92 Cutting Edge Compounds: HMB
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Dynamic Chiropractic – February 26, 1996, Vol. 14, Issue 05

Cutting Edge Compounds: HMB

By G. Douglas Andersen, DC, DACBSP, CCN
Among the 1,403 abstracts presented at last summer's 42nd meeting of the American College of Sports Medicine was a very interesting study on B-hydroxy B-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. Phillps also states that consuming the amino acid leucine won't substantially elevate HMB levels, since only five percent 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. Performed 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 weeks. 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 percent 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 tern may result in more rapid lean tissue gain."2 If the results of this study can be duplicated, MB easily blows away any natural ergogenic aid I have ever seen.

HMB is patented and 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 patient 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 intermediate, I will keep you informed through this column.


  1. Phillips B. Alternatives. Muscle Media 2000, January 1996, 46-51
  2. Rise D, Sharp R, et al. Role of B-hydroxy B-methylbutyrate (HMB) during an acute exercise-induced proteolysis. Medicine in Science in Sports and Exercise, supplement to vol 27, #5, May 1995, 220.

G. Douglas Andersen, DC, DACBSP, CCN
Brea, California


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