Effects of beta-hydroxy-beta-methylbutyrate supplementation during resistance training on strength, body composition, and muscle damage in trained and untrained young men: a meta-analysis

J Strength Cond Res. 2009 May;23(3):836-46. doi: 10.1519/JSC.0b013e3181a00c80.


Beta-hydroxy-beta-methylbutyrate (HMB) is a popular supplement in the resistance training community, with its use supported by claims of increased strength, muscle growth, and improved recovery; however, research outcomes are variable. Therefore, we meta-analyzed the effectiveness of HMB on strength, body composition, and muscle damage. Nine qualifying studies yielded 14 comparisons subcategorized by training experience (trained, untrained) to provide 12-13 estimates of strength (upper body, lower body, overall average), 13 estimates of fat and fat-free mass, and 7 estimates of the muscle-damage marker creatine kinase. The meta-analysis comprised 394 subjects (age 23 +/- 2 years, mean +/- between-study SD) with 5 +/- 2 weeks' intervention and 5 +/- 6 h.wk of training. The estimates were analyzed using a meta-analytic mixed model with study sample size as the weighting factor that included the main-effect covariates to control for between-study differences in HMB dose, intervention duration, training load, and dietary cointervention. To interpret magnitudes, meta-analyzed effects were standardized using the composite baseline between-subject SD and were qualified using modified Cohen effect size thresholds. There were small benefits to lower-body (mean +/- 90% confidence limit: 9.9% +/- 5.9%) and average strength (6.6 +/- 5.7%), but only negligible gains for upper-body strength (2.1 +/- 5.5%) were observed in untrained lifters. In trained lifters, all strength outcomes were trivial. Combined (all studies), the overall average strength increase was trivial (3.7 +/- 2.4%), although uncertainty allows for a small benefit. Effects on fat and fat-free mass were trivial, and results regarding creatine kinase were unclear. Supplementation with HMB during resistance training incurs small but clear overall and leg strength gains in previously untrained men, but effects in trained lifters are trivial. The HMB effect on body composition is inconsequential. An explanation for strength gains in previously untrained lifters requires further research.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis

MeSH terms

  • Biomarkers / analysis
  • Body Composition / drug effects*
  • Creatine Kinase / analysis
  • Diet
  • Dietary Supplements*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Muscle Strength / drug effects*
  • Muscle, Skeletal / drug effects*
  • Muscle, Skeletal / injuries*
  • Resistance Training / methods*
  • Valerates / administration & dosage*
  • Young Adult


  • Biomarkers
  • Valerates
  • beta-hydroxyisovaleric acid
  • Creatine Kinase