Bodybuilding.com Information Motivation Supplementation
in:
HMB: Overrated, Overpriced, Or Overlooked: Part 3.

In part I of this series on HMB, we examined the proposed mechanism by which HMB exerts its effects. Part II examined three studies that examined HMB on three diverse populations. At this point, it appeared as if everyone agreed that HMB was beneficial...

By: Derek Beast Charlebois

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3

In part I of this series on HMB, we examined the proposed mechanism by which HMB exerts its effects. Part II examined three studies that examined HMB on three diverse populations.

At this point, it appeared as if everyone agreed that HMB was beneficial. But this is not the case according to some researchers.


The Studies That Concluded HMB To Be Ineffective

Kreider RB, Ferreira M, Wilson M, Almada AL. Effects of Calcium ß-Hydroxy-ß-methylbutyrate (HMB) Supplementation During Resistance-Training on Markers of Catabolism, Body Composition and Strength. Int J Sports Med 1999; 20: 503-509[1]

This study by Kreider et al. concluded that supplementing with HMB (3 or 6 g/day) does not effect changes in body composition or strength and does not increase markers or catabolism. This conclusion is the same as Kreider's conclusions in his two previous studies on HMB [2,3]. Let's examine the methodology of Kreider's third study.

Subjects

    This study consisted of 40 males with at least one year of resistance training experience. The average training experience of the subjects was 5.5 years. The subjects' average weight was 82.4 kg.

Experiment Design

    All subjects were to continue their current training program and diet. They were to record their workouts (weights used, repetitions completed, etc.) on workout logs and nutritional intake on diet logs.

    Since all subjects were doing different workouts and consuming different diets, there was no training or dietary control.

Group Start End
Caloric Intake Control 36.4 42.4
(kcal/kg/day) HMB (3 g) 34.1 37.6
HMB (6 g) 35.8 38.7

    If the average subject weighed 82.4 kg, this means the Control group consumed 2999.36 kcals/day, the 3 g HMB group consumed 2809.84 kcal/day, and the 6 g HMB group consumed 2949.92 kcal/day at the first nutritional data entry.

    The final nutritional input showed that the Control group consumed 3493.76 kcals/day, the 3 g HMB group consumed 3098.24 kcal/day, and the 6 g HMB group consumed 3188.88 kcal/day.

    We see that the Control group was consuming 395.52 kcals/day more than the 3 g HMB group and 304.88 kcal/day more than the 6 g HMB group. Clearly this caloric difference would impact the results.

Results

    Body Composition:

Group Start End Change
Body Mass (kg) Control 74.6 75.1 75.1
HMB (3 g) 76.3 77.3 +1.0
HMB (6 g) 78.6 80.0 +1.4
Fat/Bone Free Mass (kg) HMB (3 g) 61.3 62.0 +0.7
HMB (6 g) 64.1 65.1 +1.0
Fat Mass (kg) Control 12.3 12.4 +0.1
HMB (3 g) 12.5 12.8 +0.3
HMB (6 g) 11.9 12.3 +0.4

    Though the increases are small, we see that despite the caloric difference between the groups (the Control group consuming more calories) the 6 g HMB group gained three times as much lean mass as the Control group. This pattern and gains are similar to the results in one of the studies done by Nissen [4].

    Strength:

Group Start End Change
Bench Press (kg) Control 113.5 115.3 +1.8
HMB (3 g) 116.5 117.7 +1.2
HMB (6 g) 115.0 118.2 +3.2
Press (kg) Control 247.3 249.5 +2.2
HMB (3 g) 255.2 263.7 +8.5
HMB (6 g) 249.7 256.5 +5.8

    Again, despite the small increases, the HMB groups' strength increased more than the Control group's.

    Even though the Control group consumed more total calories per day, the HMB groups made better progress. Though the difference is not statistically significant, it still exists. One flaw I see in this study is that there was no dietary control. Therefore, it is difficult to isolate other variables to further identify either positive or negative contributions from HMB.

    Since the HMB groups' caloric intake was hundreds of calories lower than the control group, I think this demonstrates how effective HMB can be. I would like to know what the results would have yielded if the HMB groups consumed the same number of calories?

    Another flaw in the study is there was no training control. We do not know if the subjects were training to failure, what % of their 1-RM they were using, whether or not they were increasing the weights they used when possible, etc.

    Training provides the stimulus for growth. If the subjects were not inflicting a stimulus strong enough to cause growth, they will not grow or get stronger.

    The study concluded that HMB does not affect lean mass or strength, but the results show it does. However, the lack of control in the study makes the results questionable. This findings show why it is important to read entire study articles and not just the abstracts.


So How Should You Use HMB?

