If you’re a fitness enthusiast on the hunt for a supplement that guarantees gains, you have likely heard of HMB supplements. It’s a popular supplement among the fitness community for its potential to improve athletic performance and promote muscle growth.
However, many claims supporting this potential are decades-old or anecdotal. In reality, recent research on HMB has been inconclusive. And while studies suggest that your grandma can benefit from HMB, it’s unclear if a young, fit person can.
Today, we’ll cover whether an HMB supplement is worth the try and the best options on the market.
First, HMB has a few different names. It’s commonly called hydroxymethylbutyrate but is also known as beta-hydroxy beta-methylbutyric acid or beta-hydroxy beta-methylbutyrate.
For everyone’s sake, let’s just stick with HMB.
HMB is a naturally occurring substance created when the body breaks down the amino acid leucine. Leucine is the amino acid responsible for building and repairing muscles.
Leucine has been proven to activate mTOR, which clever marketers have coined as “the anabolic switch.” That is, it moves your cells into a state of building up (anabolism) versus breaking down (catabolism). It’s the main ingredient in BCAA (branched-chain amino acid) supplements, and as most people agree now, the only BCAA that really seems to matter, at least in supplement form.
HMB is a metabolite of leucine. Whereas leucine’s benefits center on stimulating anabolism, HMB’s benefits center on reducing muscle protein breakdown.
It’s believed that HMB reduces exercise-induced muscle breakdown, improves cardiovascular performance, and promotes muscle growth because of it relation to leucine.
While naturally occurring, people can boost their HMB levels with supplements. HMB is widely available and comes in powder and capsule forms. There’s no standard dosage recommendation, but most clinical studies use 3 grams or less.
HMB has a range of potential benefits, but they all relate to its impact on protein synthesis and reducing muscle protein breakdown.
One study in 2000 showed that participants who took HMB built more upper body strength than the placebo group. In addition, a 1996 study concluded that participants who took HMB supplements experienced less exercise-induced muscle breakdown than those who did not.
While early research was promising, recent studies indicate that HMB might not aid muscle growth as much as we previously thought.
For example, a review of 10 studies determined that taking HMB in addition to exercise had no significant effect on strength, athletic performance, or muscle mass. Exercise alone produced the same results.
On the bright side, multiple studies suggest that HMB can reduce muscle breakdown.
One study showed that taking HMB helped prevent muscle loss in participants with certain health conditions. Another study suggested that taking HMB helped reduce muscle breakdown in elderly participants.
There’s also promising research that HMB can boost your cardiovascular and anaerobic health.
For example, elite rowers in a 12 week study took HMB daily and reported improvements in their aerobic and anaerobic fitness. Another study indicated that taking HMB increased participants’ aerobic capacity.
Per the research this seems to be especially valuable for older adults. Muscle loss is a culprit of a downstream of negative health and wellness consequences as we age, and HMB seems to be most effective with this demographic. So if you want to buy HMB for your grandparents, it’s not a bad idea.
In sum, research on HMB has yielded mixed results. It’s more likely to benefit older adults or people just starting their fitness journey. Regardless, HMB is a safe supplement. It’s a variation on an amino acid, so there’s little downside. If its potential benefits align with your fitness goals, it’s worth a try.
*Note: We do have affiliate links throughout this article, which means we receive a commission if you purchase from any of our links. This supports our mission to bring complicated health and fitness info in an entertaining package. And it keeps us from putting up annoying things like banner ads. Those suck.
Every supplement on our list is third-party tested. The supplement industry is known for its loose requirements, which is why we only include companies that third-party test their products for purity and quality.
Now, let’s get to our list of the best HMB supplements.
Double Wood Supplements offers a great capsule-based option for HMB .. Each bottle has about 60 servings, and each serving provides 2,000 mg of HMB. It’s also sustainably sourced and manufactured in the United States.
Double Wood offers a money-back guarantee on all of its supplements. So if you’re new to HMB and looking for a supplement to try, this one’s for you.
This product contains HMB and nothing else, other than what makes up the capsule. Often, with simple supplements like this you only pay for exactly what you want.
While you’re shopping at Double Wood, browse through their selection of single-ingredient products.
The capsule does contain gelatin, so it’s not a vegan product.
Creatine monohydrate is one of the most well-researched performance supplements in existence. It’s proven to support muscle-building, strength, and performance.
