The relationship between working out and hair loss is a tricky one. It’s a great example of how you can have “too much of a good thing.” In an era where fitness and losing weight are high on many a person’s priorities, some of us are now exercising to the extent that we accelerate the hair loss process.
On the other hand, not getting enough exercise will have the same effect. This is where working out and hair loss gets a little tricky. If you incorporate fitness into your weekly routine, you can combat stress and curtail the activities of hormones such as cortisol. As a result, you’re less likely to lose your hair.
But, excessive exercise can force your body into a different kind of stress state. Part of this stress state involves a permanent circulation of hormones that accelerate the hair loss process.
Feeling confused? Don’t worry. The short answer to striking the right balance between working out and hair loss is to do enough to stay healthy, but don’t engage in too much endurance exercise. However, having a better understanding of training, how it can increase or reduce hair loss, and the importance of balancing your nutrients alongside your fitness regime is essential for healthy hair growth.
How too much exercise leads to hair loss
The workout industry is booming, and there are no signs of it slowing down yet. Activities such as Crossfit and trainers who promote long blasts of HIIT have their place. Engaging in them every day might lead to a leaner body, but it might mean kissing goodbye to our hair.
You place your body into a state of chronic stress
While we all know that working out can reduce stress, overdoing it places your body into a ‘state of chronic stress.’ Thanks to research that was carried out in Australia, we now know that exercising for two hours per day or more has multiple adverse effects on your body, which could then promote hair loss.
Leaky gut syndrome
While the title might sound silly, leaky gut syndrome is a severe condition. Usually, our guts feature cell walls that allow the right nutrients to seep through to our bloodstream while stopping toxins from entering. If we exercise too much and develop leaky gut syndrome, those toxins go where they like.
Leaky gut syndrome can then lead to excessive diarrhea, which affects how well your body absorbs nutrients. It also increases your risk of developing chronic autoimmune diseases, such as Crohn’s and Systemic Lupus. If you are not consuming enough zinc, Vitamin E, or Vitamin A, you aren’t allowing the cells on your scalp to thrive and promote excellent hair growth. Similarly, triggering inflammatory processes causes your hair follicles to struggle, which again reduces hair growth.
A reduction in serotonin and tryptophan
Serotonin and tryptophan don’t just exist to make you happy and help you sleep better. If you have a condition such as trichotillomania, having more serotonin will stop you pulling your hair out. Similarly, tryptophan plays a role in regulating your growth factors and reducing inflammation. Working out too much sends you into ‘Overtraining Syndrome,’ which means you produce less of these hormones. Seeing as we need both of them to enjoy a good night’s sleep, which is when our bodies’ cells regenerate, we’re also reducing the likelihood that we’ll sleep enough to repair the damage our hair follicles encounter throughout the day.
In women, too much exercise may lead to anemia
A study published in the European Journal of Haematology revealed that women who exercise too much metabolize the iron their blood cells depend on faster than those who take a balanced approach to working out. The study focused on athletes, who showed signs of an iron imbalance following their training programs.
How does this translate to hair loss exactly? If you develop iron-deficiency anemia and let it become too severe, your body no longer has a plentiful store of hemoglobin to transport oxygen. Haemoglobin is the element of your blood cells that carries oxygen and then drops it off at the tissues that need it, and it requires iron to form. When you don’t have enough, your body has to choose where it will send oxygen too. Like the logical creature it is, it carries oxygen to vital organs, and your hair follicles are at the bottom of the list.
Your workout environment has an impact on your hair
When you workout, the environment you choose has an impact on your hair. While exposing yourself to them every so often isn’t likely to cause harm, submerging yourself in them steadily may increase hair loss.
Sweating too much, lactic acid, and keratin
Sweating and exercise go hand in hand. The more you push your body, the more you sweat. Within your sweat, you will find a substance called lactic acid.
At the same time, your hair’s growth depends on keratin. Keratin allows your hair to absorb the nutrients it needs to thrive and grow. When you get too little of it, your hair may become brittle, or it might start to fall out.
