2-3g of β-hydroxy-β-methylbutyrate (HMB) Slam the Brake on Muscle Damage and Hit the Gas Paddle on Muscle Growth, Race Performance & Fat Loss in Elite Canoeists

With their intense strength + endurance training in the pre-contest phase canoeists may be among those athletes who benefit most from the muscle protectant anti-catabolic advantage of HMB.
It's funny how the leucine metabolite β-hydroxy-β-methylbutyrate (HMB) disappeared into oblivion in the early 2000s, only to rise like Phoenix from the ashes, now that the 21st century is in its teenage years (Thomson. 2009; Wilson. 2013a,b) From previous SuppVersity news (read more about HMB), you know that β-hydroxy-β-methylbutyrate has slightly less pronounced anabolic, yet better anti-catabolic effects than its precursor leucine. You may also remember that many of the studies with beneficial outcome have been conducted on elderly or sick subjects (e.g. May. 2002; Vukovich. 2001) and that these studies showed (more or less across the board) favorable effects that could not be replicated in younger and/or trained subjects (e.g. Slater. 2001).

Now, despite the fact that it seems logical that HMB would have a greater "muscle building effect" for those of us who are - due to their age or other confounding factors - more prone to muscle protein catabolism than for someone like a competing elite canoeist in the strength phase of his seasonal training cycle - or, without further beating around the bush, the average 78.5kg, 11% body fat male participant of a study, the results of which have recently been published in the online edition of the Journal of Exercise Physiology (Ferreira. 2013).   

"Old school", but neither out-of-date nor "for the oldies only"

To "determine whether HMB supplementation at 37.5 mg·kg/d during intense endurance training affects markers of catabolism, body composition, and sports performance in kayak athletes’ high performance sprints" (Ferreira. 2013), the scientists from the Laboratory Cell Metabolism (LABMETAB) and the Laboratory Motor Behavior at the Federal University of Parana in Curiba, Brazil, randomized their 20 subjects to receive either a placebo (n = 6) or the active treatment dose of 37.5 mg·kg (2.5-3.0g; depending on body weight) "classic" powdered calcium HMB per day during the six strength training weeks of their prep. To minimize any non-supplementation-related influences, ...
HMB & leucine could also help you shed fat & live longer (learn more)
"[a]ll meals were kept under strict control by the nutritionist. None of the subjects was allowed the use of creatine and/or beta-agonists for at least 8 wks prior to the study. [Furthermore, a]ll subjects (i.e., athletes) were instructed to not ingest other dietary supplements with ergogenic effects during the study." (Ferreiara. 2013)
As the data in figure 1 goes to show you, the use of the supplement, which was to be taken in three seperate doses equally spread across the day (morning, afternoon, and evening), had statistical significant effects on the the results of the subjects’ training sessions.

Training like the "pros": Frequent high volume training

The workloads of the latter had been individualized and averaged ~ 6 hr/wk of resistance training (1 to 3 sets of 2 to 8 repetitions at intensities ranging from 80 to 95% of 1 RM) on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday plus 10 hr//wk of specific sprint technique training in the boat. Overall, the subjects were thus training two times a day for a total of 11 training sessions a week (bear that in mind, because it will be important in the bottom line). All trainings sessions ha been conducted under the supervision of certified coaches by CBC and subjects who missed a training session were required to make them up in accordance with the procedures of the study.
Figure 1: Relative changes in body composition, blood lipids, race performance, creatine kinase (CK), lactate dihydrogenase and creatinine (Ferreira. 2013)
 All subjects underwent monthly testing of venous blood samples, body composition analysis, and specific testing for performance in the water (boat) in the course of which the scientists observed that the paddlers in the HMB group showed...
  • significantly more pronounced improvements in body composition than the subjects who had been randomized to the placebo group (-10.26% reduction in body fat % vs. +0.21% in the placebo group), and
  • likewise highly significant -34.4% decreases in the skeletal muscle specific iso-form of the "muscle damage gauge" creatine kinase (CK-MM; -34.44% vs. + 40.42% in the placebo and
  • pronounced reductions in lactate dehydrogenase (LDH; -20.92% vs. -1% in the placebo group), as well as
Moreover, the race-times of the participants in the active arm of the study improved by 2%, while the elite paddlers who consumed the placebo supplement increased their race-performance by only 1%

The green dots on the left and right of the blue myonuclei are satellite cells that thrive on high(er) volume routines (learn more)
Bottom line: The overall image that emerges is clear. β-Hydroxy-β-Melthylbutyrate (HMB) works! And the improvements the Brazilian researchers observed in their 20 highly trained subjects were so pronounced that there is no debating with their conclusion that the "improvement in strength and development of muscular hypertrophy [may help] not only athletes but the general population".

