The benefits of HMB were first documented in the mid-1990s and have since been used by strength athletes and those experiencing medical conditions that affect muscle mass.
It is also sometimes referred to as Hydroxymethylbutyrate, B-Hydroxy B-Methylbutyrate monohydreate and a number of others.
Dr Sarah Brewer says: “HMB is formed from the amino acid, leucine, which is used in the body to build and repair muscle tissue. This makes it a popular supplement among athletes during periods of inactivity. It is also used to help reduce muscle wasting associated with increased age. HMB is best used alongside a protein supplement to help maintain muscle mass.”
What is it used for?
HMB works by acts as a signal to stimulate protein synthesis in skeletal muscle and to prevent the breakdown of muscle protein. 1 Because of this, HMB is often used to help with muscle development and prevention of muscle deterioration.
Effect on muscle mass
Evidence suggests that HMB can be used to help prevent muscle damage caused by high intensity resistance training in male athletes. In addition, it can help speed recovery from any damage sustained in such activities, meaning shorter periods of rest are needed. 2
HMB can also benefit those on long term bed rest who risk losing muscle mass due to inactivity. One study found that older healthy adults who were confined to bed rest for ten days were able to preserve muscle mass when HMB was taken five weeks prior (1.5 g was taken twice daily, totalling 3 g a day). 3
A number of other chronic health conditions can lead to a reduction in muscle mass, for example weight and tissue loss from cancer or acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS). When combined with the amino acids arginine and glutamine, HMB decreased feelings of weakness while increasing red blood cells and hemoglobin levels. 4
Overall, it would appear that HMB is successful when used to promote healthy muscle growth and maintenance, whether it’s among healthy individuals or those living with life altering illnesses.
Reduces cardiovascular risk
Evidence suggests that HMB can have a positive effect on cardiovascular health and may reduce risk of heart attacks and stroke. One study found that Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) patients in an intensive care unit experienced an anti-inflammatory and anticatabolic effect (protects muscle mass in the body from being broken down) from three grams of HMB a day for seven days. 5 The research also suggested an improvement in lung function.
One review that looked at nine different studies also found evidence that HMB can decrease total cholesterol levels, LDL cholesterol levels (the kind that can build up in your arteries), and systolic blood pressure (pressure in your arteries as your heart beats). 6
Getting HMB (beta-Hydroxy-beta-Methylbutyrate) in your diet
HMB naturally occurs in the human body and can also be found in certain foods like asparagus, avocados and grapefruit. However, these amounts are so small they aren’t able to provide significant benefits. This is why it‘s most commonly taken as a dietary supplement.
The literature review mentioned previously concluded that HMB is safe to use and in general will provide more benefit than harm. 7 It has been found to be safe to take in quantities as high as 6mg a day for multiple months. 8 Not only this, but evidence suggests little to no negative effects of HMB when used in supplement form.
Further research adds to the body of evidence that HMB is safe to use (especially when the standard dose of three grams a day is taken) and provides no adverse reactions to humans. 9
There is limited research into the safety of HMB in pregnant or breastfeeding women, so we would also recommend discussing with your GP or doctor before beginning to take it.
Most research suggest 1.5 to 3 grams of HMB a day is sufficient to prevent muscle reduction 10 but the majority of the research uses a dose of three grams a day.
Always follow the recommendations from the manufacturer because dosage may vary depending on how the extract has been prepared and what the desired benefits are.