The combination, then, is a natural choice. Research on HMB and creatine together has shown, unsurprisingly to increase endurance, improve strength, and reduce muscle loss. However, whether the benefits are synergistic is up for debate.
If you don’t already take creatine, you should be. So you might as well get both of them in one supplement.
This also comes in a powder that’s a delicious pre-workout, intra-workout, or post-workout drink.
Personally, I like it as an intra-workout, since creatine has been shown to improve between-set recovery, while HMB reduces muscle breakdown. Blue raspberry is my favorite flavor, but there are a lot of options.
The product also contains vitamin D3 and Bioperine, an ingredient that may improve absorption.
It’s non-GMO, vegan, gluten-free, and contains no artificial sweeteners, colors, or flavors. Overall, it’s a high-quality product from a third-party tested brand.
Personally, Transparent Labs Creatine + HMB is my favorite HMB product.
Microingredients Pure HMB Powder contains over 200 servings, making it another solid option for buying in bulk. Each serving contains 1000 mg of HMB that you can add to any meal or beverage. Or, you can take it straight for quicker absorption. It’s also gluten-free, dairy-free, and plant-based, so it’s a good option for alternative diets.
Keep in mind that HMB has a tart taste. Put more bluntly, it tastes terrible. So we recommend mixing it into a smoothie, juice, or your other favorite (flavored) beverage.
PureBulk’s Calcium HMB gives you options. You can pick the kind (powder or capsule) and quantity of HMB you want. All of PureBulk’s supplements are third-party tested for quality and potency. Plus, its HMB is free of sugar, gluten, dairy, and additives. It’s a great option if you like to buy in bulk and already know that HMB works for you.
Each serving of MRM Nutrition’s HMB 1000 has 1000 mg of HMB and 30% of your required Vitamin D, which is essential for bone strength. Its ingredients are responsibly sourced and have no added gluten, soy, or dairy. Each bottle contains about 60 servings.
Optimum Nutrition offers a potent HMB supplement with 1000 mg per serving. HMB is the only ingredient, which means you’re getting the good stuff without any fluff. It technically has 90 servings but recommends taking 3 capsules per day. So, if you follow that recommendation, you’re only actually getting a month’s supply.
NOW Foods Sports HMB Double Strength offers 1000 mg of HMB per capsule and 60% of your required daily Vitamin D. It’s recommended to take capsules 1 to 3 per day for the best results. Depending on your intake, each bottle has 30 to 90 servings. It’s a great option for vegan and keto diets.
HMB is considered a safe supplement with no serious side effects reported. However, it’s always best to consult a health professional before trying a new supplement.
HMB might help reduce exercise-induced muscle breakdown and enhance cardiovascular health. If that aligns with your fitness goals, taking an HMB supplement is worth the try.
My answer to this is, “meh.” As we mentioned, the claims that HMB is an essential muscle-building dietary supplement have been exaggerated.
It can indirectly increase muscle mass by helping you preserve your muscles.
So f you’re training long, hard workouts where you’re not refueling your muscles, that’s where it’s going to have the most impact. Anecdotally, it’s also popular when training fasted.
As we mentioned, the research hasn’t shown significant benefits for muscle gain. As always, effective training and sound nutrition is how you build muscle.
That said, especially in older adults, it can help preserve muscle mass.
Maybe. Bodybuilders are probably one of the groups who can benefit from an HBM supplement the most. In bodybuilding, small differences can make or break your on-stage result. HMB may help bodybuilders hang on to their muscle, especially in a cutting phase. If you’re looking for that 1% difference, HMB may be a worthwhile addition.
It may. One study in resistance-trained men blunted muscle damage. In the study, the participants who took HMB subjectively said they felt more prepared to train hard.
HMB comes in powders and capsules.
Depending on the product you get, there are a bunch of options. If you get an unflavored powder, be warned that HBM tastes terrible. Mix it with a protein powder shake or smoothie to mask it.
Personally that’s why I like Transparent Lab Creatine + HMB, because it’s a delicious intra-workout drink to sip on.
Many research studies use 3 grams of HMB as an upper limit. Most products are around 1-2 grams. It’s hard to say exactly what’s best, but to get the most of HMB, you likely won’t need to take more than 3 grams.
As always, talk with your healthcare provider before taking any supplement. We are not doctors, and we don’t play them on the internet.