For us, all devoted trainees who are well-versed in the previous literature on HMB, the most important conclusion to be drawn is yet that the early Y2K "muscle builder of the elderly" works for everyone, if - an this is the hypothetical part of the conclusion - the training regimen is intense enough to generate similar muscle damage as the relatively low volume, medium intensity resistance training protocols that were used in previous studies with older and mostly untrained subjects (e.g. Baier. 2009).

Whether training twice a day and 10+ times a week is the way to go for everyone, does still remain questionable. After all, the fundamental rule that you cannot 'out-supplement' insufficient regeneration is still valid (learn more). This is particularly true in view of the fact that the majority of trainees is not as well-conditioned as the elite athletes in the study at hand. This does yet also mean that they will suffer similar eustress from lower volume / intensity / density workouts and could still benefit from 2-3g of HMB... I am yet still waiting for study to investigate how significant this effect is, when the subjects already use a pre-/post workout protein supplementation strategy as outlined in yesterday's post, but alas - this is no research request program.

  • Baier S, Johannsen D, Abumrad N, Rathmacher JA, Nissen S, Flakoll P. Year-long changes in protein metabolism in elderly men and women supplemented with a nutrition cocktail of beta-hydroxy-beta-methylbutyrate (HMB), L-arginine, and L-lysine. JPEN J Parenter Enteral Nutr. 2009 Jan-Feb;33(1):71-82. 
  • Ferreira HR, Rodacki ALF, Gill P, Tanhoffer R, Filho JF, Cláudio L.The Effects of Supplementation of β-Hydroxy-β-Melthylbutyrate on Inflammatory Markers in High Performance Athletes. Journal of Exercise Physiology. 2013; 2:53-63.
  • May PE, Barber A, D'Olimpio JT, Hourihane A, Abumrad NN. Reversal of cancer-related wasting using oral supplementation with a combination of beta-hydroxy-beta-methylbutyrate, arginine, and glutamine. Am J Surg. 2002 Apr;183(4):471-9.
  • Slater G, Jenkins D, Logan P, Lee H, Vukovich M, Rathmacher JA, Hahn AG. Beta-hydroxy-beta-methylbutyrate (HMB) supplementation does not affect changes in strength or body composition during resistance training in trained men. Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab. 2001 Sep;11(3):384-96. 
  • Slater GJ, Jenkins D. Beta-hydroxy-beta-methylbutyrate (HMB) supplementation and the promotion of muscle growth and strength. Sports Med. 2000 Aug;30(2):105-16. 
  • Thomson JS, Watson PE, Rowlands DS. Effects of nine weeks of beta-hydroxy-beta- methylbutyrate supplementation on strength and body composition in resistance trained men. J Strength Cond Res. 2009 May;23(3):827-35. 
  • Vukovich MD, Stubbs NB, Bohlken RM. Body composition in 70-year-old adults responds to dietary beta-hydroxy-beta-methylbutyrate similarly to that of young adults. J Nutr. 2001 Jul;131(7):2049-52.
  • Wilson JM, Lowery RP, Joy JM, Walters JA, Baier SM, Fuller JC, Stout JR, Norton LE, Sikorski EM, Wilson SM, Duncan NM, Zanchi NE, Rathmacher J. β-Hydroxy-β-methylbutyrate free acid reduces markers of exercise-induced muscle damage and improves recovery in resistance-trained men. Br J Nutr. 2013a Jan 3:1-7.
  • Wilson JM, Fitschen PJ, Campbell B, Wilson GJ, Zanchi N, Taylor L, Wilborn C, Kalman DS, Stout JR, Hoffman JR, Ziegenfuss TN, Lopez HL, Kreider RB, Smith-Ryan AE, Antonio J. International Society of Sports Nutrition Position Stand: beta-hydroxy-beta-methylbutyrate (HMB). J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2013b Feb 2;10(1):6.
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