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Everyone wants the next best supplement. Whether you want fat loss, muscle gain, sports performance, or mirror confidence. However, research behind many supplements is lacking the plentiful claims by many supplement companies.

The branched-chain amino acid (BCAA), leucine, has been associated with increases in muscle and numerous other benefits. The benefits of this BCAA may stem from one of its components,  β-hydroxy-β- methylbutyrate (HMB).

This thought process results in many supplement companies advertising HMB or dumping it into mixed cocktails. Yet, how does HMB influence (if it does) high intensity interval training (HIIT)?

HIIT has become more popular in fitness training as it appears to be a time effective and efficient method of improving endurance, the cardiovascular system, metabolism, but not capillary density.

2 Benefits of HMB and HIIT
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Endurance

Lamboley and colleagues (2007) investigated the effects of five weeks of 3 grams/day of HMB and 3 days/week of running HIIT on aerobic performance measures in recreationally active college students. There was greater improvement in endurance and ventilatory threshold (VT; when you breathe faster at an exercise level).

Robinson and colleagues (2014) used untrained subjects, and reported significantly greater increases in V̇O2PEAK, VT and power at VT with use of HMB.

Miramonti (2015) noted improvement in forty recreationally active young men and women were randomly assigned to one of three groups: a control group (C), a HIIT with placebo group (P), and a HIIT with supplementation group (S).

There is strong evidence that HMB and HIIT improve endurance in untrained and active people.

Neuromuscular Fatigue

Miramonti (2015) also measured neuromuscular fatigue threshold through the use of muscle activity (EMG; electromyography). This study found significant improvements in neuromuscular fatigue with HIIT and HIIT + HMB.

This evidence is low, but it seems possible HMB may provide additional benefit for neuromuscular fatigue in untrained people.

How to Use HMB

There are many forms of HMB, ranging from strict pill form to a powder.

Miramonti (2015) used the following supplement protocol:

“Each serving of the HMB supplement consisted of 1 gram of β-hydroxy-β-methylbutyric free acid, reverse osmosis water, de-bittering agent, orange flavor, stevia extract, and potassium carbonate.”

The most common suggested dose is 3 grams/day of HMB divided equally into three servings taken 30 minutes prior to exercise, again 1 hour later, and the final 1 g dose 3 hours post-exercise.

Should you Take HMB?

Personally, the benefits of HMB are still low, even if you are untrained. Often, simply performing more exercise is the best method for improving endurance in untrained. However, if you are untrained and want to give HMB a try, perhaps for quicker or “easier” improvement, go for it!

HMB Summary

As Miramonti (2015) concluded:

“High intensity interval training (HIIT) is an effective and efficient training modality that has shown to improve metabolic and neuromuscular fatigue thresholds in young men and women. Further, it appears that adding HMB supplementation with HIIT in untrained men and women will further improve endurance performance measures. ”

Nonetheless, what about in trained people? Elite athletes? With different training protocols? For long-term use?

We have a lot more to learn…

References:

  1. Lamboley, CR, Royer, D, and Dionne, IJ. Effects of β-Hydroxy-β-Methylbutyrate on Aerobic-Performance Components and Body Composition in College Students. International Journal of Sport Nutrition & Exercise Metabolism 17: 56-69, 2007.
  2. Robinson IV, EH, Stout, JR, Miramonti, AA, Fukuda, DH, Wang, R, Townsend, JR, Mangine, GT, Fragala, MS, and Hoffman, JR. High-intensity interval training and β-hydroxy-β- methylbutyric free acid improves aerobic power and metabolic thresholds. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition 11: 16, 2014.
  3. Miramonti AA, Stout JR, Fukuda DH, Robinson EH 4th, Wang R, La Monica MB, Hoffman JR. The effects of four weeks of high intensity interval training and β-hydroxy-β-methylbutyric free acid supplementation on the onset of neuromuscular fatigue. J Strength Cond Res. 2015 Sep 23. [Epub ahead of print]

Dr. John Mullen

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Dr. John Mullen, DPT, CSCS is a World renowned expert and speaker in sports training and rehabilitation. He received his Doctorate in Physical Therapy at USC, as well as the Josette Antonelli Division Service Scholarship, Order of the Golden Cane, and the Order of Areté. At USC, he also performed research on swimming biomechanics and lung adaptations in swimming training. Dr. John has worked with multiple professional and Olympic athletes, helping them earn Olympic medals. His dedication to research and individualization spurred him to open COR in 2011. Since 2011, Dr. John has been featured in Stack Magazine, Swimming World Magazine, Swimmer Magazine, USA Swimming, USA Triathlon, Swimming Science, and many more.  Before his Doctoral program, Dr. John swam on an athletic scholarship at Purdue University. At Purdue, Dr. John was an Academic Honorable Mention All-American and was awarded the Red Mackey Award and R. O. Papenguh Award. He also won the Purdue Undergraduate business plan and elevator pitch competition, as well as 1st prize with the Indiana Soy Bean Alliance. Dr. John was born in Centerville, Ohio and was a 24-time high school All-American Swimmer. Dr. John is still a swimmer and holds a Masters swimming World and Pacific Swimming Record.

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