Updated: Oct 12
Scientifically Reviewed by Michael Sharpe, MSc.
TL;DR: Creatine is not a steroid and has no chemical similarities. In terms of muscle growth and strength benefits, it may be similar to anabolic steroids.
Creatine is often touted as being a steroid by some people, whether this is due to its effects or claiming those who take creatine are cheating like those who use anabolic steroids.
To find out if creatine is a steroid or similar to a steroid, I'll compare it in a few ways:
Creatine has no similarity to any steroid (anabolic or corticosteroids). It has no chemical or structural similarity and does not work in the same way.
It's also legal and can be purchased over-the-counter essentially anywhere. (here's our recommendation for a creatine monohydrate supplement)
What Exactly Is a Steroid?
There are two ways to define the term "steroids." One is the accepted scientific definition, while the other is a social term.
A steroid, according to scientific definition, is any chemical with four conjoined cycloalkane rings; precisely, three cyclohexane rings and a cyclopentane ring make up the structure that characterises a steroid molecule.
Cholesterol is a fundamental steroid molecule present in many foods and produced in the body.
It is then converted into steroid hormones such as testosterone and oestrogen. Take note of the four rings; these are what scientifically define steroids, which also include substances like vitamin D, testosterone, and dietary cholesterol.
For the social definition it generally refers to chemicals that are muscle growth, strength, or endurance enhancing or are linked to hormones.
People who are uneducated on this matter may class many supplements as steroids, simply because they improve performance.
In some countries, anabolic steroids and corticosteroids are illegal or prescription only.
What Is Creatine?
Creatine is a tripeptide compound made up of three amino acids:
It lacks the steroid backbone and thus does not fall under the scientific definition of a steroid, sharing no resemblance with a steroid structurally. It's also not illegal and can be purchased over-the-counter or online essentially anywhere.
Creatine increases the production of ATP, the muscles major energy source. It has other abilities, too. Anabolic steroids increase muscle protein synthesis by way of promoting anabolic signalling pathways.
Creatine does not share any of the same mechanisms as anabolic steroids do, meaning they have no similarity in their function.
Therefore, creatine has no similarity to anabolic steroids, other than the benefit it may provide in terms of strength, endurance, and muscle growth.
The information provided in this article is not intended to replace professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the guidance of a physician or other competent professional before following advice or taking any supplement. See our terms and conditions.