HMB – or if you fancy getting all scientific beta-hydroxyl-beta-methylbutyrate – is a derivative of the all-mighty muscle builder, one of the Branched Chained Amino Acids, Leucine. HMB is found in hundreds of protein formulas downed by gym rats all around the worl, but few know of its actual application when it comes to performance and those lucrative “gains”.
What is HMB?
Roughly 5% of dietary leucine is broken down into HMB, and it’s HMB that appears to be the main metabolite of leucine that more efficiently prevents the breakdown of muscle protein. However, compared to leucine is much less effective at initiating muscle protein synthesis. This is why HMB is seen as an anti-catabolic supplement, something that prevents muscle loss, rather than an anabolic muscle builder.
Unfortunately, few studies have actually been conducted on HMB for its ability to prevent muscle breakdown. Studies on it have usually been paired with leucine and the role of increasing muscle protein synthesis. It has been shown to have application in muscle wastage diseases such as HIV and AIDS, and that’s why many think it will be good practice for an athlete on a calorie restricted diet to supplement with.
Supplement doses of HMB are in the 1-3g range dependent upon bodyweight, level of muscular development and in my opinion severity of calorie restriction with best time to take roughly 45-60 minutes prior to training. This is mainly down to the fact HMB is seen to be 20 times more potent than leucine so its comparably to 20-60g of leucine! However, if you are looking for more of an anabolic muscle building supplement then leucine is definitely your better bet and far cheaper.
Further HMB Benefits
In more recent times HMB has been shown to have another beneficial property up its sleeve. In relatively recent study on VO2 Max (the max amount of oxygen consumption) athletes were given 3g of HMB 3 times a week for a period of 5 weeks. The results were eye opening to say the least. The group who had been given HMB had a VO2 max of almost double compared to those who were not given the supplement. The HMB had also lost significantly more body fat and gained significantly more muscle tissue than the non supplemented group.
No we know all the facts, is HMB actually worth taking? Well, as with all supplements it’s just that: a supplement. Without adequate nutrition and training you will not get anywhere near the benefits.
If both are nailed, HMB is a fantastic supplement for helping prevent muscle breakdown especially for someone who is in a dieting situation. During periods of calorie restriction, increased activity and increased cortisol HMB is a great way to help hold onto those hard-earned muscle gains.
If you are looking to build muscle, however, save your cash and spend it on quality food to provide a calorie surplus!