The pursuit of a lean and strong body becomes more of a challenge as the years go by, as your body composition changes, and it becomes easier to gain weight.
You reach the peak of your muscle strength between your 20s and 30s and then must work harder if you want to maintain or build on that strength and muscle mass. From your 40s, lean muscle mass reduces by around 8% per decade and this increases to around 15% per decade from the age of 701.
Reduced muscle mass and strength leads to diminished physical function and mobility in your older years, which can negatively affect your quality of life. Therefore, it is important to consider ways that can support the maintenance of muscle mass and strength.
This can be achieved through resistance and strength training and through getting enough good quality protein in your diet. You can also support muscle strength through supplementation, such as HMB.
What is HMB?
HMB (β-hydroxy-β-methyl-butyrate) is derived from leucine, an essential amino acid, found in meat, poultry, fish, eggs and milk. The body breaks down protein from the foods we consume into amino acids, which are the building blocks for proteins needed by the body. Like all amino acids, leucine enables the body to make proteins that allow a plethora of different processes to occur.
Leucine is broken down in the body to HMB, which is then used by the body to help build and repair healthy muscles. However, only 5% of leucine is converted to HMB and this means that you are unable to consume sufficient protein to yield the levels of HMB through diet alone.
What does HMB do to support healthy muscle tissue?
Studies have found HMB supplementation to support muscle health, supporting lean muscle mass and the health of muscle strength and physical functionality.
A study of 117 participants aged 60 or over were randomly assigned to four groups: control groups with or without exercise, and groups taking HMB and vitamin D with or without exercise. Over 12 months, the participants body composition, strength, functionality was measured, alongside questionnaires. The study found that HMB and vitamin D supplementation enhances muscle strength and physical functionality, even without exercise¹.
A review of six clinical trials found that HMB improved strength and body composition in participants over the age of 65, especially for sedentary adults, or during bed rest. This was thought to be due to it reducing the breakdown of protein and muscle mass².
A six-week study evaluated the effects of HMB supplementation on a group of 40 women aged between 20-45, with a sedentary lifestyle and a BMI of 25 to 29.9 kg/m2. It found that HMB increased muscle strength without resistance training and indicated that it may positively effect body composition³.
BBA (Hons)., BNat., mNMHNZ
Registered Naturopath & Medical Herbalist
¹ Rathmacher, J. A., et al. (2020). Long-term effects of calcium β-hydroxy-β-Methylbutyrate and vitamin D3 supplementation on muscular function in older adults with and without resistance training: A randomized, double-blind, controlled study. The Journals of Gerontology: Series A, 75(11), 2089-2097. doi: 10.1093/gerona/glaa218
² Costa Riela, N. D., Alvim Guimarães, M. M., Oliveira de Almeida, D., & Araujo, E. M. (2021). Effects of beta-hydroxy-beta-Methylbutyrate supplementation on elderly body composition and muscle strength: A review of clinical trials. Annals of Nutrition and Metabolism, 77(1), 16-22. doi: 10.1159/000514236
³ Hashempour, A., Hooshmand, S., Tabesh, M. R., & Alizadeh, Z. (2019). Effect of 6-week HMB (beta-hydroxy-beta methylbutyrate) supplementation on muscle strength and body composition in sedentary overweight women. Obesity Medicine, 15, 100115. doi:10.1016/j.obmed.2019.100115