What is HMB? (and Why Add Creatine?)

  1. The Basics
  2. What Will Taking HMB Do For You?
  3. How Does HMB Work?
  4. The Science Behind HMB
  5. HMB is Natural and Completely Safe To Take
  6. Adding Creatine for the Strength Athlete
  7. HMB for Other Sports and Activities
  8. HMB is Supported by Lots of Published Research
  9. Other Interesting Facts About HMB

1. The Basics

HMB (or β-Hydroxy β-Methylbutyrate) is needed by the body to protect and repair muscle tissue. We can make a small amount of HMB from the amino acid Leucine found in the protein we eat, but it needs to be topped up by eating HMB rich foods such as grapefruit, alfalfa and catfish.

In athletes where muscle tissue is damaged (causing soreness), repaired and built more frequently it stands to reason that we need more HMB. Lots of research has now shown that supplementing the diet with HMB improves exercise performance by supporting muscle cell repair and adaptation.
HMB is one of the most researched supplement ingredients proven to improve athletic performance right behind Creatine Monohydrate. At Blonyx we believe that athletes should only take supplements with significant human research studies, which is why we only sell products with these two well respected ingredients. (To find out more about taking HMB with Creatine click here.)
Both HMB and Creatine Monohydrate have been assessed by the International Society of Sports Nutrition who issued position statements on their effectiveness. They are two of a handful of supplements that have warranted a position statement to date simply because adequate human based research on other supplement ingredients is still lacking.

2. What Will Taking HMB Do For You?

There are over 40 research studies on HMB conducted at universities and institutes across the globe. These studies have shown that HMB supplementation can do the following:
  • Decrease muscle damage and soreness 
  • Reduce recovery time from all types of training
  • Increase muscle mass and strength gains with strength based training 
  • Improve  endurance capacity with running and cycling training (VO2 max/peak)
  • Decrease body fat (limited research to date)
  • Reduce muscle wasting that occurs with aging or certain disease conditions
The charts below show results from just a few of the research studies on HMB:

Increased Strength

Increased Endurance Performance

Read the Research

3. How Does HMB Work?

HMB works by slowing protein breakdown and speeding up protein synthesis in repair. HMB is also a vital structural component used to maintain the integrity of muscle cells.

HMB therefore protects the muscle from exercise damage, then speeds protein synthesis based recovery enabling athletes to train harder and adapt to exercise more quickly.
Because of the way HMB works, it is likely to be more beneficial to athletes that experience muscle damage and soreness more frequently as part of their training. Constantly varied functional fitness programs like CrossFit as well as Olympic lifting and Olympic/power lifting are well known for causing frequent muscle soreness.

The charts below show the research demonstrating that HMB supplementation reduces muscle damage in both endurance and strength athletes:

Muscle damage is almost eliminated after heavy weight training (40 weight training adults after 3 weeks of HMB supplementation)

Read the Research

Muscle damage is dramatically reduced after a 20KM run (13 runners after 6 weeks of HMB supplementation)

Read the research

4. The Science Behind HMB

Medical researchers have found that HMB slows the breakdown of muscle protein and prevents the death of muscle cells through a complex chemical process called the Ubiquitin pathway. For the strength athlete this means retaining strong muscle cells and for the endurance athlete this means smaller, energy efficient muscle cells remain intact and healthy, ready for training.

HMB is also thought to stimulate the production of muscle protein to be used in the muscle adaptation process  through a chemical process called the m-TOR pathway. In endurance athletes this means that muscles rapidly change to become more energy efficient whereas in the strength athlete muscle cells will grow more quickly to generate more power.

Overall, using HMB enhances your recovery from, and adaptation to all types of training. It is a product that can be used by all athletes that are training hard, regardless of their sporting event.

5. HMB is Natural and Completely Safe To Take

HMB is a substance that occurs naturally in the body. We use about a ¼ teaspoon of HMB a day to help make and maintain and build muscle cells. We get this HMB from either eating healthy foods such as grapefruit, alfalfa and catfish or by making it in the body from Leucine, an amino acid found in the protein we eat.

In 2000, research was published that took blood samples from 128 men and women of all ages using HMB. The research found that HMB was completely safe to take with no reported side effects.

6. Adding Creatine for the Strength Athlete

Our bodies require Creatine to store energy in the muscles for high power explosive movements like sprinting or heavy weight lifting. We normally get Creatine from eating meat.


Supplementing the diet with Creatine has been shown in many research studies to enhance strength and mass with training, thought to be through increased muscle water and providing energy for better training. Creatine has been shown to work in tandem with HMB for even better results.

HMB and Creatine are two of the most researched sports supplements available on the market, having been tested in over 100 research labs. Their ability to increase muscle mass and strength with weight training are similar, yet research has shown that they work differently, meaning that using them together combines their effects (read this research).

Research into the combination found that they may even double the effects of training. Using HMB and Creatine together is a no brainer for athletes wanting to get the most from their strength cycles.

