Isaac Robertson
Published by Isaac Robertson
Fact checked by Donald Christman, BHSc FACT CHECKED
Last updated: May 6, 2021

It’s a common myth that creatine is a steroid. However, it couldn’t be further away from the truth.

I see people at the gym who fear this common supplement, so I decided to break this myth once and for all.

Keep reading to find out everything you need to know about creatine and include it in your workout for more gains!

What is Creatine?

Pouring creatine inside a contrainer

Creatine is a molecule our bodies produce naturally.

However, the body has 80–130 grams of creatine, which is just half of what we need, and spends between two and four grams per day with regular activity.

Since high-intensity training requires higher creatine intake, we need to consume it in the form of a supplement.

Creatine plays an essential role in transporting and storing energy in our muscle cells and is processed by the liver and kidneys.

Despite the widespread fear, it's one of the most popular supplements because of its incredible benefits.

Moreover, scientists have collected data that proves this is the most effective supplement for explosive activities, weight lifting, high-intensity training, football, sprinting, baseball, and other sports that require short bursts of energy [1].

Is It Safe?

A guy looking at creatine's nutrition facts

Yes, taking creatine is absolutely safe.

The molecule is actually found throughout our bodies, and 95% of it is stored in our muscles.

There’s a widespread myth that creatine resembles anabolic steroids.

However, steroids are banned in the Olympics because they mimic testosterone, which isn’t the case with creatine.

The professional sports leagues, International Olympic Committee, and the National Collegiate Athletic Association allow the use of creatine, although the NCAA doesn’t allow college athletes to use the supplement.

Besides producing it from amino acids, our bodies also get creatine from fish and red meat.

Sadly, our diets (even the perfect diets) and natural creatine levels typically can't maximize muscle stores of the compound.

The average stores are about 120 mmol/kg, while creatine supplements can raise these stores to around 140–150 mmol/kg.

This stored creatine helps our muscles produce more energy during intense workouts and enhance our performance.

As soon as we fill the creatine stores in our muscles, the excess is broken down into creatinine — a creatine byproduct, which our liver and kidneys then metabolize, and we excrete it in the urine.

What Does It Do to Your Body?

A guy drinking a creatine filled drink

Creatine isn't only good for weight gain and getting lean muscle mass, but it can also improve overall health and athletic performance in a couple of ways.

For example, the primary role of creatine in intense exercise is to increase the muscle creatine phosphate stores. The additional stores are then used to produce more ATP (adenosine triphosphate) — the energy currency stored in our muscle cells and the only acceptable energy currency for the body. ATP essential energy source for intensity exercise and heavy lifting.

Benefits and Effects of creatine include:

  • Boosted workload — using creatine allows for more total work or volume in a single training session, which is essential for long-term muscle growth. To put it simply — creatine will give you energy for more reps during your workout, which will result in bigger muscles.
  • Creatine causes improved cell signaling that helps post-workout muscle repair and new and bigger muscles.
  • Using creatine raises anabolic hormones — researchers have noted a rise in hormones, such as IGF-1, after taking creatine, which has bigger muscles as a result [2].
  • Increased cell hydration — when you take creatine, the water content in your muscle cells grows, enlarging your muscles.
  • Increased levels of creatine reduce protein breakdown, which again results in bigger muscles.
  • Lower myostatin levels allow for new muscle growth.

Using creatine supplements can also improve strength in older adults and increase phosphocreatine stores in your brain, which may result in improved brain health and even prevent neurological disease.

Also Read:

3 Major Benefits of Creatine

A person pouring creatine inside a bottle container

"Creatine should not be viewed as another gimmick supplement; its ingestion is a means of providing immediate, significant improvements." — Matt Weik, fitness entrepreneur.

Using creatine can bring you a lot of benefits, including:

1. Strength and Exercise Performance

Creatine improves power, strength, and performance during intense workouts.

One research revealed that adding creatine to your training program can increase your:

  • Strength by 8%
  • Weightlifting performance by 14%
  • Bench press one-rep max by up to 43%

These results come from comparing training with creatine use to training alone.

Research also shows that just 28 days of supplementing can increase bench-press performance by 6% and bike-sprinting performance by 15% in high-performing athletes.

Creatine causes your body to increase the capacity for producing ATP, which results in incredible results.

2. Muscle Mass

Building muscle mass with creatine is effective in the short and long term. One 12-week study observing weightlifters [3] revealed that creatine increases muscle fiber growth 2–3 times more compared to training alone. The total body mass increased and also doubled with a one-rep max

3. Quick Weight Gain

If you’re looking for a quick weight gain, creatine is the supplement you should be using.

Research has discovered that after one week of high-dose (20 grams/day) creatine use, the user's weight can increase by some 2–6 pounds.

This is primarily due to increased water in the muscles, but over time the body weight continues to expand, and actual muscles grow. Just to be clear, the weight gain doesn't come from fat, but from muscles, which is a positive adaptation for the majority of athletes

How Does it Affect Liver and Kidney?

Creatine powder spilled with a dumb bell on side

Creatine can raise levels of creatinine in your blood. Since creatinine is typically measured to diagnose kidney or liver problems, people falsely believe that creatine is harming the kidneys and liver.

Luckily, multiple studies have proven that there are no side effects to long-term use of creatine.

One of the studies even lasted for four years and concluded the same.

Still, you have to be careful with creatine and sports nutrition in general if you have a history of kidney disease.

Even if you're completely healthy, you shouldn't use too much creatine — always follow the recommended dosage.

Is Creatine a Steroid? The Final Verdict

The final answer is — no, creatine is not a steroid.

It’s an essential amino acid that brings lots of health and fitness benefits to its users, including weight increase, more power, increased strength, and bigger muscles.

However, like with any other supplement, you have to be careful not to overuse it.

Now that we busted one of the main myths in the fitness industry, tell us — Are you using creatine? If so, which type?

Have you noticed any improvements in your strength, weight, and performance? Share your experience and thoughts in the comments!


References:

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2780977/
  2. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/15870625/
  3. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/10449017/

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