HMB supplements are marketed as dietary aids for muscle building and recovery. While some studies suggest that HMB might positively impact muscle gain and strength, the evidence is mixed.
HMB, short for (take a breath) Hydroxymethylbutyrate, is a natural compound your body produces when it breaks down leucine, a critical amino acid for muscle repair and growth. HMB is said to help protect muscles from breaking down and help them grow and adapt over time.
But here’s the catch: Your body only generates a tiny amount of HMB. So, many folks turn to supplements to boost their HMB levels.
HMB supplements are said to have some benefits, but it’s worth checking out the fine print in the research. The jury’s still out on whether HMB can help the average person boost their workout performance or muscle growth, but certain people seem to benefit.
Let’s dig deeper and find out how HMB might help your muscles.
HMB has shown potential for increasing muscle growth, particularly in “untrained people” (no judgment) and older adults. Though older studies suggest combining HMB with resistance training could be the secret sauce, other studies show a mixed bag.
One study showed that HMB didn’t move the dial regarding performance, strength, or muscle composition. In other words, exercise alone seemed to do the heavy lifting. A more recent study focused on older folks and concluded that the benefits of HMB remain unclear.
HMB could be your muscle’s bodyguard. Science says it might fend off muscle loss, which happens naturally as we age or in people suffering from conditions that cause muscle loss, like cancer, HIV, kidney failure, or malnutrition. HMB supplements might also help older people or those on bed rest.
FYI: These studies don’t focus on folks who don’t have a chronic condition or disease or those who aren’t elderly.
HMB could be the missing link for exercise gains. Studies reveal it might up your aerobic and anaerobic game, making your high-intensity workouts more rewarding. But one study focused on elite rowers, and another involved combat sports athletes, not your average gym goer.
PSA: More research is needed to show whether HMB helps boost aerobic exercise capacity and peak anaerobic power in non-athletes.
If you’re interested in HMB, you might also be interested in other supplements. Just keep in mind that the research is mixed as to whether or not combining HMB with other supplements like creatine or vitamin D will give you an edge.
Creatine is a combo of three amino acids that, when used as a supplement to high-octane workouts, can help you cut fat, improve your heart health, and boost your mood. One review of several studies showed that combining HMB with creatine helped people who rock high-intensity workouts to shed body fat, increase muscle growth, and improve strength.
But, other studies showed this HMB/creatine cocktail has little effect on muscle mass.
Whether as a capsule, table, or in smoothie-friendly powder form, HMB supplements appear safe and widely available. Some people who take HMB report itchiness, constipation, or stomach pains once in a blue moon. There aren’t any set dosages for HMB, so you should def talk to your doctor or another healthcare provider before knocking back that HMB-boosted shake.
HMB’s potential benefits include muscle growth and protection, especially in older adults. In high-octane athletes, HMB appears to help your muscles adapt over time, giving you more power and performance. But, more research is needed, and combining it with other supplements like creatine shows mixed results.
HMB supplements can be safe, but you should still talk to your healthcare provider before taking them.