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The branched-chain amino acid (BCAA) metabolite B-hydroxy B-methylbutyrate monohydrate (HMB) has been shown to support the body’s ability to minimize protein (i.e., muscle) breakdown and damage to muscle cells, which can occur after intense resistance exercise.1 By reducing muscle tissue breakdown, HMB may tip the scales of protein turnover in favor of new muscle growth.

EAS was the first company to bring HMB to the market. Since then, it has been written up in numerous health and fitness magazines, hundreds of newspapers, and it’s been featured on dozens of TV news programs as an exciting, breakthrough supplement that might allow people to get better results faster from the time they spend exercising.

Questions and Answers

Is HMB just for young, serious athletes, or can older, physically active individuals also benefit from it?

As long as individuals exercise, HMB may be beneficial for older as well as younger athletes. In fact, from a recent study published in the FASEB Journal [12.5 (1998) : A652], researchers concluded that HMB may indeed enhance the effects of modest exercise on the body composition of older adults. In this study with a group of older subjects (15 men and 16 women, mean age: 70+/-1 yrs.) participating in a 5-day/week exercise program, the group taking HMB experienced a decrease in bodyfat and an increase in lean body mass. Subjects participated in a three-day/week walking program and a two-day/week strength training program for eight weeks.

What is HMB?

HMB stands for beta-hydroxy beta-methylbutyrate. It’s a metabolite of the branched-chain amino acid leucine. HMB is found in foods of both plant and animal origin, and HMB is also normally produced in the body. (Depending on the nutritional program, from .3 grams to 1 gram of HMB is produced in the body per day.) Its precursors are the amino acid leucine and the keto acid KIC. Certain plants such as alfalfa and plant products such as corn silage appear to have relatively large concentrations of HMB. Grapefruit and catfish also contain relatively high concentrations of this nutrient. However, similar to various vitamins and other micronutrients, it is extremely difficult and impractical to consume enough of these foods on a regular basis to provide the full benefits of HMB. It is probably much more practical to use a dietary supplement containing pure HMB.

Can I get the same effects of HMB by taking the amino acid leucine?

Probably not. Researchers currently believe 5% of dietary leucine is converted to HMB in the body. To make 3 grams of HMB in your body, you would have to take at least 60 grams of leucine per day, which is not practical and could cause severe stomachaches!

What does HMB do?

Researchers are not completely certain how HMB works in the body. It appears that this amino acid metabolite supports the body’s ability to minimize protein breakdown subsequent to stress such as intense exercise and it also may work to preserve the integrity of cell membranes. By minimizing protein breakdown, HMB, when combined with a resistance-training program, may cause an increase in muscle mass and strength. The exact mechanism behind HMB’s effectiveness will have to be determined in future research.

What kind of research has been performed using HMB?

HMB has been extensively studied by doctors and researchers. Many species of animals have been studied while using HMB to examine the safety and effectiveness of the compound, and toxicity studies to date suggest that HMB is safe for human use. In one study, which involved people who participated in a “weight-training-like” workout, test subjects who used three grams of HMB a day gained much more lean mass and experienced significantly greater strength gains, in just three weeks, than those who did not use the product.

Does HMB cause any side effects?

We produce from .3 to 1 gram of HMB in our bodies per day. Also, HMB occurs naturally in various whole foods such as grapefruit and catfish. Thus HMB is not a drug, and studies to date suggest no adverse side effects.

How do you use HMB?

HMB is simple and easy to use. The recommended use is to take four capsules, three times daily with meals. That’s a total of 12 capsules per day. Some research suggests larger individuals (over 200 pounds) may need more, up to 5 or 6 grams per day. HMB can be used with a multi-nutrient/nutrition shake product or just regular food. HMB does not eliminate the need for any other supplement nor does HMB have to be used along with any other supplement. Of course, those who are using HMB in an effort to stimulate gains in muscle size and strength should obviously be engaged in regular, intense weight-training exercise.

How long can I store my HMB?

For about two years if it’s kept in a cool, dry place.

Since all of the positive effects of HMB use have been linked to intense exercise, what is the rationale for using HMB on non-training days?

It’s probably important to continue taking HMB even on your “off” days and here’s why. Not only does HMB play a role in “protecting” your muscles from excessive damage, it may also aid in the growth and repair of muscle tissue during your days away from the gym. If you avoid taking HMB on these days, you may be missing the opportunity to boost your recuperative abilities.

However, it may make sense to take less HMB on non-training days. And here’s something else to consider about taking HMB: some anecdotal and research-based information seems to indicate that it may be beneficial to take more HMB than the recommendation of three grams per day. Some athletes have experienced improved results from as much as five grams per day. Experts have speculated that the improved benefits of higher dosages may be due to the bodyweight of these weight-training athletes, as many of them weigh much more than 200 pounds. So if you’re well over 200 pounds, a sample HMB dosing schedule may be trying five or six grams on training days and two to three grams on off days.

Although the total amount of HMB may be reduced on non-training days, it’s important to increase the frequency of HMB supplementation to maintain a consistent blood level and thereby potentially increase its effectiveness. For example, you might try consuming a half-serving of HMB five or six times a day rather than a full serving three times a day.

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These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.