The HMB Controversy: Better than Steroids?

Everyday we are hit with supplement claims that sounds to good to be true, as a result we look to science for the truth. However even science is not immune to suspect results so what if the science itself makes similar outrageous claims? Greg Nuckols tackles this subject in a recent post based on research that claims HMB got better results than steroids, check it out!

I’ve been debating for a few days about whether I should write this or not. I’m quick to call out ideas that are suspect or outright wrong (while trying to exercise the principle of charity), but I try to avoid passing personal judgements unless I have all the facts and am sure beyond a reasonable doubt that the people in question are behaving unethically. This is partially because I have an aversion to conflict, but it’s also because I expect the same courtesy and don’t want to be a hypocrite.

Usually, it’s not particularly hard to criticize ideas without criticizing people, but in this case, the idea and the people go hand-in-hand – hence the trepidation about this article. However, given the circumstances, I feel compelled to speak out because I don’t want people to be misled. I’m going to avoid any concrete accusations, but I think you’ll see by the end of this article that the situation addressed here is quite fishy.

Alright, with that vague intro out of the way, let’s get into the meat of the article: Is HMB literally better than (low-to-moderate dose) steroids?

Is this innocuous little molecule the next wonder drug?
Is this innocuous little molecule the next wonder drug?

On its face, that may sound like a ridiculous question. HMB (beta-hydroxy-beta-methylbutyrate) is a supplement that’s been around for several years now. It’s a metabolite of leucine, which is the amino acid most associated with triggering muscle growth. It does impact recovery from exercise, and perhaps muscle growth directly, but you wouldn’t expect an amino acid metabolite to have steroid-like effects.

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