In 2010 a group of researchers from Kingston University in London published a study where they found that HMB didn’t work. Thinking this strange a group of scientists from Iowa State University got hold of the supplement product used in the study, HMB 1000 from UK brand Maximuscle, to test it.
These scientists found that the product contained exactly 0g of HMB (Read their letter to the journal here)
It turned out that Maximuscle had trademarked the name HMB, which is how they got around the legalities of having to supply a well made, real product to their customers.
This isn’t an isolated case. Another HMB study published in 2018 was also found to be using a fake HMB product (Maximum HMB). You can read this study here.
Here are a few things you can do to figure out if the HMB product you are buying is low quality, or the brand selling it is using questionable marketing or dosing tactics.
1. Check the dosage
Is the brand trying to low dose you?
Most research studies are conducted using a dose of 3g/d HMB. To be a bit more specific, the International Society of Sports Nutrition (ISSN) suggests you should take 38mg/kg body weight (so about 3g/d for someone weighing 175lb)
But HMB isn't cheap, and not many people know the correct dosage... so why not just sell 2g/d instead?
Unfortunately this is a common practice amongst HMB brands. This need to make a quick buck comes at the expense of your performance, the reputation of HMB and the integrity of the sports nutrition market. It makes us sad.
2. Check the recommended dose frequency
HMB has a quick half life...
What we mean is, it leaves your body pretty quickly after you take it. This means you need to take it regularly. Most studies dose between 2 - 3 a day every day.
Some brands prescribe dosing just once a day and worse still, only on training days. This is NOT in line with the research and suggests that the brand doesn't really know the product well enough to ensure it's effective. We think this is a warning sign.
3. Beware of the price tag
Brands that are priced lower are saving money somewhere.
As HMB is more difficult to make than other supplement ingredients, it’s also more expensive. If an HMB product’s price BEFORE DISCOUNT is far less than others then there must be a reason. This could be low quality ingredients, not manufacturing at a facility that follows regulatory requirements, no product testing or worse, a fake product.
Proceed with caution: You get what you pay for in sports nutrition.
4. Check for quality
High quality brands spend the time and money to bring you a better product.
In the USA there aren’t many regulations protecting you from fake, low quality, banned or even harmful products. Make sure the brand of HMB you are considering lists it’s quality assurance certifications and adherences on its website. At a minimum the manufacturer should have GMP registration with a third party auditor like NSF or Informed Choice.
Look for this logo on their website or packaging:
Gold standard would be to hold product certifications and have banned substance testing on every batch made. If it’s from another country like Canada, it should show evidence that it’s licensed for sale in that country and meets all quality guidelines.
5. Do you need all those ingredients?
Cutting costs sometimes means more ingredients
There can be a lot of wastage in manufacturing. There's also ways to prevent this wastage. One is to add substances that improve the flow of an ingredient through machines to get a higher yield. The only downside is that customers then consume these additives.... wait, what!?!
He's an example: You know those silica packets you sometimes find in supplement bottles? The alternative is to use a powder form and just add it to the powder.
If the brand you lists silica as an ingredient, that's what they have done.
Examples of the above:
This product from Transparent labs provides 2g/d of HMB, which is is not enough to have an impact on performance according to research (Wilson et al 2013), yet this product is selling it as an effective dose and is competitively priced.
This Advocare HMB product is another low doser. In this case they also under-supply. Lets do the math:
WHAT YOU SHOULD BE GETTING:
- Daily dose of HMB: 3g/d
- For a 1 month supply you will therefore need ~90g HMB
- MSRP should be about US$50 for this amount of HMB - or
- 90g / US$50 = A price of 1.8g per US$1
Muscle Strength by Advocare contains 20 servings of HMB each with just 2g of HMB. This is just 40g of HMB total, so enough for 15d, yet it’s priced competitively with products with twice the HMB in there. Don’t be fooled.
QUICK UPDATE: ADVOCARE RECALLED MUSCLE STRENGTH IN 2018 BECAUSE IT CONTAINED TRACES OF ALLERGENS LIKE NUTS. THIS CONTAMINATION SUGGESTS LOW QUALITY MANUFACTURING. IT'S UNCLEAR IF THE PRODUCT IS DISCONTINUED.