Fat Loss Biology
Muscle Building Supplements - HMB for Senior Fitness

Muscle building supplements often fail to work as well in older adults as they do in 20-somethings. HMB is the exception for senior fitness, and good scientific research provides the evidence for it.

Muscle Building Supplements for Seniors

Very few muscle building supplements are developed with seniors in mind. Bodybuilding sites focus on the young and overly muscled. Experts also promote supplements as if they are effective regardless of age. The often ignored issue of age-related limitations on supplements hit home for me when I did some research on amino acid stacking as it relates to boosting growth hormone levels: When Arginine Fails As A Growth Hormone Releaser.

This trend also seems to be the case with the increasingly popular use of branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) as muscle building supplements. However, a key metabolite of leucine, which is one of the BCAAs, is turning out to be an exception. This metabolite, beta-hydroxy-beta-methylbutyrate (HMB) does, indeed, have a comparable effect for building muscle mass in older vs. younger adults.

Key Research on HMB

The seminal research on HMB in human studies was a topic in an earlier post here: Bodybuilding Supplements – HMB For More Muscle. The following study was published subsequent to that research, addressing the effects of this supplement in 70-year old adults. Here are the reference details and published abstract of this study:

Muscle Building Supplements - HMB Research for Senior Fitness

Summary of Main Results

This is what the graph looks like that summarizes the main results of this study. Note that the asterisk above the HMB-treated group indicates a statistically significant difference between it and the placebo group. Moreover, as expected, the HMB-treated group shows an upward trend in percent Fat Free Mass over time.

However, it is somewhat curious to see that the placebo group trended downward from Week 4 to Week 8 – i.e., actually lost Fat Free Mass. I would be very interested to see whether this trend might have continued and, if so, whether it became statistically significant (no such comparison was made in the study) over time. Wouldn’t it be tremendously disappointing to know that, as you age, exercise leads to loss of Fat Free Mass?

Muscle Building Supplements - Research Results for Senior Fitness

Key Age Comparison for Senior Fitness

The authors of this study provided a comparison that is often missing in published studies. It is one thing to say that results have been comparable across several studies. This graph, however, shows what this means visually.

Muscle Building Supplements - Age Comparisons for HMB

All of the studies in this comparison showed a net weekly increase in percent Fat Free Mass with HMB supplements. The current study shows that 70-year olds might even expect a little bit better than average increase in comparison with the 20-somethings.

That, dear readers, is a rarity regarding aging. And quite a pleasant one for me as I approach that milestone in the next few years.

Updating muscle building supplements for seniors,


3 Comments so far »

  1. by Jane


    Which is best for building muscle in seniors HMB or CLA?

  2. by Dennis Wynn


    Would like to hear more on this subject. 72 year old doing exercises in pool for legs and shoulders.

  3. by FitScientist


    Hi, Dennis…I am always gratified to hear from another fellow baby-boomer who is doing the right stuff for fitness and health. I think the most interesting and applicable study for us, regarding muscle-building supplements, is the one that I referred to that was published in Nutrition in 2004 (more details in: Muscle Building Supplements For Senior Fitness). Elderly women (avg 76.7 yrs) got tremendous benefits from supplementing with a daily a mixture of 2 g of HMB, 5 g of arginine, and 1.5 g of lysine. That is music to my ears, so I have been taking this mix ever since, plus a creatine-glucose mix that drives creatine and water into muscle more efficiently. This is all independent of exercise. What I have learned about the most effective ways to exercise just makes my fitness even better. What exactly are you doing in the pool? Maybe I can give you some insight there, too.

    All the best,

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