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Being a masters athlete has many benefits. We hold wisdom from having years of training and competing under our belt; we gain from having more money to spend on the latest equipment; if we've retired we even benefit from the time and freedom to train and compete whenever we want.
A body that simply isn't keeping up. We take longer to warm up, soreness is almost a permanent status, and those old injuries don't seem to be going anywhere fast.
We try everything to slow down the "physical aging" process, from improved diet and 6am yoga to knee braces and epsom salt baths. Does any of it work? It's hard to be sure.
Then there's supplements. Where so many report to improve athletic performance, there could be potential for some products to work even better as we get older. HMB is one of these supplements.
So, what is HMB?
HMB is a well researched sports supplement well known to improve strength and endurance capacity in active individuals (1). HMB also has a body of evidence pointing to its benefits in both both exercising and non exercising older adults. To fully understand the basics of HMB is and what it does, read here.
Now, while we won’t proclaim for one second this is fountain of youth type stuff, we thought we would put together a quick and dirty assessment of the current published research to answer the question: How Can HMB Help the Masters Athlete?
1. Taking HMB can slow down age-related muscle loss
We’ll lose approximately 30-50% of our muscle mass over our lifetime, starting in our mid-late 30’s. This is called age-related sarcopenia. Exercise, especially strength training, has been shown to slow this decline ... but It’s coming for you!
HMB is a substance native to the body that has been shown to be a controller of muscle protein breakdown. It does this by stimulating protein production and holding off breakdown (2).
Research has also shown that there is a decline in natural muscle HMB levels as we get older (3) - which could be one of the reasons we lose muscle mass with aging. To add to this an excellent, year long study showed that taking HMB daily with two amino acids significantly reduced muscle wasting in ageing adults even without exercise. (4)
2. HMB reduces muscle damage and soreness from training
...and you get more of this as you get older!
Older adults experience higher levels of muscle damage compared to younger adults when doing the same training. One study reported up to 90% of ageing exercisers demonstrated markers of muscle damage vs. 5-50% in the young bucks when doing the same work (5). This is a big reason why masters athletes often need more recovery time between workouts.
Daily supplementation with 3g HMB a day has been shown in multiple studies to reduce these same markers of muscle damage, as well as reported soreness when doing things like squats, deadlifts, eccentric training and marathon running (6).
As we age, tissues like tendons, muscle, and ligaments become less robust and bone decreases in density. This can result in more frequent injuries and less time on the field, in the gym or generally being active. While HMB won’t directly prevent injuries, it can speed your road to recovery by reducing the amount of muscle and strength you lose as you recover.
Quick fact: Creatine helps to prevent injury as well.
In 2013 a group of scientists confined a hand-full of older adults to 10 days of bed rest. Those that took HMB retained much more of their muscle mass than those who didn’t (7) - HMB Helped counter muscle loss due to atrophy.
HMB has even been shown to increase strength without exercise, as researchers found in a study with 65 participants comprised of women over the age of 65. (8)
3. HMB could reduce injury downtime
4. HMB may have other general health benefits
A study on untrained adults in the 90's showed that taking HMB could also reduce cholesterol and blood pressure in adults. While this can be an attractive added benefit to HMB supplementation, we should note that the people in the study were also untrained at the start of the study, and therefore the results could be attributed to exercising during the study. (9) With all the benefits above however this would simply be the icing on the cake.
Ready to see what HMB can do for your performance?
1. Wilson et al. (2013): International Society of Sports Nutrition Position Stand on HMB. Read the research
2. Wilkinson et al. (2018): Impact of the calcium form of HMB upon human skeletal muscle protein metabolism. Read the research
3. Kuriyar et al. (2016): The relationship of endogenous plasma concentrations of HMB to age and total appendicular lean mass in humans. Read the research
4. Baier et al. (2009): 1 year long controlled study in the elderly. HMB with two amino acids increased lean mass and protein turnover in older adults. Read the research
5. Manfredi et al (1991): Plasma creatine kinase activity and exercise-induced muscle damage in older men. Read the research
6. Wilson et al. (2013): The official position paper of the International Society of Sports Nutrition on HMB supplementation. HMB is one of the few supplements considered to be both safe and effective by the society.Read the research
7. Deutz et al (2013): Effect of β-hydroxy-β-methylbutyrate (HMB) on lean body mass during 10 days of bed rest in older adults. Read the research
8. Berton et al. (2015): Beta-hydroxy-beta-methylbutyrate (HMB) supplementation on physical performance in healthy old women over 65 years. Read the research
9. Nissen et al (2000): beta-hydroxy-beta-methylbutyrate (HMB) supplementation in humans is safe and may decrease cardiovascular risk factors. Read the research
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