Here’s How HMB Can Help You Recover from Hard Workouts

Here’s How HMB Can Help You Recover from Hard Workouts

In order to get big, you  have to train hard and eat well, but all of your best efforts won’t mean a thing if you don’t recover fully between workouts. While rest and solid nutrition will take you a long way toward your goals, some evidence suggests that certain supplements like HMB might help you recover faster and more completely from your workouts.

HMB, or  Î²-hydroxy β-methylbutyrate, is a metabolite of the branched-chain amino acid (BCAA) leucine, and it has been hyped for decades as a supplement that can help you get bigger and leaner. But can it really aid your between-workout recovery efforts?

Let’s see what the evidence tells us.

What IS Recovery, Anyway?

When it comes to working out and growing muscles, the topic of recovery is a complicated one.

Anyone who has ever completed a hard workout knows that you’re not the same AFTER the workout as you were BEFORE training, and there are several dramatic markers that key you in to that fact.

In particular, after a workout, your muscles will be tired, you could be light-headed, you might be hungry, and you may experience muscle tremors or shaky legs.

You’re wiped out, in other words.

In the days after training, you might experience muscle soreness, joint stiffness, general fatigue, and elevated resting heart rate and blood pressure. From a qualitative perspective, then, recovery involves “healing” from these conditions to the point that you feel normal again.

At a more microscopic level, several markers  can give you an indication of the extent of muscle damage you caused during your workout, and how far you have recovered at any point in time. Among these are blood levels of creatine kinase (a marker of muscle implementation),  urinary 3-methylhistadine (an indicator of muscular stress), and blood levels of testosterone and cortisol.

In short, your blood chemistry changes in response to training, and recovery is marked by a return to normal levels.

Does HMB Help with Recovery?

Since it first appeared in the mid 1990s, HMB has attracted a loyal following of bodybuilders who swear that taking the supplement reduces their muscle soreness and allows them totrain harder and (maybe) more frequently.

Many of these guys have also gained muscle or lost fat while using HMB.

Beyond these stories from the gym trenches, science has shown  in study after study that HMB at least has the potential to boost muscle gains and limit protein breakdown in hard-training lifters and even non-lifters. You can only gain muscle after you have first repaired the damage from your workout, so muscle gains are at least indirect evidence that HMB can improve recovery.

In 2013, though, researchers from the University of Tampa set out  to directly examine the effects of HMB on exercise recovery. In this study, 20 men with weight-training experience received three grams per day of either HMB or a placebo, and then performed a high-volume workout consisting of squats, bench presses, and deadlifts.

Trainees underwent an interview and blood tests before training, and again 48 hours after their workout.

What the scientists found was that the HMB group experienced less of a spike in creatine kinase and reported less muscle soreness and felt more recovered two days post-training than did the placebo group. The trainees taking HMB also showed lower levels of urinary 3-methylhistadine, indicating less muscle breakdown.

No significant differences in cortisol or testosterone levels were noted between the groups.

What Does It Mean for You?

While the Tampa study consisted of a single training session and relatively few subjects, the results are still encouraging for lifters hoping to recover more quickly from their workouts. When you also consider the large number of studies that show HMB to be effective — at least for some trainees — in promoting muscle mass gains, there is a good chance the supplement does enhance at least some parts of the recovery mechanism.

Of course, HMB is a supplement, and you MUST have a solid diet and exercise program in place before any supplement will make a difference to your results. You also need to ask your doctor about the safety of HMB (or any other substance) before including it in your program. Everyone has a different health history, and you need professional advice on how supplements might impact YOUR wellness.

With these caveats in mind, though, it appears that HMB can indeed help many lifters recover from hard workouts.

For more great workout and nutrition tips checkout these New Bodybuilding Articles.

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