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Does HMB Work?

Daniel Brady | February 24, 2013 in Supplements
Increase Hypertrophy by 209% with HMB

HMB is a less-mentioned supplement but one that is definitely worth looking into. HMB is known to increase muscle and strength gains significantly while decreasing fat at the same time. That is the perfect combination of benefits from a bodybuilding supplement, so let’s see how strong the evidence really is.

15 Studies – The Results

From 15 studies on HMB in relation to muscle, strength, power and body fat written over the past 18 years, 67% of the studies were positive (very positive, in fact) while 33% reported no effects.[1] So while the research is not completely in agreement, a significant portion of it is positive about HMB.

I mentioned that the studies that were positive were actually very positive, so let me give you the results from an average study:((Effects of 12 weeks of beta-hydroxy-betamethylbutyrate free acid gel supplementation on muscle mass, strength, and power in resistance trained individuals. KA Dunsmore, Ryan P Lowery, NM Duncan, GS Davis, JA Rathmacher, SM Baier, EM Sikorski, TJ Morrison, MA Naimo, J Walters, Stephanie MC Wilson, Jacob M Wilson))

20 resistance trained males completed a 12 week strength/power/hypertrophy split 3 days per week, half taking HMB and half taking a placebo. The workouts revolved around full-body lifts including squat, bench press, and deadlift, plus pullups, military presses, bent over rows, barbell curls and extensions. The 3 day split changed the weight and reps so that each day focuses more on strength, power or hypertrophy. Here are their results:

Metric HMB Placebo Winner
Strength +18.3% +6.6% HMB by 177%
Peak Power +21.9% +16.2% HMB by 35%
Hypertrophy (Muscle Thickness) +14.5% +4.7% HMB by 209%
Note: This study didn’t measure body fat, but the following row is from another average study.
Body Fat -6.6% +3.5% HMB by 289%

As you can see from the results, body fat, strength and hypertrophy gains were improved very impressively. I have not seen another supplement with such strong results. It gets these results by decreasing muscle breakdown after exercise and increasing protein synthesis. Combine these two factors and you have more net muscle growth.

HMB Protein Breakdown and Synthesis

Below is another example of HMB’s affect on body fat. It shows two different body fat measurement techniques on HMB versus a placebo.[2]

HMB and Body Fat

Can I Combine It With Anything?

HMB and Creatine are a perfect match for each other since their effects are cumulative. The cumulative effect is extremely effective for hypertrophy, and moderately effective for strength as you can see in the chart below. Creatine also has lots of evidence behind it (Which Supplements Are Effective?), so it is a good partner for HMB.

Creatine and HMB

How Much Should I Take?

HMB: 3 grams per day
Creatine: 6 grams per day

How Much Does It Cost?

HMB is about the same cost per day as whey protein, so it’s moderately priced at $1 per day for capsules Creatine is very cheap at about $0.10 per day.

  1. International Society of Sports Nutrition Position Stand: beta-hydroxy-beta-methylbutyrate (HMB). Jacob M Wilson, Peter J Fitschen, Bill Campbell, Gabriel J Wilson, Nelo Zanchi, Lem Taylor, Colin Wilborn, Douglas S Kalman, Jeffrey R Stout, Jay R Hoffman, Tim N Ziegenfuss, Hector L Lopez, Richard B Kreider, Abbie E Smith-Ryan and Jose Antonio []
  2. Body composition in 70-year-old adults responds to dietary beta-hydroxy-beta-methylbutyrate similarly to that of young adults. Vukovich MD, Stubbs NB, Bohlken RM. []

Daniel has a strong interest in evidence supported fitness training, preparation and supplementation. His goal is to provide clear information that simply works. He's currently 16 kg of muscle above his starting weight (7kg in the past 12 months), and targeting a continued growth rate of 5kg+ per year.
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