The Pros and Cons of the HMB Supplement

The Pros and Cons of the HMB Supplement, image of a woman working out on a yoga mat

With summer around the corner, a lot of us are trying to tone up before hitting the beach. What if there was a supplement that could help you gain more muscle and strength? The good news is that there is. Beta-hydroxy-beta-methylbutyrate, more commonly known as HMB, shows promising results for adults of all ages.

What Is HMB and What Does It Do for Your Body?

HMB is a metabolite of Leucine, a branched-chain amino acid that our bodies cannot naturally produce. Branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) are a group of three essential amino acids: leucine, isoleucine and valine. They are responsible for building muscle, decreasing muscle fatigue and alleviating muscle soreness. Taking an HMB supplement has been shown in several studies to both increase muscle mass and decrease the breakdown of muscle. Research suggests that a lot of leucine’s anti-catabolic abilities (reducing proteolysis – aka muscle breakdown) happens when HMB is produced as your body uses leucine for fuel or protein production. In other words, HMB helps increase your muscle mass by preventing your existing muscle protein from breaking down when you exercise. The result is an increase of lean muscle mass. Research also shows that HMB helps improve your metabolic ability to increase fatty acid oxidation (burn fat) in adipocytes (fat cells) and muscle cells. When used in combination with resistance exercise, the result was relatively lower values for whole body fat and decreased adipose fat mass in older adult men.

HMB Health Benefits

HMB not only burns fat and increases muscle mass, HMB has also been used to treat the heart and cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure and high cholesterol. In one study, subjects were given 3 grams of HMB daily for 8 weeks. A portion of these adults exercised regularly while others did not engage in any exercise at all. After 8 weeks, the non-placebo group had a decrease in LDL, or “bad” cholesterol and lower systolic blood pressure. This suggests that HMB has a positive effect on cardiovascular health, potentially decreasing the risk of heart attack and stroke. Another study yielded similar results; patients reduced their overall cholesterol by 7% (of which 6% was LDL). Their average blood pressure decreased on average by 4 points. The scientists conducting this study concluded that when taking HMB, the risk of heart disease can be potentially reduced by approximately 20%. A number of clinical trials also found that HMB can help prevent muscle loss caused by certain conditions such as sarcopenia (age related muscle-loss.) One meta-analysis research specifically involved 7 trials of 287 older adults. They found that HMB supplementation can help preserve muscle in the elderly while also increasing their grip and leg strength. This study also suggested that HMB can prevent muscle loss caused by extended periods of bedrest.

How to Take HMB

Studies indicate a recommended dose of 1.5 grams taken twice daily (total of 3 grams) with one dose taken at least 1 hour before working out. Most HMB capsules or powders come in 500 mg or 1 gram doses, making it easy to take the recommended amount. HMB is naturally produced in small amounts when your body breaks down leucine and consuming protein-rich foods like Greek yogurt, beef and chicken also contribute to naturally derived HMB, but in limited amounts. It is also found in very small amounts in foods such as avocado, cauliflower, grapefruit, and catfish, however it is difficult to ingest the recommended 3 grams needed to support HMBs claimed benefits without additional supplementation.

Is HMB Supplementation Safe?

Current studies have found no negative side effects with HMB supplementation in humans taking 3 to 6 grams daily as well as varying doses in animals. No adverse effects have been observed in animals consuming very large amounts of HMB, anywhere from 8 to 5000 mg per kg daily, for 1–16 weeks. To give you an idea, that’s about 450 grams of HMB for a 200 pound person. It’s one of the safest supplements you can take to help build muscle.

Is HMB Really Effective?

There are a lot of critics of this supplement. Some rave about it, while others claim it is a placebo. Luckily, so much clamour has also led to a lot of clinical studies on it’s efficacy. While it’s claims on cardiovascular, heart and cholesterol health are extremely promising, more research is still needed but the vast amounts of evidence supporting it’s boost in muscle health is undeniable. It has been found that supplementing with 3 grams a day led to a respective net increase of .28% and 1.4% weekly for lean body mass and strength gain. Studies have also provided evidence on the positive effect HMB has on cognitive enhancement, improved bone health, and reduced belly fat.

In Conclusion:

HMB has shown to be positive for a variety of uses, especially improving one’s strength. Whether you’re looking for more gains at the gym, or want to preserve your muscle and bone mass, this supplement shows nothing but positive effects on the body. I have personally witnessed an increase in muscle gain/fat loss while taking this supplement, and recommend it to my older patients.