What is the role of HMB in injury?

Thursday 07 April 2022

What is the role of HMB in injury?

Often, taking a rest period is the first advice given to an athlete in case of injury. During this period, it is crucial to ensure that muscle breakdown is kept to a minimum so that normal physical activity can be resumed as soon as possible. Find out in this blog how an HMB supplement can help with this.

What is HMB?

HMB or hydroxymethyl butyrate is a metabolite or degradation product of the essential amino acid leucine. This amino acid is the main trigger for muscle protein synthesis and thus has a very important impact not only on muscle building but also on reducing muscle breakdown. Studies show that an intake of 2-3g of leucine is optimal to stimulate muscle building.

Amino acids are the building blocks of proteins, which in turn are the building blocks of muscle. HMB is produced in small amounts by the body itself but can also be extracted from our diet (e.g. citrus fruits, avocado, cauliflower, catfish). To get to an active dose of 3g of HMB per day, you would need to ingest 600g of high-quality protein or 60g of leucine. To give an idea, this is equivalent to about 85 eggs. Through food, this is virtually impossible and therefore an HMB supplement is recommended.

HMB supplementation has been shown to reduce muscle protein breakdown (anti-catabolic effect) and support muscle mass building (anabolic effect). In addition, it will reduce muscle damage and accelerate muscle recovery after high-intensity exercise. HMB supplementation can lead to an increase in lean mass and has a positive effect on muscle strength.


Effect of HMB in case of injury

Taking a rest period is often the first advice given to an athlete after an injury. Depending on the severity of the injury, not only the duration of the rest period may vary but also the degree of immobilisation. This rest period is never pleasant for an athlete both mentally and physically as it is always accompanied by a decrease in muscle strength and mass.

Thanks to the anti-catabolic effect of HMB, muscle breakdown during the rest period can be minimised. This ensures that physical activity can be restarted after a rest period with minimal loss of muscle mass. The advantage of this is that less rehabilitation will be needed after the rest period to fully restart normal physical activity.

Several scientific studies found reduced muscle breakdown during immobilisation/compulsory rest when HBM was taken. The study below is a good example of this. The graph clearly shows that the athletes who had taken 3g of HMB per day (black bar) during 10 days of bed rest showed little to no loss of muscle mass (legs) after this rest period. By comparison, the athletes who had not taken HMB (placebo; white bar) showed much more loss of muscle mass (± 1kg).

Also during rehabilitation after immobilisation/compulsory rest, an intake of HMB has a significant impact on shortening the overall duration of injury thanks to its muscle-building effect.


Use HMB in case of injury

As soon as an injured athlete is advised by a doctor to take a rest period or a period of reduced physical activity, it is advisable to start a course of HMB. This treatment should be continued until the end of rehabilitation, until normal physical activity can be resumed. To reach the recommended daily active dose of 3g, 4 tablets of Etixx HMB per day are recommended (2 in the morning and 2 in the evening).


For which athletes yet?

HMB is not only useful for injured athletes, but also very interesting for athletes who suffer a lot of muscle damage. Power or explosive athletes such as sprinters, throwers, jumpers, weightlifters, bodybuilders,... are good examples. But athletes who regularly do resistance training such as middle-distance runners, team and racket athletes also experience a lot of muscle damage and can therefore benefit greatly from HMB supplementation.

Novice athletes, who are generally more susceptible to muscle damage than well-trained ones, can also benefit greatly from an HMB supplement. A good example is people who go skiing once a year. A course of HMB during a skiing holiday can help minimise muscle damage, resulting in less muscle soreness.


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