Cutting Edge Compounds - HMB

G. Douglas Andersen, DC, DACBSP, CCN

Volume 14, number 5, 2/26/96, page 4
I introduced HMB, also known as ß-hydroxy-ß-methylbutyrate, to the profession well before it hit the market.

Among the 1403 abstracts presented at last summer's 42nd meeting of The American College of Sports Medicine was a very interesting study on ß-hydroxy ß-methylbutyrate (HMB). HMB is an intermediate metabolite of the branch chain amino acid leucine. According to Phillips, our body produces 1/3 to 1 gm of HMB daily. Phillips also states that consuming the amino acid leucine won't substantially elevate HMB levels, since only 5% of leucine is converted to HMB. Currently, we do not know what stimulates our bodies to produce HMB, nor do we know if there is another exogenous substance that would increase production. Preformed HMB is found in some foods. The best sources include catfish, alfalfa, and grapefruit.1 However, it is unlikely one could consume enough of these foods on a regular basis to have HMB levels similar to what can be achieved through supplementation.

Researchers at Iowa State divided 41 males into three groups: control, 1.5 gm of HMB per day, and 3 gm of HMB per day. The groups had similar diets and lifted weights three times per week for a three week period. Blood and urine tests revealed a decrease in the markers of muscle damage (creatine phosphokinase and lactate dehydrogenase in plasma, and 3-methylhistidine in urine). The subjects who ingested 3 gm of HMB per day displayed a 55% increase in lean muscle tissue compared to the control group with the same diet and workout.

The 3 gm HMB group also displayed strength gains that tripled the control group after three weeks. Based on this abstract, HMB appears to be the strongest legal and natural catabolic blocking agent available (anabolic steroids main mode of action is to block protein catabolism). The authors stated that "HMB appears to partially protect muscle damage and proteolysis associated with strenuous muscle exercise and in turn may result in more rapid lean tissue gain."2 If the results of this study can be duplicated, HMB easily blows away any natural ergogenic aid I have ever seen.

HMB is patented and is owned by the Iowa State University Research Foundation. As of this date, I know of only one source of HMB. As the word spreads, I am sure other companies will carry it, but if you don't see the patent on the label, don't buy it. It should come as no surprise that HMB is not cheap. Three grams per day will cost you about $120 per month. At this level there have been no reported side effects.

Since HMB is such a new product, there is a lot we don't know about it. There is no information on using any more than 3 gm per day. There is no information available on long-term effects (if any) of HMB supplementation. Finally, there is no information on what HMB would do to people with musculoskeletal injuries. If other studies confirm that HMB protects muscle damage and proteolysis associated with strenuous exercise, it would be very interesting to see if it could have similar effects on muscle damage and proteolysis associated with traumatic insult. As more information becomes available on this unique intermediate, I will keep you informed through this column.

1. Phillips, B. Alternatives. Muscle Media 2000, January 1996: 46-51.
2. Rice, D., Sharp, R., et al. Role of ß-hydroxy ß-methylbutyrate (HMB) during an acute exercise-induced proteolysis. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, May 1995; S27(5): 220



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