You’ve probably heard me raving about the sport supplement HMB, and I know some of you are using it, but here is a bit more info on one of my favorite core supplements – I use my HMB year round and benefit from continual progress – when I stop using it I find muscle degradation occurs almost immediately and very noticeably…
What is HMB?
HMB stands for Beta-Hydroxy-Beta-Methyl-Butyrate and is a metabolite of the branch-chain amino acid Leucine. HMB occurs naturally in plants as well as meat. It is however, very difficult to obtain sufficient HMB through normal food intake (The recommended daily dosage for performance enhancement is 3 grams). Our bodies produce small amounts of HMB, usually between .3grams and 1 gram per day.
Can I get the same effect by supplementing my diet with Leucine instead of HMB?
No, scientists believe that only 5% of consumed Leucine can be converted into HMB in the body. Therefore you would have to supplement 60 grams of Leucine per day, which would cause digestive system problems.
What can HMB do for me?
Body builders, strength trainers, and endurance athletes include this sports supplement in their training regime to assist them to gain muscle mass, improve muscle tone, and increase endurance.
The harder you work, the more effect you will get. Studies have shown that HMB supplementation can do the following:
- Increase muscle mass and strength
- Decrease body fat
- Decrease muscle damage (less post exercise soreness)
- Increase VO2 max and endurance
How does HMB produce these positive effects?
During periods of high stress such as intensive exercise, HMB helps slow down proteolysis, which is the natural process of muscle breaking down that occurs especially after strenuous activity. It appears that HMB supplementation minimizes this breakdown process and therefore leads to higher and quicker gains in muscle mass. HMB seems to work similar to anabolic steroids but without the side effects. It is theorized that HMB is a building block for intra-muscular cholesterol, which your muscle needs after vigorous exercise for repair and growth. In a three week study with people doing high intensity weight lifting, the group supplementing 3 grams of HMB daily had 300% more increase in muscle mass and 295% more strength compared to the control group.
Iowa State University first pioneered the use of HMB as a supplement for cattle. They found that by giving cattle HMB the cattle increased muscle mass and decreased body fat. After this they decided to conduct tests on humans and the results were very positive…
The Iowa State study consisted of 40 men who did 4 weeks of weight training, 3 times a day. One group received 3 grams of HMB a day. The other group received a placebo. After 4 weeks, the HMB group showed a greater increase in muscle, lost more fat and were stronger than the placebo group.
Are there any other studies on HMB?
Yes, there have been numerous university and peer-reviewed studies done on HMB. Researchers have found that HMB has many beneficial effects, including better results from intense exercise. The list of HMB clinical studies is continually growing. Currently there are about 11 human clinical studies completed, many of which have been published as peer-reviewed papers, and there are still more ongoing studies with HMB. Only creatine has more studies published than HMB.
Who should take HMB supplements?
If you perform any type of serious exercise you may find HMB supplementation beneficial. The more intensely you train, the more benefit you will get from HMB.
Does HMB work for women and older adults?
Yes, published research results show that women and older adults who supplement with HMB and exercise have enhanced strength and increased fat loss as well.
What will HMB do for runners, cyclists or endurance athletes that don’t want to bulk-up?
Research has shown that HMB increases VO2 max which is an indicator of endurance capacity. HMB has also been shown to minimize muscle damage and soreness associated with prolonged/strenuous endurance exercise, such as running.
How long does it take to see effects from HMB?
Studies show that increases in strength and lean body mass can occur in only a couple of weeks, however, it will most likely take three or four weeks to produce results that will also be noticed by others.
How much HMB should I take?
HMB has been extensively studied by doctors and researchers. Many species of animals have been studied while using HMB to examine the safety and effectiveness of the compound, and toxicity studies to date suggest that HMB is safe for human use. In one recent study which involved people following a body building regime, test subjects who used three grams of HMB a day gained much more lean mass and experienced significantly greater strength gains, in just three weeks, than those who did not use the product. Some research suggests larger bodybuilders (over 200 pounds) may need more, up to 5 or 6 grams per day.
It is important to continue taking HMB even on your days off training. Not only does HMB play a role in protecting your muscles from excessive damage, it may aid in the growth and repair of muscle tissue during your days off. If you avoid taking HMB on these days, you may be missing the opportunity to boost your recuperation. And, remember to consider these points:
- Some anecdotal and research-based information seems to indicate that it may be beneficial to take more HMB than the recommendation of three grams per day.
- Some athletes have experienced improved results from as much as five grams per day. Experts have speculated that the improved benefits of higher dosages may be due to the bodyweight of these weight-training athletes, as many of them weigh much more than 200 pounds.
So if you are over 200 pounds, an HMB dosing schedule of five or six grams especially on training days may be optimum.
Should I take HMB with other sports supplements?
Yes, HMB use is commonly combined with other sports supplements like creatine, glutamine and whey protein. One of the more popular and recommended stacks is creatine and HMB. Creatine provides the energy to build more muscle and HMB produces an anabolic muscle building state. Research indicates that HMB combined with creatine produces greater ‘synergistic’ results than either HMB or creatine used alone.
Are there any negative side effects of HMB?
Extensive clinical studies have been conducted to evaluate the safety of HMB and no negative side effects have been recorded in both men and women whether young or elderly. A summary of the effects of HMB on hematology, emotional profile and adverse effects as measured in 9 clinical studies showed only positive effects on cholesterol and blood pressure.
PLEASE NOTE: For prolonged periods off training, maybe on a vacation or business trip away, HMB can be very useful to maintain muscle condition and prevent catabolism. I use it in these times, and so do some of my close friends, we feel strongly that HMB can be an excellent way to hang on to those hard earned gains in the time off your training regime.
How should I take HMB
3 times per day is the usual practice for good results, recently some people have been reporting even better results by splitting the doses into 5 or 6 serves per day instead of 3 (this is how I use HMB myself). This increased frequency of HMB doses appears to maintain a more consistent blood level and potentially increases its effectiveness. I suggest splitting HMB into small doses taken with meals. For example, an athlete requiring 3000mg takes 500mg, 6 times per day (one serving every 2 or 3 hours).
Also, please ensure protein intake is at least 2 grams per kilogram of bodyweight (ideally up to 3g/kg or more), split over 4 to 6 meals, this will provide the essential building blocks for muscle recovery and development and maximize the beneficial effects of HMB.