hair loss.

Beta-Alanine

An older study examined the effects of beta-alanine and creatine on testosterone levels. The presumption was that if these substances increased testosterone, it could result in increased levels of DHT associated with hair loss. However, the authors found that beta-alanine wasn’t responsible for any changes.

Branched-Chain Amino Acids

Amino acids are the building blocks your body uses to make proteins, including those that make up your hair. While certain amino acids like methionine, lysine and cysteine may support hair growth, these aren’t BCAAs.

BCAAs in pre-workouts are more likely to have a neutral effect than contribute to hair loss or growth.

Nitric Oxide Precursors

Nitric oxide helps relax and open up blood vessels, boosting oxygen and nutrient transport. It also has antioxidant activity that helps counteract the effects of DHT and promote new hair growth.

It’s important to note, though, that data on nitric oxide are based on the naturally occurring compound and can’t necessarily be translated to the nitric oxide precursors found in some pre-workouts.

Vitamins

Every aspect of your body requires adequate nutrition in order to thrive, including your hair. While correcting certain vitamin deficiencies could be beneficial for hair growth and strength, most people get enough of them through diet.

Vitamins present in pre-workouts are unlikely to promote hair loss (or reverse it).

Pre-workouts are an unlikely direct cause of hair loss. Rather than no longer taking yours (assuming it’s supporting your fitness goals), what else can you do to prevent hair loss and promote hair regrowth while maintaining an active lifestyle?

Here are some ideas:

  • Avoid using products containing harsh compounds like sulfates or alcohol, opting instead for gentler and more natural options.

  • Sport looser hairstyles versus tightly pulled-back ones, and use soft scrunchies instead of rubber bands that can damage your hair.

  • Eat a balanced diet rich in nutrients like vitamin C, biotin and iron. You can get these from various fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, seeds and lean proteins.

  • Drink plenty of water, as hydration is essential for healthy hair.

  • Get enough sleep to help manage stress that may otherwise contribute to hair loss.

  • Protect your hair from the sun by wearing a topical UV-protective hair product or hat.

If this doesn’t help, you’ve got other options.

In the easiest scenario, your hair loss is caused by telogen effluvium. Removing the stressor (possibly your pre-workout) should help get things back to normal.

Of course, it’s not always that simple.

For more complex genetic or hormonal triggers of male pattern baldness, two hair loss treatments are widely prescribed:

  • Finasteride. This is the generic version of Propecia®. Finasteride can help reduce the levels of DHT — up to a 70 percent reduction in some studies — and stop the progression of hair loss.

  • Minoxidil. This is the generic version of Rogaine®, which can help treat telogen effluvium and male pattern baldness. It increases blood flow to hair follicles and helps stimulate hair growth. Some studies have shown minoxidil to result in a 12 to 18 percent increase in hair growth over 48 weeks.

Often, a combination of these two medications is prescribed in some form, like our topical minoxidil & finasteride spray, and found to be beneficial for hair regrowth.

Other treatment options that may help include:

Certain haircare products could also help maintain the strength and integrity of your hair and prevent further loss, such as:

You can order many of these products online, without a prescription, through our telehealth platform.

Hair loss treatments, delivered

When it comes to hair loss, pre-workout supplements are unlikely culprits on their own. Still, guys with existing hormonal imbalances or who are genetically predisposed to male pattern baldness might be more likely to experience hair loss as a side effect of adding something like a pre-workout.

There’s no easy answer, which is annoying. If you’re concerned about pre-workout hair loss:

  • Speak with your healthcare provider. A health professional will be the best source of medical advice when it comes to identifying what may be triggering your hair loss. They’ll also be able to make recommendations and referrals based on your individual symptoms and goals.

  • Consider other supplements. Rather than using a multi-ingredient pre-workout, consider supplements with a shorter ingredients list that may help support your workouts. For instance, BCAAs, creatine, caffeine or protein powder.

  • Practice healthy lifestyle habits. Like other aspects of health, hair loss can be multifaceted. Eating a nutrient-rich diet, managing stress, getting enough sleep and being gentle with your hair can help reduce excessive damage and loss.

If you’re experiencing hair loss, we can help you identify the potential underlying causes and navigate the next steps for treatment. Start by taking our free hair loss quiz.

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Hims & Hers has strict sourcing guidelines to ensure our content is accurate and current. We rely on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations. We strive to use primary sources and refrain from using tertiary references. See a mistake? Let us know at [email protected]!

This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. The information contained herein is not a substitute for and should never be relied upon for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment. Learn more about our editorial standards here.

Knox Beasley, MD

Dr. Knox Beasley is a board certified dermatologist specializing in hair loss. He completed his undergraduate studies at the United States Military Academy at West Point, NY, and subsequently attended medical school at Tulane University School of Medicine in New Orleans, LA. 

Dr. Beasley first began doing telemedicine during his dermatology residency in 2013 with the military, helping to diagnose dermatologic conditions in soldiers all over the world. 

Dr. Beasley is board certified by the American Board of Dermatology, and is a Fellow of the American Academy of Dermatology.

Originally from Nashville, TN, Dr. Beasley currently lives in North Carolina and enjoys spending time outdoors (with sunscreen of course) with his wife and two children in his spare time. 

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