HMB: What Is It? Why Should You Take It?
fitness and nutrition to the point™
A recomp fitness and nutrition™ post
But first! As goes anything in life, nothing comes easy. Although supplements and techniques may aid you in your journey, nothing happens quick or overnight. Hard work, dedication, and commitment to your goals and your life are the most important.
So as you read this and any of my posts, remember, your fitness and nutrition journey is a life style change and you get out what you put in. The information I provide is based on sound industry standards, scientific research, and experience, and is there to aid you in speeding up your progress.
The information contained in this post is not guaranteed to help you toward your goals as every person is different. Seek medical advice before using any supplementation and/or starting any fitness program.
BUT FIRST, THE BASICS…
What is HMB?
HMB, short for beta-Hydroxy beta-Methylbutyrate (sometimes shown as β-Hydroxy β-Methylbutyrate), is a metabolite of the amino acid leucine. Basically it is one of the compounds that are produced when the body breaks down leucine. Leucine is not just an amino acid, it is, in my opinion, the most important and useful of the three Branch Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs). Leucine is important because it is the most effective of the BCAAs in protein synthesis and is why you will most likely see it in the highest ratio in BCAA supplements. These ratios may even be as high as 12:1:1.
Approximately only 5% of leucine is oxidized by the body into HMB. Yet it is believed that HMB is the main metabolite of leucine that makes it so effective in muscle synthesis.
HMB Uses and Benefits?
There are many documented benefits and uses for HMB and HMB supplementation. However, study after study has shown the primary benefit of HMB is anti-catabolism or muscle preservation. HMB is used in many sports, yet bodybuilding, power lifting, and weight training are most known for using HMB. This is why HMB supplementation is most useful when training for fat loss or in a fasted state, like first thing in the morning. And here’s why…
- During fat loss training or cutting, your body is in a caloric deficit. The greater the caloric deficit the greater the fat loss. However, the body is an efficient machine and wants to thus limit the tissues that use the most energy since there is less energy to go around. Your body will begin to use lean muscle as a source of energy, especially if you’re not training hard and it does not see a need for that extra energy-sapping lean muscle. This is why you must consume more protein so your body has ample supply in the blood stream and thus making it less likely to consume its own lean muscle. HMB supplementation also helps to keep your body in an anabolic state and preserve more muscle.
- During fasted training, the body has less free carbohydrates to fuel your workout and thus the body must tap into fat stores more than un-fasted training. Thus you burn more fat during fastest training. However, like being in a caloric deficit, you also burn more lean muscle during fasted training. HMB supplementation when training in this state is also beneficial in preserving lean muscle.
HMB is also used for treating various heart disorders and diseases, cardiovascular diseases, lowering cholesterol and blood pressure. HMB can also be combined with other amino acids and supplements for greater benefits…
- HMB combined with the amino acids L-Arginine and Glutamine is shown to have weight loss benefits.
- HMB combined with the amino acids L-Arginine and L-Lysine is shown to increase muscular control and power output without affecting lean mass.
- HMB with Vitamin D is shown to increase both strength and lean mass.
Although acute supplementation, through the course of several days, has not been shown to have any significant effects on power output; however, prolonged usage of HMB has shown to have an average of 1.6% increase in power output over 9 weeks with a whopping 9.1% increase in leg extension strength.
HMB is also believed to be beneficial to aging individuals, as muscle loss naturally occurs after 20 and accelerates after 40, especially in individuals with little to no resistance training. More recently, protein drink companies marketed to aging individuals have begun to advertise HMB in their products specifically for this purpose.
Although there is additional mixed data on other fitness benefits of HMB, the most conclusive benefit is as an anti-catabolic supplement.
How Much HMB Do You Need?
So now that we know what HMB is and how it can benefit you, how much do you really need? In general, supplementation with 1 to 3 grams of HMB daily is recommended for muscle preservation with 3 grams typically used. Studies comparing supplementation with 3 grams and 6 grams of HMB have been conducted concluding that there is no significant difference or benefit to additional dosage of HMB.
As mentioned above, prolonged use of HMB is where the benefits begin to shown. Usually supplementation 2-3 times daily, as well as 30-45 minutes of training is most effective.
HMB Versus BCAAs: Which is Better?
Well, like most fitness questions, the answer is ‘That Depends’. As discussed above, both HMB and BCAAs, especial the BCAA leucine, are both extremely effective supplements. How effective depends on what goals you are trying to achieve through supplementation.
HMB compared to leucine itself is shown to be significantly more effective at slowing the rate of muscle breakdown. In fact, HMB is shown to be up to 20 times more effective than leucine itself. Both are also effective in promoting protein synthesis; however, studies have shown that a 70% increase in protein synthesis can occur from HMB supplementation compared to 110% increase from leucine. This is why HMB is more effective during cutting and fat loss, as well as during fasted training when fat loss, as well as muscle break down, is highest. However, for protein synthesis, as in the case during bulking and general lean muscle gain, leucine is shown to be more effective.
Our take is both can be used in conjunction to reduce muscle breakdown and promote protein synthesis. In fact, combined supplementation may offer an accumulated benefit.
What About Supplementation?
So what about it? Do our bodies really need HMB? Through your diet you will be getting some amounts of leucine and ultimately HMB; however, the amounts you can reasonably obtain through diet alone are negligible compared to what can be seen through supplementation. If you’re trying to preserve that hard earned lean muscle while aiming for losing fat, HMB supplementation is the way to go.
Types of HMB
There are two types of HMB you’ll find in supplements today; Free Acid and Calcium Salt. Both types of HMB are effective in muscle preservation and other benefits we discussed. However, based on research, the difference comes with the speed at which HMB is peaked in the body and how long it lasts in the body. Free acid HMB is shown to peak in the body within 30 minutes of ingestion where calcium salt HMB is shown to peak at around 2 hours.
So what does this mean for usage? Since, as discussed earlier, prolonged use of HMB is where the benefits are most shown, daily supplementation with either form of HMB is beneficial. However, based on its quick absorption, free acid HMB is most beneficial during fasted training when muscle loss can accompany fat loss and most people who train fasted do so first thing in the morning and usually don’t have 2 hours to wait. On the other hand, those who do not train fasted and who will have plenty of carbohydrates and glycogen stores for their workout can see benefits supplementing with calcium salt HMB with prolonged use. In fact, since calcium salt HMB is shown to remain in the system longer than free acid HMB, it may be more ideal for those who do not train fasted. A combination of both may also have duel benefits as long as the 3 grams per day volume is maintained.
Is HMB Safe?
So how safe is HMB? We know the benefits, but do those benefits out way the costs?
My answer is yes. Studies show that the highest dose of HMB tested and shown to have no observed adverse effects is equivalent to 38 grams in males and 45 grams in females. These levels are much higher than the recommended 3 grams daily. Additional studies show that 6 grams HMB taken for one month or 3 grams HMB taken for 8 weeks did not show any adverse effects.
However, although some studies show HMB can be supplemented for a year with no adverse effects, most studies were only conducted for 8 weeks. This is why many sites claim it safe when taken for 8 weeks.
Where Can You Find It?
Our Recomp Fitness and Nutrition store offers a variety of brands containing both calcium salt and free acid HMB forms. Click below to browse our selection.
Additionally, we offer HMB in our Recomp Fat Loss / Cutting Stack. Our stack combines HMB with other fat loss supplements that work in conjunction with each other for maximum fat loss and muscle preservation! Check out this awesome stack below.
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- Recomp Fitness and Nutrition