Is Your Workout Causing Hair Loss?

We all know there are numerous benefits of exercising.  In general, exercise will enhance your overall health.  Specifically, regular workouts will help control weight, fight chronic health conditions, improve mood, boost energy, and promote better sleep.

Hair Loss From ExerciseHowever, not all side effects of exercise are good.  Have you ever heard the phrase, “if a little is good, more must be better?”  That doesn’t hold true with exercise.  There is such a thing as excessive exercising – and it isn’t good.

Excessive exercising can cause sleep disorders, extreme fatigue, and actually decrease the effectiveness of your workouts.  If you are working out constantly, it probably means you are attentive to your appearance.  Therefore, this last side effect is probably the most worrisome to you; excessive exercising can cause hair loss.

The Causes of Hair Loss

Hair loss falls into two categories: permanent and temporary.  There is still a bit of mystery around the cause of permanent hair loss, but most believe it is caused by a genetic predisposition to baldness.

What you need to worry about is temporary hair loss.  Don’t be lulled into a false sense of security – just because the hair loss isn’t permanent doesn’t mean it won’t significantly alter your appearance.

Temporary hair loss is usually caused by one or more lifestyle choices that negatively affect your hair’s growth cycle.  The three most common causes of temporary hair loss – poor nutrition, excessive stress, and improper hair care – are common conditions for most athletes.  Let’s take a look at each one.

Nutrition

Poor nutrition is the leading cause of temporary hair loss.  Most workout aficionados don’t give enough thought to their nutritional needs.  This is especially true of individuals who exercise to lose weight.

If you are trying to lose weight, you have probably limited the amount of calories you consume.  This will lead to weight loss – and hair loss.  Exercise too much and your body will use up necessary vitamins and nutrients faster than they get replenished.

Now, let’s take a look at the second most common cause of hair loss.

Stress

Stress can affect nearly every aspect of your health – your hair is no exception.  You’ve probably never thought of this, but exercise is a significant stressor for your body.  If you exercise excessively, you are subjecting your body to a state of chronic stress.

This is a good time to address the phrase “excessive exercise.”  What is considered excessive?  As general rule of thumb, if you are exercising for more than an hour on a daily basis, you are exercising too much.  No matter what type of workout you engage in, you should only do it 5 days (or less) per week.  Also, workouts should only last 45 minutes. There are of course exceptions to this rule, such as for pro athletes etc.

While not as common as nutrition and stress, there is another lifestyle condition that often leads to hair loss.

Hair Care

If you don’t show enough love to your locks, they will retaliate.  For example, if you don’t shower after your workout, sweat will buildup on your scalp.  This buildup will affect your hair’s health and could cause it to fall out.

Likewise, if you are using the same dirty, sweaty hat over and over, your hair will suffer.

Many athletes – especially females – like to have their hair out of the face while exercising.  However, excessive pulling or tugging on the hair leads to hair loss.  Super restrictive hairstyles like ponytails, pigtails, braids, or cornrows can literally take chunks of hair from your scalp.

Lastly, swimming in chlorinated pools will cause hair to dry out and break off.

Now that we have scared you half to death, we’ll tell you how to fix the problem.

Preventing and Reversing Hair Loss

Luckily, the three main causes of temporary hair loss – poor nutrition, excessive stress, and improper hair care – are easy to prevent and reverse.

Nutrition

Your body naturally prioritizes the distribution of nutrients.  It gives attention to vital organs first.  Then, any leftover nutrients are distributed to hair, skin and nails.

Therefore, it is important to eat plenty of nutrient rich foods.  Your hair thrives on folate, beta carotene, iron, biotin, zinc, vitamins B and C, omega-3 fatty acids, and protein.  For specific suggestions on what to eat, check out this article.

Now that we have solved your dieting drama, let’s focus on your stress level.

Stress

If you insist on stressing your body with multiple workouts each week, you must find ways to relax and reduce stress in other areas of your life.  Everyone has different stress management techniques.  We aren’t going to try telling you what to do.  We are just going to tell you to find something that works and do it!

Also, do everything in your power to make sure your workouts are as stress-free as possible.  Take the time to warm-up before your workout and cool-down after.  Plus, you’ll want to stretch your muscles thoroughly.  Injuries are the ultimate body stressor.

If you managed to take care of the two biggest causes of hair loss, the last restoration technique will be easy to implement.

Hair Care

Keep your scalp healthy and free of sweat and grim.  Rotate and wash your hats regularly.  Wash your hair with a mild pH-balanced shampoo once a week and use a protein-rich conditioner.

Reduce the amount of heat you apply to your hair via blow dryers and curling/flat irons.  Heat damages hair.

Replace tight, restricting hairstyles with looser options.  Be gentle when you brush and style your hair.

Before you get into a swimming pool, wet your hair with non-chlorinated water.  Your hair will soak up the regular water and hopefully won’t be damaged as badly by the chlorine.  If possible, get out of the pool and rinse your hair after 30 minutes of swimming.  Otherwise, wear a swim cap.  Also, make sure you wash your hair with shampoo after each pool workout.

