You know that getting some form of protein is essential for sustaining lean muscle growth. Hell, walk in to any gym, and we’ll bet that most guys there will be guzzling whey protein shakes on their way to makin’ big gains.
But building muscle is one thing—if you want to speed up muscle recovery, whey’s not necessarily enough. Fortunately, exercise scientists are looking at a new supplement that’ll get your muscles back in peak shape after even the toughest workouts. It’s a little-talked-about compound called beta-hydroxy-beta-methylbutyrate (HMB for short) and it’s been shown to reduce muscle soreness and help guys get back to their peak performance even faster, according to a study published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition.
Some quick science: HMB is a product of leucine, a branched-chain amino acid long heralded for its muscle-building abilities. Scientists suspect that muscles damaged by intense training might not be able to produce all the key compounds for growth on their own, and that HMB is a key way to supplement that growth. Scientists also believe that slow-digesting carbohydrates, like isomaltulose, are effective in overcoming extreme workouts that drain your body’s available energy stores.
The researchers got 13 resistance-trained guys—averaging 23 years old, 5'9", and about 190 pounds—to do three consecutive days of intense weightlifting workouts. All the participants consumed protein supplements for two weeks prior to the workout, during the workout series, and for two days after the workout. But while some of the guys (the control group) consumed regular whey protein, the experimental group consumed EAS Recovery Protein, which contains extra HMB and isomaltulose.
On Day 1, the "heavy workout," the guys did the following:
Barbell squat (5 sets of 3-5 reps, 3 mins. rest)
Bench press (5 sets of 3-5 reps, 3 mins. rest)
Bent over row (3 sets of 3-5 reps, 3 mins. rest)
Deadlift (3 sets of 3-5 reps, 3 mins. rest)
Shoulder press (2 sets of 3-5 reps, 2 mins. rest)
Lat pulldown (2 sets of 3-5 reps, 2 mins. rest)
During the “metabolic workouts” on Days 2 and 3, the guys completed the same exercises in the same order, except they performed 3 sets of 8-10 reps with only 30 seconds of rest between sets.
The researchers tested each participant, during and after the workouts, and they found that guys who consumed the protein with added HMB felt less sore, had fewer biomarkers of muscle breakdown, and were able to jump higher after the workouts.
"Our findings suggest that during times of intense conditioning, the recovery benefits of [whey protein] are enhanced with the addition of HMB and a slow-release carbohydrate," the study authors wrote. “We observed reductions in markers of muscle damage and improved athletic performance.”