Is Creatine Natty Or Not?

by Nader Qudimat
Updated November 6, 2023

If there's one supplement that promises but yet still delivers, it's creatine.

Creatine is a supplement that promises to boost your performance, but there's a debate about its "nattiness."

Is it natural, or does it fall into the category of steroids?

Let's dive in and find out.

Is Creatine Natty? Quick Answer

Creatine falls under the "natty" category and isn't a steroid.

That's because your body naturally produces creatine, and taking it as a supplement doesn't introduce artificial hormones.

What Does "Natty" Even Mean?

In bodybuilding, "natty" is short for natural.

It refers to athletes who don't use performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs) like anabolic steroids.

The term celebrates individual genetic potential and health.

Recommended: Are you still natty if you take pre-workout?

Steroids: What You Should Know

What Are Steroids, Anyway?

Steroids are a class of organic compounds with a specific molecular structure.

They include many substances, from hormones like testosterone and cortisol to certain vitamins and medications.

Unlike creatine, steroids function by entering a cell and activating specific genes, leading to the production of proteins.

This is a vastly different mechanism of action compared to creatine, which primarily functions in cellular energy metabolism.

The Many Faces Of Steroids

  • Anabolic Steroids: These are synthetic versions of the male sex hormone testosterone. They're often used to build muscle mass and enhance athletic performance.
  • Corticosteroids: These are used to reduce inflammation and are commonly prescribed for conditions like asthma and arthritis.
  • Sex Hormones: These include estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone, which are crucial for sexual development and reproduction.
  • Mineralocorticoids: These help control the balance of minerals and water in your kidneys.
  • Vitamin D: Yes, even some vitamins are considered steroids!

Each of these steroids has its effects, uses, and potential side effects.

For instance, research has shown that anabolic steroids can lead to liver damage, cardiovascular issues, and even behavioral changes.

What's Not A Steroid

It's important to note that not all substances that enhance performance or treat medical conditions are steroids.

For example, creatine, as we've discussed, is not a steroid.

It doesn't have the hormonal structure or function that characterizes steroids.

So, next time you hear someone confusing creatine with steroids, you'll know better.

Anabolic Steroids: The Comprehensive Rundown

What Are Anabolic Steroids?

Anabolic steroids are synthetic variations of the male sex hormone testosterone.

They're designed to mimic the muscle-building and performance-enhancing effects of this hormone.

Unlike other types of steroids, such as corticosteroids, anabolic steroids are primarily used for their anabolic (tissue-building) properties.

The Big Players In The Anabolic Steroid Game

  • Testosterone: The natural hormone itself can be injected for muscle growth.
  • Dianabol: One of the most popular oral steroids, known for rapid muscle gain.
  • Trenbolone: Known for its powerful effects, including enhanced muscle growth and increased appetite.
  • Anadrol: Another oral steroid, effective for bulking up quickly.
  • Deca-Durabolin: Used for muscle growth and appetite stimulation, but it has a longer half-life, meaning it stays in your system longer.
  • Winstrol: Popular for cutting cycles to retain lean muscle.
  • Clenbuterol: Not a traditional anabolic steroid but is widely used for fat loss.
  • Anavar: Known for providing a lean look and is also good for strength.

Each of these steroids has its benefits, risks, and side effects.

For example, research has shown that the use of anabolic steroids can lead to liver toxicity, cardiovascular issues, and even behavioral changes.

The Legal And Health Implications

It's crucial to note that the use of anabolic steroids without a prescription is illegal in many countries.

They can also lead to severe health issues such as liver damage, heart problems, and even psychological effects like aggression and mood swings.

So, while anabolic steroids can offer quick results in terms of muscle gain and performance enhancement, they come with a hefty price tag concerning your health and legal standing.

Creatine: A Brief Overview

Creatine is one of the most researched sports supplements out there.

It's naturally produced in the human body and plays a vital role in energy metabolism.

