HMB Study Results Too Good to Be True

The latest finding on HMB supplementation could be more about profit than performance.

You may have seen an article I wrote recently covering the amazing results of a study on HMB and its effects on muscular growth. Recently a different journal, the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, released another study on the effects of HMB supplementation, but this time on its cardiovascular benefits.

In the previous article, I mentioned some of the researchers had been paid by a supplement company. Couple that with extraordinary results and things seemed fishy, even in an otherwise well-designed study. So let’s take a look at the new research.

Most of the participants in this study performed intervals on a bike three times per week for four weeks. Half of these took 3g per day of free-acid HMB, and the other half took a similar-looking placebo. The rest of the participants did nothing but their normal activities during the four-week period. Before and after the four-week period, each participant was tested on several cardiovascular qualities, including VO2 peak, ventilator threshold, and time to exhaustion on a bike.

First, let’s go over the conclusions. The researchers stated that the group taking HMB significantly increased the cardiovascular fitness variables noted above. As such, they concluded that HMB is great for cardio, too. Combine that with the other recent study on muscle building and it seems that HMB is practically magic. A quick glance at the competing interests shows none whatsoever. Slam dunk, right? Time to head to the vitamin store.

Unfortunately, upon closer examination you will notice the HMB group improved, no doubt, but so did the placebo group. In fact, only ventilatory threshold was better in the HMB group. And don’t get too distracted by the graph showing HMB is better at developing VO2 peak, which claims it’s adjusted for pre-testing values, because it clearly is not. The HMB group started with higher VO2 peak, and the increases are comparable between groups.

It’s odd that two different journals reported amazing or shady results on the same supplement. Truth is, the same supplement company, Metabolic Technologies Inc., provided the supplements and funding for both studies. MTI also employed several of the researchers who took part in the first HMB study I wrote about.

After seeing this, I figured the case was almost closed, but I kept digging. It didn’t sit right that the grad students who worked on the new study seemed to truly have no competing interests. Then I found another article I wrote a while back detailing the stance the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition took on HMB. The conclusion by this illustrious journal was that HMB was great, and its free-acid form might be even better, based on virtually no information.

That stance included contributions by an editor-in-chief of that journal, Jose Antonio, who is also a sports science consultant for a supplement company. Two of the other contributors to that study work at the same university as the researchers in today’s study. And one of them is also employed by – wait for it – MTI, one of the very few companies who provides the free-acid form of HMB.

It’s too bad, because this supplement shows so much promise. Unfortunately, it’s tainted by what appears to be a corporate effort to turn the scientific process into something that no one would call science, just to make a buck.


1. Edward Robinson, et. al., “High-intensity interval training and ß-hydroxy-ß-methylbutyric free acid improves aerobic power and metabolic thresholds, Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition 2014, 11:16

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