There is a huge market for ergogenic supplements for athletes. However, only a few products have been proven to have ergogenic effects and to be effective at improving muscle strength and body composition. One such supplement is beta-hydroxy beta-methylbutyrate (HMB). Derived from the amino acid leucine and its keto acid alpha-ketoisocaproate (KIC), HMB has been well documented as an oral ergogenic supplement commonly used by athletes. Several studies have shown that combining exercise training with HMB supplementation leads to increased muscle mass and strength, and there is some anecdotal evidence of aerobic improvement. However, HMB supplementation has been found to be effective mainly for untrained individuals. While previous reviews have emphasized three main pathways for HMB's mode of action: 1) enhancement of sarcolemmal integrity via cytosolic cholesterol, 2) inhibition of protein degradation via proteasomes, and 3) increased protein synthesis via the mTOR pathway, more recent studies have suggested additional possible mechanisms for its physiological effects. These include decreased cell apoptosis and enhanced cell survival, increased proliferation, differentiation and fusion via the MAPK/ERK and PI3K/Akt pathways, and enhanced IGF-I transcription. These are described here, and hormonal interactions are discussed, along with HMB dosage and safety issues.