I have finally completed another long term test on a supplement that is widely seen as beneficial in the strength training and endurance worlds. I had never really considered using this product before I saw an ad for it mixed in with my order of FitAid (which I liked, and still use). After reading the claims and other reviews I decided to try it out and let all of you know what I thought.
So, what exactly is HMB? Let’s get a little sciencey here. Your body uses a number of amino acids to produce proteins. A major one for humans is leucine, and it is widely accepted that leucine makes up about a third of all skeletal muscle. Leucine has some interesting properties on it’s own. For example, it’s a protein that does not require the insulin pathway for uptake, meaning you don’t need insulin to allow absorption into the cells (a major plus for diabetics), and it assists with lean muscle integrity, meaning it keeps you from breaking down your muscles too much. With this amino acid the scientists mixed a calcium salt. Calcium is needed for your bones, true, but it is also a major component in muscle contraction. With these two things mixed, you would think that you would have a super supplement, one that increases the power of muscle contraction, and keeps muscles from breaking down and therefore keeps you going harder the next day.
Blonyx claims that HMB will increase strength, lean muscle tissue, promote recovery and increase power. These are awesome claims, one supplement that will do all of that? Where do I sign up?!
Before I get into my own experience with this product, lets look at some studies. HMB is one of the most studied supplements on the market, a fact that Blonyx loves to mention on the container and they are not wrong. Looking for research available on HMB there are literally hundreds of research studies from all over the world that have looked into this. From elite level athletes, elderly folks, even testing it on animals to see if it will produce more lean meat to sell.
All of these studies, however, mean there are wide ranges of results. I decided to look at a total review, I’m all about another researcher doing my job for me, and found that there is about a 50/50 split on its effectiveness (Wilson, 2008). According to the extensive list of articles it appeared to have the most effect on the elderly, and then on untrained individuals. Both of these populations make total sense because they are the most likely to have muscle damage when starting a new training plan or loss due to aging.
What about elite and amateur level athletes, or event the average fitness guy/gal? The results here were very inconclusive. Some said yes, some said no. So, naturally, I had to test it.
I bought 2 months worth of HMB + Creatine from Blonyx about 30 days prior to the Salt Lake City Marathon. I had never done a marathon before, so I figured this would be a great chance to test out the claim of reduced recovery time. I took it twice per day, 1 scoop per serving, as recommended, for the first month and the second month I cut that in half to see if the results were the same.
The consistency is what you would expect from a supplement in the form of a salt. It mixed ok, but if you allowed it to settle you would get a little shot of it at the bottom of your protein shake (yuck). I found that mixing it with OJ helped, especially at night. I’m curious if the acidity of the OJ had an affect on it, but I’m not doing this in a lab, so I have no way of knowing for sure.
During the 4 weeks leading up to the marathon I increased my distance at a rate of 5 miles/week ending up with a 40 mile week prior to the race. This amount kept me from becoming injured and allowed me to test the effects of the HMB on increased exercise over time. I also trained some strength and work capacity, but mostly it was endurance.
After the marathon I moved into a hypertrophy phase and into a basic strength phase after that to test the effects on increased strength.
This is the part everyone wants to read about. Does a $50 month supply of magic powder work? My answer is yes and no.
My recovery time from my marathon was much shorter than I thought it would be, only a couple of days. Now I’m not a top level runner (it took me 4:09 to complete it), but I remember friends doing an event like this and being out for a week. I was back to training on Wednesday. So the claim of decreased muscle damage during prolonged endurance training is likely true.
During the strength training phases after the marathon I beat several PRs, including one for my power clean I had been trying to break for a year, and my deadlift and bench press. Now this may have been the creatine (this is known to have a positive effect on max effort strength and speed), but my ability to bounce back seemed unchanged from normal max effort training. I still had soreness, I still had residual exhaustion from extra hard days, and I’m not certain how much better I was due to the HMB. On top of the, Coach Matt even gave me a run for my money (and beat me once) at work capacity!
This product does work on most of the claims. Recovery is probably to most readily apparent one though, and this is best seen during a prolonged endurance training cycle. With that said, it probably will not work as much as you’d expect unless you’re a top level athlete looking for the smallest edge (and be careful with it because you may pop during drug testing, just like any supplement), and if you’re brand new to training, and here you may not even know what it happening. I didn’t have it tested on anyone that I would consider elderly (I can hear you all laughing, burpees for everyone), so I cannot tell you whether or not it will work for that population, but I can see how it would based on the science. Endurance athletes will probably see the best results in long term use, especially ultra endurance runners and cyclists due to the nature of lean tissue loss during prolonged training and competition.
With that said, would I spend $50 a month for it? Probably not. It’s much too expensive with too little gain to warrant that price. If it were half that, yeah, maybe, especially if I’m getting ready for an event, but for everyday use it is much too expensive for the average fitness buff or amateur athlete. There are more affordable options out there, and these may be a great way to go if you really want to try HMB, but Blonyx is a bit overpriced for the results you get.
Aspera Non Spernit
Wilson, G. J., Wilson, J. M., & Manninen, A. H. (2008). Effects of beta-hydroxy-beta-methylbutyrate (HMB) on exercise performance and body composition across varying levels of age, sex, and training experience: A review. Nutrition & Metabolism, 5(1), 1. http://doi.org/10.1186/1743-7075-5-1