7. HMB for other sports and activities

All Blonyx products are based on HMB. HMB Sport™ is simply HMB and calcium in a gelatin capsule. It can be taken along with your current supplement regimen.

Blonyx’s new HMB+ Creatine product combines the two most researched supplements for enhancing strength and muscle mass.

Both HMB products are ideal for athletes that participate in high intensity training that causes muscle soreness on a regular basis. Blonyx supplements are therefore ideal for athletes who participate in the following sport and exercise programs:
  • CrossFit
  • Endurance sports such as cycling, running, triathlons, etc.
  • Power Lifters
  • Gymnasts
  • Football and Rugby players
  • Body Builders

8. HMB is Supported by Lots of Published Research

HMB was discovered by Dr Steve Nissen at Iowa State University. Dr Nissen’s first study on athletes consisted of 41 men who weight trained three times a week, for 1.5h at a time, over a three week period. One group received HMB, the other group received a placebo. After four weeks, the HMB group showed a greater increase in muscle, lost more fat and were significantly stronger than the placebo group.

To date there have been numerous additional, university and peer reviewed studies done on HMB. Over twelve years, researchers have found that HMB has numerous beneficial effects, including producing better results from intense exercise. The list of HMB clinical studies is continually growing. Currently there are over 20 human studies completed and published as peer-reviewed papers, with more studies set to follow. Only Creatine and protein supplementation has more studies published than HMB.

Below are a list of HMB studies:

Research Study: Controlled 9 week study on trained men. HMB increased lean mass, decreased fat mass and resulted in a substantial increase in lower body strength. Read the research.

Research Study: A meta-analysis of existing research. HMB supplementation resulted in clear overall increases in strength in men starting a resistance training program, but the benefit of HMB in trained athletes was smaller. Read the research.

Research Study: Placebo controlled study in college students. HMB supplementation increased maximal oxygen consumption by 5%. Read the research.

Research Study: 1 year long controlled study in the elderly. HMB with two amino acids increased lean mass and protein turnover in older adults. Read the research.

Research Study: Controlled study in trained cyclists. HMB supplementation increased cyclist endurance as measured by VO2 peak and lactic acid build-up. Read the research.

Research Study: 12 week study on resistance trained men. HMB combined with two amino acids doubled the effects of training on lean mass and increased fat loss. Read the research.

Research Study: Controlled study in male and female runners. HMB reduced muscle damage after a prolonged run as well as the perception of muscle soreness. Read the research.

Research Study: A review of research on HMB. Concluded that collectively there is not only clinical data, but also mechanistic data supporting HMB's effect on increasing muscle mass and strength. Read the research.

Research Study: Controlled study in 35 trained collegiate football players. HMB increased muscle mass and reduced body fat however this was not statistically significant probably because the athletes only used HMB for 4 weeks so gains were small. Read the research.

Research Study: A meta-analysis of all research to date on supplementation for strength and mass. Found that HMB and Creatine are the only two supplements that have been shown to enhance strength and mass with resistance training. Read the research.

Research Study: Controlled 8 week study in weight training elderly men. HMB increased muscle strength and lean mass while increasing fat loss. Read the research.

Research Study: Controlled study in weight training males using Creatine and HMB in combination. HMB and Creatine supplementation results in even greater strength and lean gains than either HMB or creatine supplementation alone Read the research.

Research Study: Controlled study in trained males. HMB enhanced strength and mass but the increases were small over the research period. Read the research.

Research Study: Controlled study using male and female trained and untrained subjects. The study showed that regardless of gender or prior training, HMB increases strength and minimizes muscle damage when combined with a four week resistance-training program. Read the research.

Research Study: Controlled study with male weight lifters. HMB increased lean mass and peak muscle torques. It also decreased blood markers of muscle damage. Read the research.

Research Study: Controlled study of 40 experienced, resistance trained men over just 4 weeks. HMB numerically increased lean mass and strength over the period of the study. Read the research.

Research Study: Two controlled studies in weight training males for three and seven weeks. HMB increased strength and muscle mass while reducing muscle damage in all subjects. Read the research.

Research Study: The official position paper of the International Society of Sports Nutrition. HMB was rated in the second highest category of effective supplements for performance enhancement. Read the research.

9. Other Interesting Facts About HMB

  • HMB doesn’t really have much taste to it so it is often mixed with juices like grape or orange. HMB is linked to calcium meaning it quickly and easily dissolves in liquid and is absorbed into the body.
  • HMB’s effects are most beneficial when you are pushing your body to its limits in order to stimulate muscle adaptation. 
  • HMB’s effects will be reduced if you are not training hard or, as in the case of highly trained athletes, your potential for adaptation to training is smaller (think how much training a 100m sprinter puts in for a tenth of a second speed improvement). For this reason, research on elite athletes has found that HMB only results in small gains in strength and endurance.
  • Calcium-HMB, which is the form we use in our supplements, is the same form it has been tested in. Calcium HMB is completely safe to take with no reported side effects. Ever.