Supplementing with creatine is known to enhance strength, increase lean body mass, and improve exercise performance.

However, it's important to note that these benefits augment what your body naturally does.

Is Creatine A Steroid? The In-Depth Analysis

Let's clear the air: Creatine is not a steroid.

It's a naturally occurring compound that your muscle cells use to generate energy when you're pushing those heavy weights.

Steroids, on the other hand, are synthetic substances that mimic hormones like testosterone.

They mess with your hormone receptors, but creatine doesn't play that game.

A study conducted in 2022 found that creatine and anabolic steroids have significantly different effects on fertility biomarkers.

Why Creatine Is Not In the Steroid Category

  • Hormonal Structure: Steroids are built around a specific four-ring carbon structure. Creatine doesn't have this structure, making it fundamentally different.
  • Body Functionality: Steroids like to pretend they're hormones and bind to your hormone receptors, throwing off your natural balance. Creatine doesn't do that; it's all about helping you produce energy.
  • Legal Standing: You can't just walk into a store and buy anabolic steroids; they're controlled substances. Creatine? You can pick it up at any health food store.
  • Backed by Science: This study specifically looked at how creatine and anabolic steroids affect fertility and found that they're as different as apples and oranges.

So, there you have it.

Creatine is not a steroid, both in how it's built and works in your body.

What Exactly Is A Steroid?

Steroids are a class of organic compounds that share a specific molecular structure.

They include hormones like testosterone and cortisol, certain vitamins and even some medications.

Steroids function by entering a cell and activating specific genes, leading to the production of proteins.

This is a vastly different mechanism of action compared to creatine, which primarily functions in cellular energy metabolism.

The Hormonal Aspect Of Steroids

Anabolic steroids, the type most commonly associated with athletic performance, are synthetic versions of testosterone.

They are designed to mimic the muscle-building effects of this male sex hormone.

When ingested, anabolic steroids bind to hormone receptors in the body, triggering changes at a cellular level that can result in increased muscle mass, among other effects.

Steroids And Athletic Performance

Anabolic steroids are known to enhance athletic performance, but they come with a host of side effects.

These can range from acne and hair loss to more severe issues like liver disease and cardiovascular problems.

Unlike creatine, steroids can provide an unfair advantage in athletic competitions, which is why they are banned in most sports.

The Legal Implications Of Steroids

Anabolic steroids are controlled substances in many countries, including the United States.

Possession or distribution without a prescription is illegal and can result in significant legal repercussions.

Creatine, on the other hand, is available over the counter and is not subject to such regulations.

The Ethical Debate Around Steroids

The use of anabolic steroids raises ethical questions, especially in competitive sports.

They provide an unfair advantage and can harm the user's health in the long run.

Creatine does not fall into this category.

It's a supplement that simply helps you maximize your natural abilities.

Steroids In Medicine

It's worth noting that not all steroids are bad.

Corticosteroids, for example, are used in medicine to treat conditions like asthma and arthritis.

These are different from anabolic steroids and have a different set of effects and side effects.

Steroids vs Creatine: The Ultimate Comparison

When it comes to muscle gains, both steroids and creatine are often mentioned.

But they're as different as night and day.

Let's break down how each works, what they do for your gains, and how they differ.

How Steroids Work

Steroids are synthetic compounds that mimic hormones like testosterone.

They enter your cells and activate specific genes.

This leads to the production of proteins that help in muscle growth and repair.

Steroids can give you rapid muscle gains, but they come with a host of side effects like liver damage and hormonal imbalances.

How Creatine Works

Creatine is a natural compound found in your muscles.

It helps produce ATP, which is the energy currency of your cells.

When lifting heavy or sprinting, creatine gives you that extra push.

It can help you lift more and sprint faster, which over time can lead to muscle gains.

What Gives You the Gains?

Steroids speed up protein synthesis, leading to rapid muscle growth.

But they can also lead to water retention, giving the illusion of even bigger gains.

Creatine, on the other hand, helps you perform better in the gym.