In part II of this series, we examined a study by Nissen et al [4] The subjects using HMB experienced much better results than the control group, but all three groups increased their lean mass.

The increases in lean mass seen during this three-week study were greater than the lean mass gains seen in Kreider's study.

This could be due to the fact that the subjects in Nissen's study were untrained and the subjects in Kreider's study were trained, or it could be due to the strict training protocol in the Nissen study.

In the Nissen study, all subjects started out by lifting at 90% of the one repetition maximum (1-RM), which should have allowed them to get a complete three to five repetitions.

When a subject became stronger, the weight used was increased so he would stay within a range of three to five repetitions.

Each training session was monitored by a supervisor who decided when they subjects should increase the weights they used. This is different from the Kreider study in which the subjects just continued to follow their current training routine.

Why would this make a difference?

The body is like a machine that wants to maintain a state of homeostasis (a relatively steady environment). A common example of this is the body's desire to maintain internal temperature.

When we get hot, we sweat. When we get cold, we shiver. The body does what it needs to in order to adapt to the current stimuli being applied. This principle holds true for resistance training.

Resistance lifting can be viewed as a stress being placed upon the body. When this stress is greater than what the body is accustomed to, it tries to adapt by strengthening itself.

Resistance training causes damage to muscle cells and connective tissue. The body then repairs this damage and becomes stronger in order to prevent further damage [5].

If these strengthening adaptations did not occur, we would never have to increase the weight we are lifting in order to grow.


Types Of Training

There Are Two Specific Times When A Muscle Is Really Stressed To Adapt:

  1. After time off or strategic reconditioning
  2. And when you increase the weight you lift.

If you have ever taken a week off from exercising, you know that during the week you return you experience a large degree of delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS).

Why? Because this stress is now something your body is unaccustomed to. After about two weeks, the amount of DOMS you experience will have most likely decreased.

What Does DOMS Mean?
Recently popularized acronym for Delayed Onset Muscular Soreness, the phenomena of muscle soreness from sport or exercise afflicting the body a day or two after performance. Causes and desirability are subject to discussion.

When you increase the amount of weight you lift, you are applying an unaccustomed stress to your body. It would be great if you could continuously increase the weight you lift every workout, but that is not possible.

That is why people use periodization in their training programs. Periodization is organizing training sessions into workable units.

A Periodized Program Is Broken Up Into:

  • Training Session - A single workout.

  • Micro Cycle - Made up of training sessions during a certain span. The most common are 5 to 10 days.

  • Mesocycle - A 1 to 4-month period made up of different micro cycles.

Each training session, micro cycle, and meso cycle should all have a specific purpose. It could be to cause hypertrophy (myofibrillar or sarcoplasmic), increase capillary density, maximal strength, muscular endurance, etc.

Periodization based programs* allow you to continually apply an unaccustomed stress to your body by using different strategies.

This is accomplished by methodically varying your training by changing the rep range you use, the number of sets you complete, the % of your 1-RM you use, changing exercises, etc.

* Popular examples of programs that use periodization are Hypertrophy Specific Training (HST) and West Side Barbell's Cybernetic Periodization.

Hypertrophy-Specific Training Program!
Hypertrophy-Specific Training (HST) is based on physiological principles of hypertrophy first discovered in the laboratory. Try this program.
[ Click here to learn more. ]


Why Some People Don't See Results With HMB

What happens when you follow the same training program for a long period of time? Your body adapts to it and you eventually reach a plateau.

Often times, people will add HMB to their program because their gains have slowed. The problem is they do not change their training.

Therefore, HMB will not be as beneficial because their body is not trying to adapt to an unaccustomed stress. They are most likely not lacking the substrates needed to proper repair cellular damage. It would be like adding water into an already full pitcher; the excess water would just spill over the sides and be wasted.

If you are not causing damage to muscle cells, HMB will not be effective for you (though it will have effects on protein degradation).

With the above in mind, it would make sense that using HMB during periods of unaccustomed training (after time off or with periodization) would improve recovery.

The body is trying to adapt to this new stress and damage. Supplementing with HMB would provide the necessary substrate needed to restore muscle cell membrane integrity.

Another reason why some people do not see impressive results is they are using HMB while bulking, which means they are in a caloric surplus. HMB exerts one of its main effects by decreasing protein breakdown.

While protein breakdown is definitely a concern while you are hypercaloric, one will be eating sufficient calories to negate the protein breakdown. I feel HMB is much more useful when one is hypocaloric and trying to lose fat while maintaining muscle.

Dosage & Timing

    Now that we understand how HMB works, the studies that support it, and when it should be used, we need to know how to use it. Most research has shown positive results when using 3 g HMB per day. I personally feel this should be the minimum amount used.