There is no reason why you can’t have your cake and eat it too.  Exercise safely and minimally and you can hang on to your hair.  Work on improving your overall health and your hair will follow suit.

Guest author Jessica Clement writes about various health topics.  Lately, she has been doing a lot of research on hair loss; as a result of her efforts, more readers are understanding hair loss and its causes.

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20 Responses to “Is Your Workout Causing Hair Loss?”

  1. Jithin says:

    Hi Jessica

    I had a question regarding hair care. Say if I exerise 5 days a week and I shampoo only once, that means my hair will be sweaty for the remaining four days. If I do shampoo on all the 5 days, then it could lead to hair loss as well, so what do you suggest?

    • Hi Jithin,

      I think you may have misunderstood the article regarding how often you should wash your hair. I don’t think Jessica is suggesting you only wash your hair once a week. In fact she specifically says you should wash your hair after every workout, otherwise sweat will build up on your scalp, causing problems:

      “if you don’t shower after your workout, sweat will buildup on your scalp. This buildup will affect your hair’s health and could cause it to fall out.”

      I think what may have mislead you, is where she recommends you wash your hair once a week with a mild PH balanced shampoo or conditioner. This would be in addition to your normal daily hair washing.

      From our side, as athletes and fitness freaks, we certainly wouldn’t recommend you don’t wash your hair after a workout. I’d also recommend focussing on the nutrition side of things to counter any negative side effects that the stresses of daily life may have on your hair.

      I hope this helps.

      Brendon

  2. Jithin says:

    Thanks Brendon,

    I agree with the nutrition part is perhaps as important ,if not more than the shampoos. Honestly, I would prefer to have a set of shampoo and conditioner for regular use including after workouts. Is it good on the hair to have different types of shampoo (irrespective of ph ) ?

    What about these no-poo shampoos,i.e. home made shampoos?

    Regards
    Jithin

    • I have to be honest Jithin, I’m no expert on shampoos and hair loss to be honest. But I was a pro athlete and still do a lot of sport and gym etc, and I’m in the sea almost every day kitesurfing or surfing. I just use Head and Shoulders Anti Hair Fall. Not sure if it helps at all, but I haven’t found or tried any better alternative.

      I have heard though that it is good to wash your hair with a different shampoo every now and then to mix things up a bit. I guess it gets rid of any build up that one particular shampoo might create. It kind of makes sense to me, but I don’t really bother with it. That might address your question about different shampoos.

      Sorry I can’t be of more assistance, and I can’t get hold of the author of the article to offer her expertise.

      • Jithin says:

        Thanks for the advice. I guess it varies from person to person. I have heard Head and shoulders is bad because it contains two sulphate compounds that are bad for your hair(i cant be sure if this is true) , but it seems to be working well for you.

  3. Alicia says:

    I can attest to what your saying in this post! I have gone through a few bouts of crazy hair loss and the ONLY common thread in all of them was that I started an exercise regimen a couple months prior. It’s very discouraging. The last time it happened, I said to myself, “Well, I can either choose to have this muffin top or terrible hair!” It’s been several years now since I’ve had an episode of hair loss, but I’m back on a health kick and fear that I’ll just have to deal with the consequences. The whole time, I thought I was eating the proper amount of nutrients and exercising in healthy quantities, but now I wonder if I completely misjudged the amount of calories I actually need and how much exercise I even need to do to look and feel better. The weight dropped at a normal pace and I can’t say that I was terribly hungry all of the time. This time around though, I am plotting myself more calories and am taking it easy on the exercise. Perhaps I can work up to more strenuous workouts, but for now, just a bit of simple cardio and resistance training will do and I will assess in a couple months how my hair feels about it. 🙂

    • Hi Alicia,

      Thank you for sharing your experiences with us. We really hope this time around your hair will love your workout routine and diet. We wish you lots of success!

      Brendon

  4. Pennye S. says:

    I am currently experiencing this hair loss and it has been exactly 2 months since I started exercising and dieting. I work out 5 days a week for two hours a day and after reading all this I am definitely cutting back on that. I don’t want to lose my hair, that’s for certain. I’m going to cut back on my exercise drastically and up my protein intake as well as start a multi vitamin to replace minerals I’ve apparently lost and not replenished sufficiently despite a healthy diet of lean meats, vegetables, and fruits and whole grains. I have found this article to be most helpful.

    • Hi Pennye,

      Thanks for your input and positive feedback. I’m sorry to hear that you’re going to cut back on your training. Sounds like you’ve been on a really good health streak. Maybe you should try making a few small adjustments first and see if that improves anything, and definitely make sure you are getting the correct amounts of nutrients, vitamins and minerals etc, as I’m sure that will help as well.

      If you see an improvement, please let us know what you did and how it helped.

      Thank you.