The better you perform, the more you can lift, and the more muscle you can gain.

The Differences

  • Mechanism: Steroids mess with your genes to produce more muscle protein. Creatine helps your cells produce more energy.
  • Side Effects: Steroids can mess up your liver and hormones. Creatine has far fewer side effects, mostly related to digestion.
  • Legality: Steroids are controlled substances. Creatine is over-the-counter.
  • Long-Term Effects: Steroids can lead to long-term health issues. Creatine is generally considered safe for long-term use.
  • Type of Gains: Steroids give you rapid but often unsustainable gains. Creatine gives you more gradual, sustainable gains.

The Similarities

  • Muscle Gains: Both can increase muscle mass, albeit through different mechanisms.
  • Performance: Both can enhance physical performance, but steroids increase muscle mass rapidly, while creatine does it by helping your muscles produce more energy.

So, whether it's steroids or creatine, each has its way of helping you gain muscle.

But they're different in how they work, their side effects, and their legality.

Choose wisely.

The Comprehensive Guide To Creatine's Benefits

Elevate Your Physical Performance

  • Muscle Strength: Creatine is more than just a buzzword in the fitness community; it's a scientifically proven way to enhance your muscle strength. It works by increasing your muscles' phosphocreatine stores, allowing for improved performance during high-intensity activities.
  • Endurance and Stamina: Not just for the weightlifters, creatine has also shown promise in boosting endurance. It helps in buffering lactic acid build-up, allowing you to push harder for longer periods.

These claims are not just anecdotal; they're supported by a wealth of scientific evidence.

Research has demonstrated that even vegetarians, who often have lower creatine levels, can see significant improvements in their physical performance.

Another study involving older adults found that creatine supplementation led to gains in both muscle mass and strength.

More Than Just A Muscle Booster

  • Mental Clarity and Cognitive Function: Creatine's benefits extend to the brain, improving cognitive functions like memory and quick thinking.
  • Potential Neurological Benefits: Some cutting-edge¬†research¬†is exploring creatine's role in neurological health, including its potential to mitigate symptoms of degenerative diseases like Parkinson's and Alzheimer's.

Creatine: A Safety Overview

What You Need To Know

  • General Safety: Creatine has been studied extensively and is generally considered safe within recommended guidelines.
  • Possible Side Effects: While largely safe, some individuals may experience minor gastrointestinal discomfort.

If you're still on the fence, let me put your mind at ease.

A comprehensive study found that even individuals with pre-existing muscle conditions tolerated creatine well, with no adverse effects.

Another recent study went so far as to suggest that creatine's benefits are not just for athletes but can be reaped by the general population across various life stages.

So, with all this information, are you ready to incorporate creatine into your wellness routine?

A Closer Look At Different Types Of Creatine

Creatine Monohydrate: The Gold Standard

Creatine Monohydrate is the most well-researched form of creatine, which you'll often see in scientific studies.

It's been proven effective in increasing muscle mass, strength, and exercise performance.

  • Most Studied: It's the darling of the scientific community when it comes to creatine research. Numerous athletes and bodybuilders swear by it.
  • Solubility: It's not the most soluble in water, but that's rarely a deal-breaker for its users. You might find some residue at the bottom of your glass, but a quick stir usually takes care of it.
  • Cost-Effectiveness: It's generally the most affordable option on the market, making it accessible for beginners and pros alike.

If you're looking for a reliable and effective form of creatine, Monohydrate is the way to go.

Research shows its effectiveness is well-documented and reliable.

It's also often recommended for those who are new to creatine supplementation.

Creatine Ethyl Ester: The Solubility King

Creatine Ethyl Ester is often marketed for its high solubility.

It mixes well with water, making it a convenient option for those who dislike the residue common with Monohydrate.

  • Solubility: Its high solubility means it dissolves almost instantly, making it a convenient choice for those always on the go.
  • Effectiveness: While it claims to be more effective due to better absorption, these claims are not strongly supported by research.