Occasional exposure to sweat and the lactic acid it brings won’t cause too much harm. However, if you’re always sweating and exposing your scalp to more lactic acid, your scalp won’t thank you for it.
The chlorine you find in swimming pools and your hair
We all love the relaxing feeling that comes with submerging yourself into a pool. However, if you’re spending too much time in one that’s chlorinated, you’re disrupting the hair growth cycle.
A study conducted by the Society of Cosmetic Chemistry revealed that too much chlorine alters your scalp’s pH levels. With that pH imbalance comes an environment where keratin is unable to thrive. So, if your primary mode of exercise is swimming and you’re spending a lot of time in the pool, you’re also reducing your scalp’s keratin production.
Anabolic steroids and hair loss
One of the primary causes of drug-induced hair loss is anabolic steroids. While we accept that not everyone who works out digs into their steroid pack, we feel it’s worth mentioning that the muscles you gain come at the expense of the hair on your head.
The science behind this is rather simple. Anabolic steroids increase your testosterone, and testosterone plays a leading role in making your hair fall out. If you enjoy working out and you’re using steroids, step away from them if you want to keep your hair.
Working out too much and your hormones
Like everything we do throughout the day, working out affects our hormones. As they travel around our bodies, hormones tinker with various processes. Hair growth is one of them.
Reducing your estrogen levels
Excessive exercise reduces your estrogen levels. As a hormone that mainly occurs in women, it’s essential for healthy hair growth. It’s for this reason that pregnant women see a sudden change in their hair, where it becomes more lustrous and grows thicker.
On the other side of the female hormone cycle, there’s the menopause. Women who go through the menopause produce less estrogen. It is thought that this is due to the way estrogen balances out testosterone levels in women. The more testosterone you have, the less hair you grow. Oh, and you may also see it appearing again in weird places; such as on your face.
Those rising testosterone levels naturally follow
No matter how much you exercise, you’re going to increase your testosterone levels. To an extent, our bodies can ‘compensate’ for this, which means we don’t experience any unwanted side effects. However, if we increase our testosterone levels beyond the stage where our bodies can compensate, our hair begins to fall out.
One form of testosterone, DHT, shrinks the hair follicles. At first, this makes the hair thinner. Eventually, the hair follicles shrink to the point that they no longer produce hair. While the relationship between DHT and hair loss is complicated, we do know that it plays a significant role in male pattern baldness. As such, if you are increasing your DHT levels while experiencing conditions such as androgenic hair loss, you’re quickening the process rather than making it slow down.
Striking the right balance
As we’ve already mentioned, not exercising is bad for your hair too. You, therefore, need to strike the right balance. According to the Mayo Clinic, we only need half-an-hour of exercise every day. It’s okay to spread this over a certain number of days if exercising daily isn’t feasible, but fitting it in is essential nonetheless.
If you’re not feeling the motivation to get out there and enjoy your daily dose of exercise, understanding how it encourages hair growth may help.
Getting the right amount of exercise can reduce hair loss
As you might have guessed, getting the right amount of exercise has an impact on your hormones. The hormones it affects will either slow down hair loss or promote healthier growth.
Irisin isn’t one of those hormones that we think about often. In fact, scientists have only just discovered irisin in the last two years, which means it’s a hormone we don’t know much about. What we do know, though, is that it achieves the following:
- You reduce your body weight. If you suffer from obesity, your body may develop something called ‘insulin resistance.’ A study published in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology revealed that insulin resistance increases hair loss in men by imbalancing their androgenic hormones.
- It slows down the aging process. The aging process will almost always lead to thinner hair. As such, getting the right amount of exercise and injecting a little irisin into your body could ensure your hair stays thick.
Human Growth Hormone
While taking HGH supplements without the guidance of a medical professional is dangerous, producing it through exercise can stimulate healthier hair follicles. A study performed on men and women found that small bursts of exercise throughout the day increases growth hormone levels. So, if you’re struggling to fit exercise into your daily routine, splitting it into chunks will allow you to reach your target workout goal and produce the HGH you need for healthier hair follicles.