      Brendon

      • Pennye S. says:

        I’m not going to stop training completely but maybe the suggested 45 minutes per day and only 4 days instead of 5. I’m doing a lot of heavy circuit and strength training and lately I have felt very fatigued and drained. So definitely will let you know how things turn out. I’m a bit freaked out by this quite frankly and practically in tears. I’ve got to fix the damage I’ve apparently done to myself by working out too aggressively.

        • I’d personally recommend you aim for at least an hour, since you’ve already been for two hours. 45min is probably aimed more at people who aren’t used to getting much exercise, and I don’t really agree with the author on this aspect. As far as how many times a week you train, just keep in mind that your muscles need to rest to grow stronger. If you are training different muscle groups each day, then that’s fine, but if you’re doing a full body workout every day, then I’d rather stick a rest day between each training session. The way training works is that you tear and break the muscle fibers when you train. Then when they heal and repair themselves they get stronger than they were before. You’ve got to allow for this process, otherwise you’re defeating the purpose.

          I don’t really know what you are doing exactly, so I can’t really give you advice, but it it were me, rather than reduce my training intensity and duration, I’d rather reduce the frequency. So instead of reducing from 2 hours 5 times a week to 45min 4 times a week, I’d look at doing 1.5 hours 3 times a week, with the same intensity (assuming you’re not overdoing it on the intensity and hurting yourself). That way you’re getting the exercise your body needs, but giving it more time to recover in between. This also gives you a few more days where your hair isn’t burdened with sweat and any of the other issues the author raised in the article.

          But the best advice I can give you is to speak to a professional at your gym who is familiar with your level, your training program and your diet, and ask their opinion.

  5. naveed says:

    hi! i am naveed. i have a question about hair loss. By the way i am 15 years old boy. recently i was on diet, and i faced a lot of hair loss. i lose 23 kg in 3 months. my question is that my hair loss is temporary? my hair loss started just right after my dieting. will my hair loss stop? i am not facing any hair loss recently. because i have shortened by hair, as like a bald head. So, when my hair will get long , will my hair loss will start again? And please, can u tell me how much calories i need a day, i am not so active, like going out! so i am like indoor boy! i stopped workout (normal workout like 40 min a day) , because of my hair loss. SO please answer my question! thanks 🙂

    • Hi Naveed,

      I’m really sorry to hear about your hair loss problems. It is possible that a combination of an intense weight-loss program that restricted important nutritional intake and intense exercise could have contributed to your hair loss, however we aren’t experts on the subject of hair loss, and the original author who is the expert is no longer available to comment. So I’d highly recommend that you go and see a specialist about this issue. We definitely don’t think you should be cutting exercise out entirely, and would rather recommend that you follow a balanced diet, exercise regularly and reduce your stress as much as possible.

      As far as I know though, your hair loss isn’t permanent if it was caused by any of the above factors.

      Regarding how many calories you need a day, this is not easy to answer, as there are many variables that need to be taken into account. The UK Department of Health Estimated Average Requirements (EAR) are a daily calorie intake of 1940 calories per day for women and 2550 for men, however factors that affect your personal daily calorie needs include your age, height and weight, your basic level of daily activity, and your body composition.

      To give you an idea though, here’s a weight maintenance calculator that can estimate your daily calorie requirements:

      http://www.caloriecontrol.org/healthy-weight-tool-kit/weight-maintenance-calculator-men

      But for a more accurate calculation, you’d need to calculate your Body Mass Index (BMI) and your Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR).

      I hope this helps.

      Brendon

      • Naveed says:

        Thankyou for your advise 🙂 . I really appreciate your answer about my hair loss. And yeah i will start my workout again. Because i think i will gain weight again. And i have one more question, when i workout , i mean after i finish my workout, i feel faint or like lighthead, what can i do to stop it? I have no idea, why i feel lighthead right after my workout. Any advise will be helpful. Thankyou!
        Naveed

        • Naveed, it sounds like your blood sugar levels are low or you are running out of energy at the end of your workout. Try eating a healthy balanced meal about an hour before you train. Avoid sugary foods and drinks like chocolates, sweets and sodas. If this doesn’t help, I suggest you see your doctor so they can do tests to make sure everything is ok. While it probably is just a matter of lack of fuel for your body, you really don’t want to mess with things like this.

          Of course if you were dieting and restricting calories at the time, that could definitely explain this.

          Best of luck.

          Brendon

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  7. Alex says:

    So basically, you CAN train so hard your hair falls off xD I wonder if you also get the powers of invulnerability and being able to kill everything on One Punch too =p

  8. Luke says:

    Hi.
    I would like to know if using only water instead of a shampoo could help. Because I also have dandruff so I wonder if I could avoid using a shampoo. Anyway I’ve already tried any kind of shampoo but nothing worked

  9. Ashish Vashisht says:

    Hi,

    I am planning to start working out to gain muscle. I intend to take healthy diet and take good care of my hair with regular showers and shampoos. I will be doing a 45 minute workout 5 days a week. Will working out everyday increase my testosterone levels which is a pre cursor to DHT which causes hairfall ?


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