Creatine divides some opinion but much of the negative chatter around it is based on myths and misunderstandings. Lets try and put some myths about creatine right here…

Myth #1. Creatine is a steroid

Creatine is defined as “a nitrogenous substance derived from arginine, glycine, and methionine, found in muscle tissue” [1]. So I hope that helps…


Okay so I’ll try to make this easier to understand. Creatine is a molecule, made up of three amino acids (Arganine, Glycine, and Methionine) and stored in the body in the form of Phosphocreatine (PCR) which is a compound of Creatine and Phosphoric Acid.

PCR is known as an “energy reservoir” and it can be rapidly broken down when needed by an enzyme called Creatine Kinase which creates energy by recycling ATP (ATP or Adenosine Triphosphate is responsible for providing energy for every action the body makes) [2].

Creatine occurs naturally in the body and can also be ingested from animal sources (meat, poultry, and fish) [2].

It can also be bought as a supplement, in the form of Creatine Monohydrate. This has led some people to believe that it is a steroid. It is not.

As wrote; Creatine is neither a steroid in the scientific sense nor is it a steroid according to the common social definition. Which tends to include Anabolic steroids, injectable Testosterone, or similar illegal compounds [3].

Creatine is completely legal to use, even when competing. It was first used by the British Olympic Team in the 1992 Olympics [2].

Myth #2. Creatine is not suitable for vegetarians

As mentioned in the previous myth, most Creatine can be sourced from animal products such as meat, in fact half of all stored Creatine in the body of a non-vegetarian will come from meat rather than the body.

So there is a belief among people that Creatine is not suitable for vegetarians.

Firstly, the supplement form of Creatine is made from two chemicals, sarcosine and cyanamide so does not come from an animal source whatsoever.

Secondly, Vegetarians and Vegans actually benefit from creatine supplementation more than meat eaters.

Because the amount of Creatine stored in their muscles would be much lower, due to not getting any from their current diet.

Lukaszuk et al (2005) found that supplementing with Creatine Monohydrate helped to increase the stores of creatine in the muscle, to a similar level to that of omnivores [4]. Another study by Burke et al (2008) found that Creatine supplementation during resistance training increased IGF-1 (a protein that promotes growth) concentrations in both vegetarians and non-vegetarians [5].

Myth #3. Creatine damages your kidneys

I hear this myth all the time!

Creatine and Whey protein constantly get blamed for any kidney problems that someone has ever had. But countless studies have found that Creatine is perfectly safe, and whilst there have been the odd reported case of Creatine supplementation causing kidney damage [6] the vast majority of studies have found that creatine supplementation does not affect Renal function [7][8][9].

myths about creatine_2I think this article by Robinson et al (2000) puts this best when it states “there is no apparent health risk associated with Cr supplementation to healthy people when it is ingested in quantities that have been scientifically proven to increase muscle Cr stores” [10].

Basically, if you have a history of kidney problems – then avoid.

Or if you don’t then stick to the recommended quantity and you’ll be fine. As Kim et al (2011) wrote “high-dose (>3-5g/day) creatine supplementation should not be used by individuals with pre-existing renal disease or those with a potential risk for renal dysfunction (diabetes, hypertension, reduced glomerular filtration rate)” [11].

Myth #4. Creatine loading is better than regular doses

Creatine loading is where you take a very high dose of creatine (20g per day) over a 5 day period before going back down to a more reasonable amount, the belief is that this will raise the amount of creatine stored in the body faster than any other method [12][13][14] but as I mentioned earlier, high-doses of creatine carry a risk for renal dysfunction.

A safer way to ingest creatine is to take a small regular dose (around 3g per day) for a long period of time. Hultman et al (1996) found that doing this was as effective as loading in the long term [12].

Now, personally I believe that Creatine loading will be more effective as much of the more recent studies have found this to be the case [15] but is it better?

Considering the increased risks involved (plus the many side effects related to loading) and the fact that both methods will get you results I would say that no, Creatine loading is not better than taking regular doses.

Myth #5. You should take Creatine immediately before or during a workout

Whilst the debate still rages over whether Creatine timing works versus taking it randomly during the day, studies that have looked into it have found that taking Creatine Post-workout produces superior results to Pre-workout [16].

Myth #6 Creatine is only for Bodybuilders

This myth has to be the most commonly held belief amongst the general public. “Creatine is only supposed to be taken by bodybuilders alongside their Testosterone and Anabolic Steroids. I’m just a 50 year old woman, there’s no way this stuff is for me!”


Creatine has many benefits besides sporting performance, it can help improve brain performance (significantly improving memory and intelligence) [17] and productivity [18]. It also has benefits for anyone who wants to exercise. Under 18s could benefit from it due to a child’s ability to generate energy during high-intensity exercise being reduced when compared to that of an adult [19].

Due to the possible risks involved you’ll struggle to find anyone who recommends it, but as this study states “reports indicate widespread use in young athletes” [20].

Creatine can also be very beneficial to the elderly, and in fact many studies tend to look at the benefits for elderly populations rather than young ones.

A study by Tarnopolsky et al (2007) found that when combined with resistance-exercise, creatine had a positive effect on older adults [21].