    About half of the supplemented HMB is the studies by Nissen was loss in the urine [6]. This is due to its short half-life.

    The half-life of HMB was measured as 1 hour in rats, 2 hours in pigs, and 3 hours in sheep, with human HMB metabolism found to be the same as pigs' [7] with a half-life of 2-3 hours [8]. This means your HMB doses should be spread out evenly.

    I suggest taking a serving before and after training because of the increased blood flow to the contracting muscles. First thing in the morning and before bed would also be good times.

    Example For Someone Who Works Out In The Morning Taking 3 Grams A Day:

    • 6 AM (Pre-workout) - 500 mg
    • 7 AM (Post workout) - 500 mg
    • 11 AM - 500 mg
    • 3 PM - 500 mg
    • 7 PM - 500 mg
    • 10 PM (Bedtime) - 500 mg

    If you decided to take more than 3 grams per day, you could spread the doses out more or increase the amount you take at certain times (such pre/post workout and before bed).


Final Conclusion

From the research I've done and my experiences with HMB, I feel it is a great supplement. It can be especially useful for natural athletes looking to decrease protein degradation while dieting or are looking for a decrease in recover time from workouts while bulking.

It Is Important To Remember Though That If You Are Not Creating An Environment For Growth With Your Training:

  1. You will not progress
  2. And HMB will not be as effective.

Anyone dieting would also benefit from HMB due to the reduced substrates for protein synthesis and repair from their decreased caloric intake.

Since HMB's price tag has become more reasonable, maybe you should give it a second look. I recently added it back into my supplement arsenal, and so far I am very pleased.

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3

References

  1. Kreider RB, Ferreira M, Wilson M, Almada AL. Effects of Calcium ß-Hydroxy-ß-methylbutyrate (HMB) Supplementation During Resistance-Training on Markers of Catabolism, Body Composition and Strength. Int J Sports Med 1999; 20: 503-509
  2. Almada A, Kreider R, Ferreira M, Wilson M. Effects of calcium ß-HMB supplementation with or without creatine during training on strength and sprint capacity. FASEB J 1997; 11: A374
  3. Kreider R, Ferreira M, Wilson M, Almada A. Effects of calcium ß-HMB supplementation with or without creatine during training on body composition alterations. FASEB J 1997; 11: A374
  4. Nissen, S. et al. Effect of Leucine Metabolite ß-hydroxy-ß-methlbutyrate on muscle metabolism during resistance-exercise training. Journal of Applied Physiology. 81(5):2095-104, 1996 Nov.
  5. Katch, Frank. Katch, Victor, McArdle, William (2001). Exercise Physiology: Energy, Nutrition, and Human Performance (5th Ed.). Maryland: Lippincott William and Wilkins.
  6. Nissen, S. et al. Effect of Leucine Metabolite ß-hydroxy-ß-methlbutyrate on muscle metabolism during resistance-exercise training. Journal of Applied Physiology. 81(5):2095-104, 1996 Nov.
  7. Nissen, Steven and Naji, Abumrad. Nutritional Role of the Leucine Metabolite ß-hydroxy-ß-methlbutyrate (HMB).
  8. Nutr. Biochem. 8:300-311, 1997.
  9. Vukovich, M. D., G. Slater, M.B. Macchi, M.J. Turner, K. Fallon, T. Boston and J. Rathmacher. ß-hydroxy-ß-methlbutyrate (HMB) kinetics and the influence of glucose ingestion in humans. J. Nutr. Biocehm. 12:631-639, 2001.

HMB: Overrated, Overpriced, Or Overlooked: Part 3.
derek@scivation.com

Visitor Reviews Of This Article!
Read Visitor Reviews - Write Your Own Review

Back To Derek Beast Charlebois's Main Page

Back To The Articles Main Page.

Related Articles
10 Best-Tasting Pre-Workout Supplements!
Everything You Need To Know About Greens Supplements
10 Best-Tasting Chocolate Protein Powders



RATE THIS ARTICLE
POOR
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 6
  • 7
  • 8
  • 9
  • 10
EXCELLENT
OVERALL RATING
N/A

Out of 10

0 Ratings

1

Comment

Showing 1 - 1 of 1 Comment

(5 characters minimum)

      • notify me when users reply to my comment
Furball88

Rep Power: 0

  • rep this user
Furball88

Awesome article!! Answered all of the questions I had.

Feb 6, 2013 10:13pm | report
 
Showing 1 - 1 of 1 Comment

Featured Product

Give Us Feedback:
Report A Problem
Site Feedback
Follow Us:
Twitter
Facebook
RSS Feeds
Bodybuilding.com Newsletter

Receive exciting features,
news & special offers from Bodybuilding.com