What is HMB?
What does HMB mean? It stands for β-Hydroxy β-Methylbutyrate and it is a chemical our body naturally produces when we begin to break down Leucine. Leucine is an amino-acid that supports muscle building. The breakdown of Leucine can have a catabolic effect (breaking down) of muscle mass.
So, can HMB help muscle growth?
Not necessarily. HMB protects muscles from damage. It is marketed as an anti-catabolic agent (reduces muscle breakdown) instead of an anabolic agent (increasing muscle mass) (Patel, 2018). Since this supplement reduces muscle waste during exercise, this can be helpful in sparing muscle during diet and caloric restrictions.
This means that HMB may help to maintain your muscle mass and your lean body mass during a diet when your calories are below your maintenance calories. Maintenance calories refer to the amount of calories your body requires to maintain your current weight. Normally you’d need to eat more than your maintenance calories to grow muscle or alternatively your muscle may be at risk of breaking down to provide energy for the workouts. If you’d like this calculated accurately, please check out our macro-nutrient calculator.
Let’s take a look at some studies.
Moving forward. A study conducted by Gallagher et al (2000) examined whether HMB supplementation increased strength during 8 week resistance training and determined if higher doses provided any extra benefits. There were 37 untrained average male participants aged 18-29 who were supplemented 3g of HMB over 1-6 months alongside 8 week resistance training program.
The group who were supplemented approx. 3g per day showed a greater increase in lean mass but no differences were observed in body fat. However, no strength or major muscle growth was reported.
However, another study conducted by Hoffman et al (2004) examined effects of HMB on power performance, muscle damage and stress during high intensity workout. There were 26 trained and overweight male participants aged 18-29, they were placed into two groups; one where they were supplemented with 3g of HMB and another placebo group. NO difference in power was seen before the training or post-training. But the study reported an increase to lean body mass but a reduction to creatine phosphokinase which is responsible for actual muscle growth. This could simply mean that you would need to supplement HMB for a longer period of time as this study was conducted over 1-2 weeks.
Despite HMB helping preserve muscles from damage and breakdown, HMB does not help with muscle soreness. The previous study mentioned that was conducted by Hoffman et al (2004) reported that no significant benefits were observed in regards to muscle soreness. So, although HMB preserves muscles from damage, the perceived pain post-work out was the same between the two groups. However, the focus of the research was mostly to examine the effects of HMB on muscle growth, muscle damage and power. Therefore, more research is required to analyse the effects of HMB on muscle soreness.
Warnings and side effects
HMB is safe to take in amounts of 3g per day. It is suggested to have a break after 1 year.
The best HMB supplement
As you’ve seen above, the most effective studies were conducted using a dosage of 3g per day so the best supplement to take would be one that offers the same or similar dosage. One of the best HMB supplements on the market is made by Optimum nutrition, not only this product provides 3g of HMB per day but it has also been tested and made with premium ingredients- High-quality calcium beta-hydroxy beta-methylbutyrate monohydrate. It’s important to know that fitness supplements are highly unregulated and there are a lot of loopholes so if a product has been tested prior to being released then it really goes to show that the company cares about the quality of their product and wants to provide the highest quality to help fitness enthusiasts. You can purchase it below.
What can we take from this? HMB seems to protect our muscles from damage and break down during exercise and during a diet where you consume in a caloric deficit (less than what you require to maintain your current weight) but does not necessarily grow muscle mass. More research may be required in this area.
Other studies are quite contradictory in determining whether or not HMB helps with power output or weight loss. But it certainly, does not support muscle growth. More studies may berequired to conclude for definite.
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Hoffman JR, e. (2004). Effects of beta-hydroxy beta-methylbutyrate on power performance and indices of muscle damage and stress during high-intensity training. – PubMed – NCBI. [online] Ncbi.nlm.nih.gov. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15574078 [Accessed 18 Jul. 2019].
Frank, K., Patel, K., Lopez, G. and Willis, B. (2019). HMB Research Analysis. [online] Examine.com. Available at: https://examine.com/supplements/hmb/ [Accessed 18 Jul. 2019].
Gallagher, P., Carrithers, J., Godard, M., Schulze, K. and Trappe, S. (2000). Beta-hydroxy-beta-methylbutyrate ingestion, Part I: effects on strength and fat free mass. 32, [online] 12. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11128859 [Accessed 5 Oct. 2019].