Athletes and fitness junkies are always on the lookout for ways to improve their performance.
Yes, a good diet and exercise routine certainly helps drive that performance, supplements can also pose additional benefits.
HMB is a popular supplement garnering much popularity in the fitness and health communities. It is believed to help with muscle growth as well as exercise performance.
Let’s go over what HMB is, what its benefits are, and any safety recommendations involved.
HMB is something your body will produce naturally.
It goes by several different names, and that will depend on which version of the molecule we’re talking about. It’s also known as beta-hydroxy beta-methylbutyric acid, hydroxymethylbutyrate and beta-hydroxy beta-methylbutyrate.
This is produced when the body breaks down leucine. This is a branched-chain amino acid (BCAA) that is important when it comes to protein synthesis along with muscle repair.
But our bodies only produce HMB in very small amounts. This is why people take it as a dietary supplement – so they can boost HMB levels in their bodies.
Studies show that taking HMB supplements may have certain benefits, like better exercise performance, increased muscle growth and a reduction in muscle breakdown in older and untrained adults.
You can get HMB supplements from supplement stores, health food stores, and from online retailers. You can take it as a capsule, tablet, or powder.
Your body naturally produces HMB, but in very small amounts. This happens when you metabolize the amino acid called leucine. People may choose to consume supplements to increase HMB levels in their body, which helps with muscle growth as well as performance.
Advantages of HMB
Studies show that taking HMB can have far-reaching benefits, particularly when it comes to body composition. We’re talking an increase in muscle growth and a reduction in muscle breakdown.
Many studies have been done that show the impact of HMB; however, more research is necessary if we are to fully understand the effect on certain groups.
Check out these potential benefits of HMB.
Could help with muscle growth in certain types of people
While many manufacturers market HMB as a way to support muscle growth, the research still shows mixed results.
Older studies show it may help with certain populations, such as in untrained and older people. Those who took HMB and engaged in resistance training had more muscle growth than people who only did resistance training.
One review of older adults found that after taking two to three grams of HMB every day over eight weeks to 12 months, those who took HMB gained 0.78 pounds more muscle than people who were given a placebo.
However, there have been other studies that revealed HMB did not influence muscle growth at all.
One review of 10 studies examined the effects of HMB in adults over the age of 50. Coupling HMB supplements with exercise was found to have little to no effect on body composition, performance or strength, when compared with just exercise.
One analysis said HMB did not improve any factors for competitive athletes. In fact, when athletes took three to six grams of HMB every day for three days to 12 weeks, they had no strength increases or body composition changes.
So in the end, research on HMB paired with muscle growth is still showing mixed results. That said, research may point to this supplement having benefits of muscle growth for untrained and older people.
Could help reduce muscle breakdown
Research does say HMB could reduce muscle breakdown.
Test-tube studies say it could prevent muscle breakdown in inside cells by the suppressing of enzymes and genes that encourage muscle protein breakdown.
One analysis determined the effects of consuming HMB in people with varying health conditions that promoted muscle loss (i.e., HIV, cancer, kidney failure, malnutrition).
It was revealed that consuming three to four grams of HMB every day over one week to six months was much more effective at the prevention of muscle loss than with a placebo.
Other studies show that taking HMB could preserve muscle mass when on bed rest.
More research on HMB is needed on its protective effects against things like muscle breakdown in other age groups, such as young, healthy adults.
Could help with exercise adaptations
Some research shows HMB may improve exercise adaptations, referring to a long-term change and not an immediate one.
One 12-week study of rowers revealed that taking three grams of HMB every day significantly boosted aerobic exercise capacity as well as peak anaerobic power. It also helped to reduce body fat, as compared with placebos.
Anaerobic power is the max power you may produce when engaging in high-intensity exercise.
Another 12-week study of combat sports athletes revealed that consuming three grams of HMB every day greatly increased anaerobic and aerobic exercise capacity, as compared with placebos.
Additional studies in athletes as well as healthy adults show that consuming three grams of HMB every day brought similar effects on both aerobic and anaerobic capacity.
Other possible benefits
Studies associate HMB with many other benefits, but there are even fewer studies to back these up.
More research is necessary when it comes to these potential benefits before experts can make any kind of recommendation.
A review of nine studies examined the effects of consuming one to three grams of HMB every day on top of a regular weightlifting program.
Participants had greatly reduced markers in regards to muscle damage along with better recovery.
Animal studies have suggested that HMB could reduce age-related cognitive decline. Now, scientists have to study those effects on humans.
Test-tube and human studies reveal that consuming HMB could reduce inflammatory markers, like IL-8, TNF-α, and INFγ.
One four-week study in those with diabetes on dialysis revealed that consuming a supplement of HMB along with glutamine and arginine greatly improved the rate of wound healing.
An older review showed that taking three grams of HMB every day greatly lowered total cholesterol, systolic blood pressure and LDL (bad) cholesterol, as compared with a placebo group.
That said, it’s not clear whether HMB, exercise or a combination of both contributed to these effects. Thus, higher-quality research is necessary to determine this claim.
Studies link HMB to many health benefits, such as reduced muscle loss, improved exercise adaptations, and better exercise recovery. It could also boost muscle growth in older, untrained individuals.
Taking HMB with other supplements
Research has been done to see what happens when you combine HMB with other supplements that could impact exercise performance as well as muscle building.
It could give you benefits when taken with creatine, vitamin D, or arginine and glutamine (amino acids). But these combinations may be more effective for certain people over others. One review determined the effects of consuming HMB with creatine in athletes and resistance trainers.
Consuming three grams of HMB with various doses of creatine was found to greatly improve strength along with high-intensity exercise performance. It was also found to boost muscle growth and reduce body fat.
But other studies revealed mixed results when people combined the use of creatine with HMB. Some showed it could help with athletic performance and raise testosterone; others showed no additional benefit in comparison to taking just creatine.
A person’s vitamin D status plays a big role in the strength of muscles, particularly in older people.
Studies show when older people take HMB with vitamin D, it helps increase muscle strength — even when they do not exercise.
Other studies put HMB and other amino acids together, like glutamine and arginine. These combinations were found to prevent muscle loss occurring in certain conditions, like cancer and AIDS.
HMB could have benefits on muscles when taken with other supplements, such as creatine, vitamin D, and glutamine and arginine, which are amino acids. But the research has mixed results.
Safety, dosage, recommendations
HMB looks to be safe and well-tolerated with no known side effects.
Sometimes, people could experience stomach pain, itching or constipation while taking HMB.
HMB is available from health stores, supplement stores, and online. You can take it in capsule, tablet, or powder form.
There is no standardized dosage for taking HMB, but most studies focus on a dosage of three grams a day.
Like with any supplement, you should speak with your doctor first before taking HMB, especially if you take medications or suffer from pre-existing health conditions.
HMB is safe in standard doses – three grams daily. Always talk to a doctor before taking HMB.
HMB is something your body produces naturally when breaking down the amino acid known as leucine. It could have lots of benefits when taken as a supplement. It could help reduce muscle loss and help with exercise adaptations. It could also increase muscle growth in older, untrained people.
Other benefits may include improved exercise recovery and reduction of inflammation and age-related cognitive decline.
When combined with creatine, vitamin D, and amino acids (glutamine and arginine), it could have even more benefits. These benefits include better muscle growth and performance, a boost in muscle strength, and prevention of muscle loss.
More research is needed on these benefits.
HMB looks to be safe when taking three grams daily. Talk to your doctor before taking HMB.