Lowering those cortisol levels
Although we’ve already mentioned that too much exercise can increase the amount of cortisol you produce, getting the right amount will lower it. As a stress hormone, cortisol hurts most areas of our bodies. When you have too much cortisol, your hyaluronan levels deplete. Hyaluronan is central to healthy hair follicle development. It draws moisture into your scalp, which may also reduce the severity of conditions such as dermatitis and psoriasis. As such, getting your weekly recommended dose of exercise will reduce cortisol, boost your hyaluronan, and slow down hair loss.
Theoretically, if your hair loss occurs as a result of conditions such as psoriasis, drawing more hyaluronan to the area may result in healing. As a result, those areas where hair loss occurred stand a stronger chance of cure, leading to hair regrowth.
Make sure you pay attention to your nutritional needs
If your excessive exercise regime is in the pursuit of weight loss, there’s a chance you’re not helping your body revive with the nutrients it needs. In addition to leading to muscle wastage, this will result in your skin looking sallow, and your hair falling out.
Adding more protein to your diet to increase hair growth
One protein your hair relies upon for growth and regrowth is FGF5. A study published in Cell found that this protein acts as a signaling factor that stimulates hair growth. Your body depends on a healthy protein intake to break down the amino acids that it later reconverts into essential proteins such as FGF5. As such, if you’re working out a lot and not adding enough lean proteins to your diet, you’re missing out on a signaling factor that will help your hair grow.
Don’t forget to boost your iron levels too
As we’ve already mentioned, exercising excessively is especially likely to reduce iron levels in women. If you’re training for an event such as a triathlon, try to get more iron from leafy green vegetables, or even taking supplements.
Vitamins C, E, and A
Did you know that Vitamin A produces sebum? While sebum is a pain when it starts to make our hair look greasy, our follicles love it. Without sebum, we’re more likely to encounter conditions such as psoriasis and dermatitis. You can fill up on Vitamin A through vegetables such as carrots.
As for Vitamin C, it’s responsible for nourishing just about every cell in your body. As a potent antioxidant, it protects your hair’s follicles from the pollutants they come into contact with on a daily basis. Also, you need it for iron to work its magic. As such, there’s no sense in boosting your iron levels when you’re short on Vitamin C. To get more, turn to apparent sources, such as oranges and broccoli.
Finally, Vitamin E is the nutrient that protects our hair from damage. Whether it’s exposure to UV rays or central heating drying out our skin, Vitamin E brings moisture back to the area and reduces the damage your environment causes. You can get more by eating foods such as nuts or using topical agents such as emu oil.
Zinc and hair growth
A diet that’s lacking in zinc can have some severe side effects. First, your body relies on it for DNA synthesis, so if you’re not getting enough cells everywhere will struggle to regenerate. A study conducted in the seventies found that children with anorexia were more likely to have lower zinc levels and hair loss. This may indicate that incorporating more zinc into your diet will promote growth.
Overall, whether you’re exercising regularly or exercising too much, you need to ensure you meet your nutritional needs. Exercising affects all of the above vitamins and nutrients, so make sure your diet incorporates them accordingly.
Maintaining the right electrolyte balance
Last, but by no means least, exercise will always cause an electrolyte imbalance. Your electrolytes involve essential minerals, including sodium, potassium, and magnesium. When you sweat, you lose these minerals. While your kidneys may try to cling to them, you might need to take action yourself to help them along.
According to the American Sports Academy, using a sports drink will address the imbalance your exercise causes. However, this only applies to those who workout for more than ninety minutes. Anything less than that and you can rely on water instead.
As you can see, the relationship between working out and hair loss is complicated. Yes, spending too much time in the gym will cause your hair to fall out, especially if you’re not helping your body heal with the right nutrients. Otherwise, don’t use this as an excuse to ditch exercise altogether. Achieving your weekly recommended amount is conducive to good hair growth, and it’s down to you to strike the right balance.