Another study looked into the possibility that Creatine supplementation could have a positive effect on Parkinson’s Disease and Alzheimer’s Disease, as well as age related muscle atrophy (muscles getting smaller with age) but concluded that more research is needed [22]. Know you know some myths about creatine, hope you enjoyed reading this article. 

Connect with Expert Matthew Smith.


[1] Berardi, J., Andrews, R. 2013. The Essentials of Sport and Exercise Nutrition 2nd ed. Precision Nutrition, Inc. pp 73-74

[2] McArdle, W., Katch, F., & Katch, V. 2007. Exercise Physiology: Energy, Nutrition, & Human Performance 6th ed. Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Maryland. pp 599-600

[3] Is Creatine a Steroid? [Online]. [Accessed 7th April 2016]. Available from:

[4] Lukaszuk, J., Robertson, R., Arch, J., & Moyna, N. 2005. Effect of a defined Lacto-ovo-Vegetarian diet and oral Creatine Monohydrate supplementation on Plasma Creatine concentration. Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research 19(4)

[5] Burke, D., Candow, D., Chilibeck, P., MacNeil, L., Roy, B., Tarnapolsky, M., Ziegenfuss, T. 2008. Effect of creatine supplementation and resistance-exercise training on muscle insulin-like growth factor in young adults. International Journal of Sport Nutrition & Exercise Metabolism 18(4): 389-98

[6] Taner, B., Aysim, O., & Unsal, A. 2010 The effects of the recommended dose of creatine monohydrate on kidney function. Oxford Journals: Clinical Kidney Journal 4(1): 23-24

[7] Poortmans, J., & Francaux, M. 2000. Adverse Effects of Creatine Supplementation: Fact or Fiction? Sports Medicine 30(3): 155-170

[8] Gualano, B., Ugrinowitsch, C., Novaes, R., Artioli, G., Shimizu, M., Seguro, A., Harris, R., & Lancha, A. 2008. Effects of creatine supplementation on renal function: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial. European Journal of Applied Physiology 103: 33-40

[9] Pline, K. 2005. The Effect of Creatine intake on Renal Function. Annals of Pharmacotherapy 39(6): 1093-1096

[10] Robinson, T., Sewell, D., Casey, A., Steenge, G., & Greenhaff, P. 2000. Dietary creatine supplementation does not affect haematological indices, or indices of muscle damage and hepatic and renal function. British Journal of Sports Medicine 34(4): 284-288

[11] Kim, H., Kim, C., Carpentier, A., & Poortmans, J. 2011. Studies on the safety of creatine supplementation. Amino Acids 40(5): 1409-18

[12] Hultman, E., Soderlund, K., Timmons, J., Cederblad, G., & Greenhaff, P. 1985. Muscle Creatine Loading in men. Journal of Applied Physiology 81(1): 232-7

[13] Van Loon, L., Oosterlaar, A., Hartgens, F., Hesselink, M., Snow, R., & Wagenmakers, A. 2003. Effects of creatine loading and prolonged creatine supplementation on body composition , fuel selection, sprint and endurance performance in humans. Clinical Science (London) 104(2): 153-62

[14] Buford, T., Kreider, R., Stout, J., Greenwood, M., Campbell, B., Spano, M., Ziegenfuss, T., Lopez, H., Landis, J., & Antonio, J. 2007. International Society of Sports Nutrition position stand: creatine supplementation and exercise. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition 4(6): 1-8

[15] Baghban, H., & Pashakolaei, E. 2013. Comparing effects of two creatine loading methods along with 6 weeks of resistance training on strength and some anthropometric indices of experienced bodybuilders. Annals of Biological Research 4(11): 104-109

[16] Antonio, J., & Ciccone, V. 2013. The effects of pre versus post workout supplementation of creatine monohydrate on body composition and strength. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition 10(36)

[17] Rae, C., Digney, A., McEwan, S., & Bates, T. 2006. Oral Creatine monohydrate supplementation improves brain performance: A double-blind, placebo-controlled, cross-over trial. Proceedings of the Royal Society London. B. 270: 2147-2150

[18] McNaughton, L., Dalton, B., & Tarr, J. 1998. The effects of creatine supplementation on high-intensity exercise performance in elite performers. European Journal of Applied Physiology & Occupational Physiology 78(3): 236-40

[19] Cooper, R., Naclerio, F., Allgrove, J., & Jimenez, A. 2012. Creatine supplementation with specific view to exercise/sports performance: an update. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition 9: 33

[20] Metzl, J., Small, E., Levine, S., Gershel, J. 2001. Creatine use among young athletes. Pediatrics 108(2): 421-5

[21] Tarnopolsky, M., Zimmer, A., Paikin, J., Safdar, A., Aboud, A., Pearce, E., Roy, B., Doherty, T. 2007. Creatine monohydrate and conjugated linoic acid improve strength and body composition following resistance exercise in older adults. Public Library of Science One 2(10): e991

[22] Tarnopolsky, M. 2000. Potential benefits of creatine monohydrate supplementation on the elderly. Current Opinion in Clinical Nutrition and Metabolic Care 3(6): 497-502

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