Beta-hydroxy-beta-methylbutyrate (HMB) supplementation and the promotion of muscle growth and strength

Slater, G.J.; Jenkins, D.

Sports Medicine 30(2): 105-116


ISSN/ISBN: 0112-1642
PMID: 10966150
DOI: 10.2165/00007256-200030020-00004
Accession: 045363619

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Beta-hydroxy beta-methylbutyrate (HMB), a metabolite of the essential amino acid leucine, is one of the latest dietary supplements promoted to enhance gains in strength and lean body mass associated with resistance training. Unlike anabolic hormones that induce muscle hypertrophy by increasing muscle protein synthesis, HMB is claimed to influence strength and lean body mass by acting as an anticatabolic agent, minimising protein breakdown and damage to cells that may occur with intense exercise. Research on HMB has recently tested this hypothesis, under the assumption that it may be the active compound associated with the anticatabolic effects of leucine and its metabolites. While much of the available literature is preliminary in nature and not without methodological concern, there is support for the claims made regarding HMB supplementation, at least in young, previously untrained individuals. A mechanism by which this may occur is unknown, but research undertaken to date suggests there may be a reduction in skeletal muscle damage, although this has not been assessed directly. The response of resistance trained and older individuals to HMB administration is less clear. While the results of research conducted to date appear encouraging, caution must be taken when interpreting outcomes as most manuscripts are presented in abstract form only, not having to withstand the rigors of peer review. Of the literature reviewed relating to HMB administration during resistance training, only 2 papers are full manuscripts appearing in peer reviewed journals. The remaining 8 papers are published as abstracts only, making it difficult to critically review the research. There is clearly a need for more tightly controlled, longer duration studies to verify if HMB enhances strength and muscular hypertrophy development associated with resistance training across a range of groups, including resistance trained individuals.