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Open Access Highly Accessed Review

Effects of beta-hydroxy-beta-methylbutyrate (HMB) on exercise performance and body composition across varying levels of age, sex, and training experience: A review

Gabriel J Wilson1*, Jacob M Wilson2 and Anssi H Manninen3

Author Affiliations

1 Division of Nutritional Sciences, University of Illinois, Urbana, Illinois, USA

2 Department of Nutrition, Food and Exercise Science, Florida State University, Tallahassee, Florida, USA

3 Manninen Nutraceuticals Oy, Oulu, Finland

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Nutrition & Metabolism 2008, 5:1  doi:10.1186/1743-7075-5-1

Published: 3 January 2008

Abstract

The leucine metabolite beta-hydroxy-beta-methylbutyrate (HMB) has been extensively used as an ergogenic aid; particularly among bodybuilders and strength/power athletes, who use it to promote exercise performance and skeletal muscle hypertrophy. While numerous studies have supported the efficacy of HMB in exercise and clinical conditions, there have been a number of conflicting results. Therefore, the first purpose of this paper will be to provide an in depth and objective analysis of HMB research. Special care is taken to present critical details of each study in an attempt to both examine the effectiveness of HMB as well as explain possible reasons for conflicting results seen in the literature. Within this analysis, moderator variables such as age, training experience, various states of muscle catabolism, and optimal dosages of HMB are discussed. The validity of dependent measurements, clustering of data, and a conflict of interest bias will also be analyzed. A second purpose of this paper is to provide a comprehensive discussion on possible mechanisms, which HMB may operate through. Currently, the most readily discussed mechanism has been attributed to HMB as a precursor to the rate limiting enzyme to cholesterol synthesis HMG-coenzyme A reductase. However, an increase in research has been directed towards possible proteolytic pathways HMB may operate through. Evidence from cachectic cancer studies suggests that HMB may inhibit the ubiquitin-proteasome proteolytic pathway responsible for the specific degradation of intracellular proteins. HMB may also directly stimulate protein synthesis, through an mTOR dependent mechanism. Finally, special care has been taken to provide future research implications.