Beta-hydroxy-beta-methylbutyrate, or HMB, is a popular bodybuilding supplement that has been shown to enhance lean body mass in at least some lifters. In order to get the most out of HMB, though, you need to take it the right way, and that includes picking the optimal time for your doses.
So when to take HMB and when is right time to take HMB?
There are no definite answers to that question that are perfect for everyone, but a little background can get us close to the truth for you.
What Is HMB?
In chemical terms, HMB is a metabolite of leucine, produced when that amino acid is burned for energy or used to make new proteins. Both leucine and HMB have been shown to increase the rate of protein synthesis and decrease the rate of proteolysis — muscle breakdown — when taken in supplemental form. Of the two, leucine tends to help more with synthesis and HMB appears to be better for slowing proteolysis.
Because HMB derives from leucine, an amino acid, you produce it throughout the day thanks to the proteins that you eat. However, while most studies show that you need at least three grams of HMB per day to really help your muscles, most people produce less than one gram per day.
That’s why we need supplemental forms to get the optimal results from HMB.
When to Take HMB
Since you’re making HMB all day long (more or less), does that also mean you should spread out your HMB supplements throughout the day? Or should you take it all at once, or is there a middle ground that’s better than both?
Part of THAT answer depends on how much HMB you’re taking in total each day.
Many of the studies that show HMB to be an effective ergogenic supplement have provided subjects with an even three grams per day, but it makes sense that optimal dosages might well vary depending on your body mass. In fact, one major supplier of HMB has put together a chart that calls for smaller amounts if you weight under 150 pounds and larger amounts if you tip the scales above 170.
Similarly, a 2000 study out of Ball State University found no additional benefits in going above 17 mg per pound of body weight per day, or about 2.5 grams for a 150-pound man.
While optimal single doses have not been studied extensively, many experts recommend taking no more than one gram of HMB at a time. That means you’ll be shooting for three or four servings per day. You should spread those out fairly evenly, though you may want to give extra consideration to the period around your workout.
Since training breaks down protein cells, introducing nutrition that can limit proteolysis has the potential to jump start your recovery after you lift. Some studies indicate that blood levels of HMB peak between 30 and 120 minutes after you take it, depending on form, so it might make sense to try HMB with your pre-workout meal.
On the other hand, researchers from Florida Statue University were unable to find a clear indication that timing made any difference in HMB efficacy in a 2009 study.
What’s Right for You?
If you’re going to invest in HMB supplements to help achieve your physique goals, most evidence points to the daily quantity being more important than WHEN you take it. Aim for about three grams, split up over the course of the day, and you should be taking in close to the levels that studies indicate are optimal. Adjust that number up or down depending on your body weight and results.
Of course, you need to talk to your doctor before you take any new supplement, HMB included. He can help you make sure that it doesn’t pose any special risks for you and keep you healthy while you gain.