BCAA and HMB are both awesome supplements that can make a world of difference in helping you achieve your fitness goals, both in and out of the gym. But it’s not a combination you often see together.
More often than not, you’ll find BCAAs either as a standalone supplement or in something like a pre or intra-workout drink, while HMB is usually found in fat burners or on its own.
While both are great in their own right, you may wonder if you can you combine them for maximum benefits.
That’s what you’re about to find out. We’re going to give you the rundown on why BCAAs and HMB are both great supplements to add to your stack and if it’s more beneficial to separate them or if you can combine them.
What are BCAAs?
BCAAs are a group of three essential amino acids—leucine, isoleucine, and valine—that are designed to support muscle growth and recovery.
Because they are essential amino acids, they can’t be produced from other non-essential amino acids. They must come from exogenous supplementation, hence why you’ll find many pills, powders, and other products containing BCAAs.
And if you’re into any serious fitness routine, they’re likely a staple in your bag.
The reason they’re so popular is that for the body to create new muscle proteins, all nine essential amino acids must be present.
Of all the amino acids, leucine plays the most significant anabolic role in muscle growth, so supplementing extra makes complete sense.
But there’s more. BCAAs may also help to reduce the extent of muscle damage after training by lowering levels of circulating creatine kinase (CK) and lactate dehydrogenase (LDH), which are both markers of muscle damage 1, 2.
Less damage equals a better recovery and allows you to train harder during your next gym session.
And suppose you’re training in a caloric deficit. In that case, BCAAs are great to keep on hand because they take away the concern over gluconeogenesis and breakdown of muscle proteins for energy, which, during periods of fasted training, can happen.
If you’re consuming adequate dietary protein, it’s not as much of a concern, but taking BCAAs pre-workout can safeguard against the possibility 3.
What is HMB?
Beta-hydroxy-beta-methylbutyrate, commonly called HMB, is a relatively recent addition in the fitness supplement world, even though it’s been around for over 20 years.
It is a compound that’s naturally produced in small quantities in the body as a by-product of leucine metabolism.
However, if you’re thinking about taking leucine hoping to reap the benefits of HMB, think again.
Of the 20% of leucine that doesn’t go directly towards protein synthesis, only about 5% of that gets converted into HMB.
But as a sole supplement or part of a pre-workout blend, HMB is excellent to keep you in an anabolic state.
It helps to prevent muscle breakdown, as well as increase workload, reduce and repair muscle damage, and indirectly increase muscle mass 4.
As it stands, the leucine in your BCAAs won’t provide you with much HMB, but supplementing with HMB alongside your BCAAs may give you some serious advantage.
The major benefit of adding HMB to your stack is this: it helps to reduce muscle protein breakdown via the mTOR pathway.
The ability of HMB to aid muscle growth comes from its ability to synthesize proteins by stimulating mRNA translation, muscle cell proliferation, and protein synthesis, along with an increased expression of insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1) and growth hormone (GH) 5; both hormones are essential to muscle protein synthesis.
However, keep in mind that the point of HMB isn’t to increase muscle growth, but rather to slow the process of muscle breakdown to conserve all that time and effort you’ve put into the gym.
But interestingly, it may also influence cortisol levels, which plays another indirect role in preserving lean muscle mass.
Cortisol is an essential hormone in the body, but when in excess, it can impede hugely on your ability to gain muscle.
That is because cortisol is inherently a catabolic hormone, meaning it breaks down muscle rather than supporting muscle growth.
Research shows HMB can help to blunt the adverse effects of cortisol when taken in a fasted state 6.
As such, when you keep levels in check during and after training, there’s no roadblock to protein synthesis.
Can You Take Them Together?
If you’re looking to maximize muscle growth and improve recovery, the answer is 100% yes.
But remember that the benefits of BCAAs and HMB aren’t the same. BCAAs function more on the side of increasing muscle protein synthesis, while HMB functions on the side of preventing muscle breakdown. Naturally, they seem like a match made in heaven.
Ultimately, however, the goal is pretty similar. To preserve lean muscle stores and increase muscle building capacity.
So, taking HMB before your workout in something like Burn Lab Pro will keep you in an anabolic state during your workout and help boost fat loss, while taking BCAAs either before or directly after your workout will supply you with the amino acids, namely leucine, necessary to stimulate muscle protein synthesis.
If you’re planning on doing any intense exercise, BCAAs taken before training can be to your benefit to reduce muscle soreness 7.
And what’s more, because BCAAs bypass the liver and gut, they can also be put towards energy production.
The Take-home Message
Long story short, if you’re looking for more energy, faster recovery, and enhanced muscle protein synthesis, combining HMB with BCAAs is to your advantage.
That’s not to say that if you’re not taking either of these supplements, your muscle growth and recovery will suffer because they’re not essential.
Still, for anyone looking to boost performance and lose fat while maintaining lean mass, they’re great additions to a stack. And if you’re doing any fasted training, both of these have extra importance.
In order to help you meet all of your fitness goals, Burn Lab Pro contains a combination of five unique ingredients, including HMB, designed to supercharge your workouts.
It’s one of the best stim-free fat burning formulas with ingredients that team up to boost each other’s beneficial activities, leaving you with the cleanest, most powerful and effective fat burner ever developed.
Use in combination with Performance Lab BCAA for ultimate results. These BCAAs supply the optimal research-backed 2:1:1 ratio of BCAAs made with Ferment-A-Pure technology, all delivered in vegan-friendly NutriCaps®–a clean, convenient alternative to artificial flavors, sweeteners, and synthetics found in most other BCAA supplements.
- G Howatson, M Hoad, S Goodall, J Tallent, PG Bell, DN French. Exercise-induced muscle damage is reduced in resistance-trained males by branched chain amino acids: a randomized, double-blind, placebo controlled study. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2012 Jul; 9: 20.
- JS Coombes, LR McNaughton. Effects of branched-chain amino acid supplementation on serum creatine kinase and lactate dehydrogenase after prolonged exercise. J Sports Med Phys Fitness. 2000 Sep; 40(3): 240-6.
- HK Karlsson, PA Nilsson, J Nilsson, AV Chibalin, JR Zierath, E Blomstrand. Branched-chain amino acids increase p70S6k phosphorylation in human skeletal muscle after resistance exercise. Am J Physiol Endocrinol Metab. 2004 Jul; 287(1): E1-7.
- K Durkalec-Michalski, J Jeszka, T Podgórski. The Effect of a 12-Week Beta-hydroxy-beta-methylbutyrate (HMB) Supplementation on Highly-Trained Combat Sports Athletes: A Randomised, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Crossover Study. Nutrients. 2017; 9(7): 753.
- M Holeček. Beta-hydroxy-beta-methylbutyrate supplementation and skeletal muscle in healthy and muscle-wasting conditions. J Cachexia Sarcopenia Muscle. 2017; 8(4): 529-541.
- G Tinsley, AH Givan, AJ Graybeal, MI Villarreal, AG Cross. β-Hydroxy β-methylbutyrate free acid alters cortisol responses, but not myofibrillar proteolysis, during a 24-h fast. Br J Nutr. 2018 Mar; 119(5): 517-526.
- SR Jackman, OC Witard, AE Jeukendrup, KD Tipto. Branched-chain amino acid ingestion can ameliorate soreness from eccentric exercise. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2010; 42(5): 962-970.