Can HMB build muscle?

Can HMB build muscle?

For those with long memories, HMB was the most hyped supplement of the 1990's and possibly all time. Why then do so few people use it today? Given the fact that users rarely supported any benefit from HMB supplementation or that the trials showing it working were sponsored by the patent owner, Steve Nissen, it is not surprising that HMB fell out of favour. However, could it be the case that it wasn't HMB that was the problem but the unrealistic expectation foisted upon this humble leucine derivative?  

At Predator Nutrition we always like to look at supplements supported by research and fortunately there was a recent study (1) on HMB which is worthy of note, being as it was not conducted by Nissen, and the fact it was conducted using humans (elite athletes in fact) and not rodents.

Research Review Objective: HMB has been suggested to promote lean mass and strength gains during training activity in adults. Could it improve markers of body composition and strength in elite, national level volleyball players?

Methods: 28 volleyball players aged 13.5-18, 14 men and 14 women, took part in this double blind, placebo controlled study lasting 7 weeks. Participants were divided into a placebo group and a group consuming HMB, dosed at 3g a day. The study measured for body composition and hormonal markers such as the level of anabolic and catabolic hormones in the body.

Results: The placebo group lost a small amount of lean mass while the HMB group averaged a 2.3kg increase in lean mass. HMB supplemented athletes experienced an increase in knee flexion strength but non-significant effects in other positions of flexion or extension. HMB users had a significant increase in peak and average anaerobic power compared to the placebo group. On measures of hormonal markers such as IGF-1, testosterone, cortisol, and inflammatory markers there was no significant effect of HMB supplementation.

Conclusion: HMB supplementation led to greater increases in muscle mass, strength, and anaerobic power with no effect on aerobic capacity suggesting it could be advantageous to supplements for teenagers engaged in extensive training for sport.

Our Comments This study is fairly clear cut and there is little ambiguity on its effectiveness in this trial. As a study which was not funded by the makers of HMB and conducted in elite athletes, albeit adolescents, it stands apart from much of the research background of HMB which shows benefits but where the subjects tend to be rodents or untrained people.

The results shown in this study combined with that based on our own experiences and other research in this field leads us to believe that HMB use is most useful when any of the following conditions occur:

1. Untrained people or those returning to training after some time off
2. Any time training volume or intensity rises significantly
3. When a period of eccentric training is undertaken
4. When protein intake, especially Leucine, is relatively low
5. When dieting, HMB supplementation seems to help protect against muscle loss

If any of the above five conditions apply to you then HMB is certainly worth a try. It might not be the most exciting supplement, or the most marketed anymore, but with a solid research foundation and with increasing support among the small pool of experts who have achieved great physiques such as Layne Norton, and Borge Fagerli, HMB is a supplement you might want to take a second look at to see if it can help you with building more muscle.      

Recommended Product   HMB by Olimp Sport  

References 1. Portal S, (2011): The effect of HMB supplementation on body composition, fitness, hormonal and inflammatory mediators in elite adolescent volleyball players: a prospective randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study.

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