Anabolic vs anticatabolic: the role of HMB


Bigger, Faster, Stronger- HMB

Mechanisms of Muscle Growth:  HMB supplementation and how you can use it.

BLUF (Bottom Line Up Front)

HMB has Class A evidence supporting it’s use for gaining size and strength whereas the vast majority of sports supplements do not.



It has been twenty years since Nissen, et al first demonstrated that supplementation with a metabolite of the amino acid leucine contributed to muscle growth in a resistance training program.  This metabolite was HMB (beta-hydroxy-beta-methylbutyrate).  It’s thought to operate via enhanced recovery of damaged skeletal muscle (Wilson 2008)

A recent study, yet to be published in standard texts, shows the power of supplementation with this compound.  This was a randomized, blinded, placebo  and diet controlled trial making the design of the study as powerful as it can get.  24 subjects were tested utilizing 1 gram three times per day versus placebo in a 12 week strength training cycle.  Subjects that received HMB showed a STATISTICALLY SIGNIFICANT increase in total strength (bench press, squat, deadlift), a greater increase in vertical jump power, and increased lean body mass gains.  HMB also lowered body fat compared to the placebo group.

Of note, this is the recommended usage on most HMB products sold in health stores but the tested compound was HMB-FA.  This is HMB in a free acid form.  Most products on the shelves today are Ca-HMB (HMB in calcium salt form).  The FA form shows improved bioavailability with double the amount of HMB in your body in 1/4 the time after administration (Fuller 2011).

Taking HMB (1 gram) 30 minutes prior to exercise has been shown to attenuate muscle damage indices and improve perceived recovery in resistance-trained athletes (Wilson 2013)

How do I use it?

1 gram with breakfast, 1 gram 30 minutes prior to training, 1 gram with either post work out meal or with last meal of the day.

Currently no evidence to support how to take HMB on non training days so I have been using it three times a day with meals spread throughout day.

Lanny Littlejohn, MD


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7 responses to “Anabolic vs anticatabolic: the role of HMB

  1. Great info! I had almost forgotten about HMB. So much stuff that doesn’t work out there; will give this a try once more

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