HMB pills in the shape of a brain

4 Best HMB Supplements to Build Muscle & Protect Memory

A sharp mind and chiseled muscles? Sign us up.

Bodybuilders swear by HMB—or beta-hydroxy beta-methylbutyrate—to get and stay swole, but that may be the muscle-building supplement’s least impressive benefit. HMB might help stave off Alzheimer’s, according to a study just published in Cell Reports.

Researchers at the RUSH University Medical Center in Chicago found that HMB might protect memory and learning, reduce plaque formation in the brain, and ultimately prevent Alzheimer’s progression (1).

It’s worth noting the study was done on mice, not humans. Still, “If mouse results with HMB are replicated in Alzheimer’s disease patients, it would open up a promising avenue of treatment of this devastating neurodegenerative disease,” noted the study’s lead author, Kalipada Pahan, Ph.D., in a press release.

While we’re stuck waiting for the cognitive effects of HMB to be confirmed in humans, the physical benefits are clear. Several human studies have confirmed HMB can help reduce age-related muscle loss, accelerate recovery, and improve exercise performance (2, 3, 4). Meaning, HMB might be a healthspan double whammy, preserving muscle and possibly cognitive function, both of which decline naturally with age.

What Is HMB?

HMB is a chemical naturally produced in small amounts when your body breaks down leucine, a branched-chain amino acid found in foods like Greek yogurt, chicken, and beef that’s essential for protein synthesis and muscle repair (5).

The problem? Even when you get a decent amount of leucine in your diet, your body only produces HMB in small amounts (in other words, not large enough to make a significant impact on muscle). Supplementing with an HMB capsule, tablet, or powder form can help keep your levels in check (6).

What Are the Benefits of HMB?

Studies suggest the benefits of HMB reach far beyond the gym floor. Supplementing with HMB might:

  • Reduce age-related muscle loss (2)
  • Reduce markers of muscle damage (3)
  • Accelerate muscle recovery (3)
  • Improve exercise endurance and performance (4, 7)
  • Preserve muscle during periods of bed rest or clinical conditions associated with muscle-wasting like malnutrition, cancer, and HIV (3, 8)
  • Accelerate wound healing, when paired with arginine and glutamine (9)

While many bodybuilders take HMB with the belief that it builds muscle, studies are mixed. One review of current research suggests HMB might increase muscle growth in older adults (2), but another suggests it has little effect on strength when compared to exercise alone (10). HMB might not be super helpful for boosting strength in trained athletes either (11).

Taking HMB With Other Supplements

Combining HMB products with other workout supplements can help compound its powerful effects. One study found that taking three grams of HMB with varying doses of creatine significantly improved athletes’ strength and performance, increased muscle growth, and reduced body fat (12). Another suggests the combo might boost testosterone levels (13).

Pairing HMB with vitamin D might also be worth a shot. Surprisingly, vitamin D status is linked to muscle strength and better posture (14). One study, which followed older adults for one year, found that those who took HMB and vitamin D had more functional strength than those who didn’t—even without an exercise routine (15).


How Much HMB Do I Need?

Although there’s no standardized dose for HMB, most studies have used a dosage of three grams per day. The International Society of Sports Nutrition suggests a dose of 38 mg/kg of body weight to enhance hypertrophy, strength, and power, noting that chronic consumption of HMB is safe (16).

HMB Side Effects

HMB appears to be safe and well-tolerated, with very few known side effects. In rare cases, people may experience stomach pain, constipation, or itching while taking HMB (11). If you experience side effects, stop taking HMB immediately and consult a healthcare provider.

Best HMB Supplements

Ready to support muscle, reduce recovery time, and boost performance? Here are the best HMB capsules, tablets, and powders to get the job done.

1. Paida, R. et al (2023). Muscle-Building Supplement β-hydroxy β-methylbutyrate Binds to PPARα to Improve Hippocampal Functions in Mice.
2. Lin, Z. et al (2022). Effect of β-hydroxy β-methylbutyrate (HMB) on Muscle Strength in the Elderly Population: A Meta-Analysis.
3. Bear, D. et al (2019). β-hydroxy β-methylbutyrate and Its Impact on Skeletal Muscle Mass and Physical Function in Clinical Practice: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis.
4. Durkalex-Michalski, K. et al (2017). The Effect of 12-Week Beta-hydroxy-beta-methylbutyrate (HMB) Supplementation in Highly-Trained Combat Sports Athletes: A Randomised, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Crossover Study. 
5. Wilkinson, D. et al (2013). Effects of Leucine and Its Metabolite β-hydroxy-β-methylbutyrate on Human Skeletal Muscle Protein Metabolism.
6. Molfino, A. et al (2013). Beta-hydroxy-beta-methylbutyrate Supplementation in Health and Disease: A Systematic Review of Randomized Trials.
7. Durkalex-Michalski, K. et al (2015). The Efficacy of β-hydroxy β-methylbutyrate Supplementation on Physical Capacity, Body Composition, and Biochemical Markers in Elite Rowers: A Randomized, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Crossover Study.
8. Deutz, N. et al (2013). Effect of β-hydroxy β-methylbutyrate (HMB) on Lean Body Mass During 10 Days of Bed Rest in Older Adults.
9. Sipahi, S. et al (2013). The Effect of Oral Supplementation With a Combination of Beta-hydroxy-beta-nethylbutyrate, Arginine, and Glutamine on Wound Healing: A Retrospective Analysis of Diabetic Haemodialysis Patients.
10. Courel-Ibanez, J. et al (2019). Health Benefits of β-hydroxy β-methylbutyrate (HMB) Supplementation in Addition to Physical Exercise in Older Adults: A Systematic Review with Meta-Analysis.
11. Sanchez-Martinez, J. et al (2018). Effects of Beta-hydroxy-beta-methylbutyrate Supplementation on Strength and Body Composition in Trained and Competitive Athletes: A meta-Anaylsis of Randomized Controlled Trials.
12. Fernandez-Landa, J.e t al (2019). Effect of the Combination of Creatine Monohydrate Plus HMB Supplementation on Sports Performance, Body Composition, Markers of Muscle Damage and Hormone Status: A Systematic Review.
13. Fernandez-Landa, J.e t al (2020). Long-Term Effect of Combination of Creatine Monohydrate Plus β-hydroxy β-methylbutyrate (HMB) on Exercise-Induced Muscle Damage and Anabolic/Catabolic Hormones in Elite Male Endurance Athletes.
14. Gunton, J. et al (2018). Vitamin D and Muscle.
15. Rathmacher, J. et al (2020). Long-Term Effects of β-hydroxy β-methylbutyrate and Vitamin D3 Supplementation on Muscular Function in Older Adults With and Without Resistance Training: A Randomized, Double-Blind, Controlled Study.
16. Wilson, J. et al (2013). International Society of Sports Nutrition Position Stand: Beta-hydroxy-beta-methylbutyrate (HMB).