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Can Protein Drinks Cause Premature Balding?

Can Protein Drinks Cause Premature Balding?
Dr. Constance Odom, MD Picture of Dr. Constance Odom, MD

Medically reviewed by

Written by our editorial team.

Last Edited 7 min read

With many COVID-19 restrictions being lifted across the country, you may find yourself back to your daily workout routine in the gym or with your trainer. For those who are looking to get fit and build muscle, a protein shake has become a popular nutritional option taken either before, during, or after a workout. The body relies on a protein for the growth and repair of muscles, so a deficiency in protein could make it harder for your body to heal quickly after a training session. Reduced healing could lead to overtraining and increases the risk of injury. Because it is easy to consume and contains a high amount of protein, a protein drink has been a way to satisfy the body’s needs. It takes the body more time to digest and breakdown solid food, whereas a drink has a more efficient delivery of nutrition in the areas around the body.

The Trouble With Protein Drinks

Over the last few years, several different studies have come out concerning the impact of protein drinks on balding. Some studies have found that consuming too much whey protein can both accelerate and exaggerate the hair loss process. According to researchers, when consuming whey protein products (or other protein supplements) in conjunction with muscle-building exercise and fitness routines, it can significantly alter the body’s natural hormone levels. Specifically, it can increase the testosterone levels in makes to the point where it helps speed up the balding process. Creatine and inorganic growth hormones are also common additives protein drinks, both of which increase the T levels in the body.

The Changes in Hormone Levels

The body needs testosterone, just it need protein, for the development and maintenance of muscle mass and strength. When this hormone level is balanced, it can also create and preserve your bone density. When your levels drop, your bones can become brittle and weak, increasing the potential for injuries such as a break or fracture. Too little testosterone can also create the opposite of an anabolic state (muscle-building) with your muscles, creating instead a catabolic condition where the muscle breaks down. Your body decides to break down muscle in the body to supplement its need for protein, converting the protein found in your muscles into energy. Your hormone levels impact your energy levels during a workout and boost your endurance. T levels also contribute to your cognitive health, helping your learning and memory skills.

Low hormone levels can be detected through changes in your body, mood, and performance. For men, signs of a testosterone deficiency include decreased muscle strength and mass, reduced sex drive, poor bone mass and the development of osteoporosis, and increased body fat. Women aren’t typically associated with testosterone deficiencies, but low levels can be problematic for them as well. Signs include hot flashes, sleep disturbances, lost sex drive, and irritability. Women may also have problems with low boner density, loss of muscle mass, and loss of body hair.

Hormone levels that are too low can negatively impact your athletic performance, but T levels that are too high can also have an adverse effect. Your body takes the excess testosterone in the body and converts it into a chemical called dihydrotestosterone. DHT is the chemical linked to severe conditions of hair loss, where the hair follicles start to deteriorate and the growth process is altered. With increased levels of DHT, the hair follicle will eventually die, and any hair that was lost during the transition doesn’t grow back. Balding then occurs. While testosterone levels were to blame for the occasion, the use of a protein supplement (in conjunction with the exercise) had an impact on the elevated levels.

The Options for Nutrition


Not all protein drinks or supplements will have the same negative impact on your hair growth and loss as what has been mentioned. Dietary supplements and protein additives that are sourced from food sources don’t have the chemicals or additives like the ones associated with hair loss. Avoiding protein shakes or supplements that contain creatine and DHEA is important and can typically be done by using an organic alternative. You should also focus on keeping your hair healthy, incorporating plenty of fruits and vegetables in a balanced diet. Early intervention may be able to save you from embarrassment and frustration, as balding or thinning caused by the consumption of protein drinks may be reversible if you discontinue your use. However, if the overall cause of loss is related to the DHT levels in your body, you will need medical intervention. There are medications that can be used to bring your hormones back under control as well as encourage the growth of new hair. Talk to your doctor if you’ve noticed that your hair condition has been growing worse.


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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 physician about the risks and benefits of any treatment. Nu Image Medical may not offer the medications or services mentioned in this article.