When I first heard about Ensure Clinical Strength, also called Ensure Revigor and Ensure Muscle Health, I was intrigued. I was intrigued because Ensure Muscle Health contains a very interesting ingredient called HMB, which several studies have shown can reduce muscle tissue breakdown. Because most people (but certainly not all) drink Ensure because they are either older and have a poor appetite, or are sick and can't eat much, to me, the addition of HMB sounded like such a win-win combination so I thought it warranted a review. Let's take a look first at HMB and then Ensure Muscle Health with HMB so you can get a better idea of it's right for you.
What is HMB?
HMB stands for beta hydroxy betamethyl buterate (now you know why they call it HMB!).
Small amounts of HMB are naturally created when we breakdown the amino acid leucine. So, you are making HMB all the time, just not very much of it. Leucine is one of the branch chain amino acids and is found in any food that walks, swims or flies (or as I like to say “any food that had a mother“) .
Research studies do show that HMB may help reduce muscle protein breakdown. As such, HMB was at one time popular among bodybuilders. Athletes however quickly stopped using this supplement after research started to show that HMB worked best in beginners – not experienced weight lifters.
This fact is what made adding HMB to Ensure such an interesting idea to me. Most older adults and sick folks don't exercise very much – if at all. In theory, they would be prime candidates to benefit from HMB supplements.
People who have cancer, HIV and other serious illnesses often experience a muscle wasting disease called cachexia. Research has shown that HMB might help reverse cachexia in some people when used in conjunction with the amino acids, arginine and glutamine.
FYI, you may want to read my review on glutamine too. That's where I tell you facts about glutamine most people don't know.
HMB can also be found on Amazon as a stand alone supplement, for those who want to just take it without Ensure.
What's in Ensure Clinical Strength?
If you look at the Nutrition Facts Label for Ensure Revigor you see that it contains the following ingredients:
|Serving size||1 bottle ( 8 oz)||Percent of daily value|
|Calories from fat||100|
|Total fat||11 grams||
|Saturated fat||1 gram||
|Polyunsaturated fat||4 grams|
|Monounsaturated fat||6 grams|
|Total carbs||51 grams||
|Dietary fiber||3 grams||
Notice Ensure has 250 calories. When I purchased Ensure for this review, my bottles said 350 calories. Thanks to one of the readers of this site, I was alerted to the change to 250 calories.
While the label does not say how much HMB is in Ensure Muscle Health, that's not a problem. I called Abbott Labs, the maker of Ensure and asked them. They told me that each bottle of Ensure Muscle Health contains 1.5 grams of HMB. They recommend people use 2 bottles a day, which would give people a total of 3 grams of HMB. 3 grams of HMB is what has been used in many clinical studies to have positive effects.
The studies of HMB I mentioned above found that 3 grams of HMB worked best. This is why Abbott Labs recommends drinking 2 bottles of Ensure Revigor per day – to get the maximum effect of HMB.
Some may wonder why this type of Ensure is called Revigor? To me it sounds like a variation of the word reinvigorate. In other words, drinking Revigor will reinvigorate you. It's a catchy name I think.
Other effects of HMB?
While most of the clinical research on HMB has been directed at seeing how it might help decrease muscle breakdown, some other studies have hinted that it may help lower cholesterol, LDL cholesterol and systolic blood pressure. This is preliminary research only and will remain this way until other studies replicate these findings.
HMB side effects
HMB appears to be safe. No study to my knowledge has shown any negative side effects. If you have my book Nutritional Supplements What Works and Why, turn to the “HMB Chapter” where I go into more depth about HMB (and a lot of other supplements).
What does “Clinical Strength” mean?
Most words used to describe supplements in the US have to be FDA approved. As such, advertising companies have to come up with different ways to make a product stand out. For example, who among us has not heard of products touted as “New and Improved“.
Clinical strength is the 21st century version of New and Improved. While HMB does have clinical evidence, and 2 bottles of Revigor contains the same levels of HMB used in clinical research, the term clinical strength does not have a legal definition. I have even seen the phrase clinical strength used to describe antiperspirants. In short, the phrase Clinical Strength, while having some merit when it comes to Ensure Revigor, is basically a Park Avenue marketing concept.
Who might Ensure Revigor help?
I believe Ensure Revigor is probably best for people who:
1. Are older and do not exercise
2. Are older and just starting to exercise
3. Those who have cancer, HIV or other serious health issues
4. Anyone experiencing muscle wasting conditions
Please don't use Ensure Revigor as an excuse not to exercise. The effects of HMB will be magnified when you combine it with a healthy exercise program.
Remember one 8 oz bottle of Ensure Revigor has 250 calories (check to make sure your bottle doesn't say 350 calories). That's a lot of calories for such a small amount. Ensure is formulated this way on purpose because people sometimes can't consume a lot of calories if they are sick (e.g. cancer) and older adults sometimes lose their appetite and don't want to eat much. In these situations, Ensure (any kind) makes sense. That said, because it has so many calories (and probably won't fill you up), this is probably not something to use regularly if you are trying to lose weight. You can add water to it to increase the volume. That may help fill you up more. Here is Ensure with Revigor on Amazon for those who are interested.
Based on the evidence, I feel the addition of HMB to Ensure is a smart idea. I wish it was around when I worked with my 104 year old grandmother to help keep her strong. It's something I definitely would have gotten for her.
Have you tried Ensure with HMB?