To answer the question, no, creatine is not a steroid. Anabolic steroids are an illegal, synthetic version of testosterone. You can buy "testosterone boosters" at your local health foods store, however these are nothing more than some herbs and vitamins thrown together promising you a steroid-like experience. While some research has been done on many different muscle building substances, the most studied and so far most effective muscle building supplement that can be legally obtained is creatine.
So if it's not a steroid, then what is creatine? Creatine is actually an organic compound produced by the liver that helps supply energy to cells all over the body, most notably muscle cells. Around 95% of the creatine your body produces is stored within the muscle, and while your body produces it naturally, an excess of creatine has been shown to verifiably increase athletic performance and with it, muscle building potential.
Supplementing with creatine isn't going to give you a massive strength increase like anabolic steroids will, but it will give your muscles a noticeable amount more energy. Medical journals have consistently found that maximum power can be raised up to 15% with steady creatine supplementation. If you're like me, the ability to do 15% more in the gym is a big deal. That can mean the difference between finishing your workout and falling a couple sets shy. And if you're serious about your workout, you should never want to quit before you're supposed to be finished!
"But I heard that creatine can make people sick?"... Side effects of creatine are usually few and far between. Some people may have some stomach cramping and the occasional diarrhea, but a cup of coffee is more likely to do that to you than creatine. The one exception to all this is people with kidney disease or diabetes. If you have any or both of those things, avoid taking creatine. Other than that, almost anyone involved in physical activity could benefit from it.
The next issue involved in starting creatine supplementation is figuring out which kind to buy. Let me make this easy for you. You're looking for the label or primary ingredient to say "creatine monohydrate." Over the years, supplement companies have tried to develop new supplements with "revolutionary" types of creatine in them such as creatine ethyl ester, creatine hydrochloride, or creatine nitrate. No legitimate studies have shown these to be anymore effective than the original creatine monohydrate. The only difference is the blow your wallet will receive. Creatine monohydrate is all you, me or your local professional athlete really needs. End of story.
If you think you would benefit from getting extra creatine with your diet, you have a few options. The first is through actual food. The main food source with the best amount of creatine is beef, namely "round" and "loin" type beef. You will get an average of 1 gram of creatine per 8 ounces of beef. While this is a good start, a general baseline on how much creatine to supplement with in a single serving is around 3-5 grams or the equivalent of 24-40 ounces of beef. If you're not involved in a lot of physical activity, this may not matter a great deal. If you're looking for an edge no expensive "booster" can give you, it may be time to supplement with creatine.
In conclusion, creatine is most definitely not a steroid. In fact, it is likely the most viable alternative to steroids currently available on the market. On that note, I'm going to have some right now and hit the gym. I highly suggest you do the same sometime! Everybody have a great weekend!