Although it's easy to mix, studies indicate it's less effective than Monohydrate in increasing muscle creatine levels.

So, you might be sacrificing effectiveness for convenience here.

Buffered Creatine (Kre-Alkalyn): The pH Balanced Choice

Buffered Creatine, also known as Kre-Alkalyn, is designed to have a higher pH level.

The idea is that this makes it more stable and reduces its conversion to creatinine, a waste product.

  • pH Level: The higher pH level is supposed to make it more stable, reducing its conversion to creatinine.
  • Effectiveness: It's often marketed as more effective due to this higher pH level, but research doesn't strongly support this claim.

While increased stability sounds appealing, research has yet to conclusively prove that it's more effective than Monohydrate.

So, it might not be worth the extra cost.

Creatine Hydrochloride (HCL): The Low Dose Option

Creatine HCL is highly soluble in water, which means you need a smaller dose compared to Monohydrate.

This can be a selling point for those who prefer taking smaller amounts.

  • Solubility: Its high solubility means you can take less of it, which is a plus for those mindful of their supplement intake.
  • Dosage: Because of this high solubility, lower doses are required, making it a cost-effective option in the long run.

While the lower dosage and high solubility are appealing, studies are still ongoing to determine its long-term effectiveness compared to Monohydrate.

The Final Word: Meta-Analysis Verdict

When it comes to the most reliable form of creatine, Monohydrate takes the cake.

A comprehensive meta-analysis supports its efficacy in improving muscle strength and power.

So, if you're looking for proven results, Monohydrate is your best bet.


Is Creatine Considered a Steroid?

No, creatine is not a steroid. It's a naturally occurring compound that helps your muscles produce energy during high-intensity exercise. Steroids, on the other hand, are synthetic substances that mimic hormones like testosterone.

Is Creatine Safe to Use?

Yes, creatine is generally considered safe when used as directed. Numerous studies have shown that it's non-toxic and has no serious side effects when taken in recommended doses.

How Much Creatine Should I Take?

The commonly recommended dosage is 5 grams per day. However, it's always best to consult a healthcare provider for personalized advice.

Can I Take Creatine and Pre-Workout Together?

Yes, you can take creatine and pre-workout together, but it's essential to check the ingredients in your pre-workout to ensure it doesn't already contain creatine.

Does Creatine Make You Gain Weight?

Creatine can lead to weight gain due to increased water retention in the muscles. This is usually a temporary change and not a gain in fat mass.

Is Creatine Only for Bodybuilders?

No, creatine can benefit various athletes, including runners, swimmers, and team sport athletes, by improving strength, power, and performance.

Does Creatine Affect Kidneys?

There's no conclusive evidence to suggest that creatine adversely affects kidney function in healthy individuals. However, those with pre-existing kidney issues should consult a healthcare provider.

Can I Take Creatine on Rest Days?

Yes, taking creatine on rest days can help maintain elevated muscle creatine stores, which may benefit your next workout.

Does Creatine Expire?

Creatine does have a shelf life, usually around two years. Always check the expiration date on the packaging.

Is Creatine Vegan?

Most creatine supplements are synthetic and not derived from animal products, making them suitable for vegans.

Additional Resources

For those diving deeper into the world of fitness supplements, here are some valuable resources to guide you:

The Bottom Line On Creatine And Steroids

Creatine and steroids are fundamentally different in structure, function, and impact on athletic performance.

While creatine is a natural supplement that aids in energy production, steroids are hormonal compounds that can significantly alter physiology and provide an unfair advantage in sports.

by Nader Qudimat

Forged by iron and cold steel, I'm Nader, a mid-30s natural bodybuilder. Once a 100lb skinny guy, I've transformed into a 200lb muscular athlete with over 15 years of lifting experience. Today, I leverage my transformation and extensive experience to guide countless individuals on their fitness journeys.

Click here to check out my 12 year transformation: Natural 12 Year Transformation

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