The purpose of the present study was to determine the effects of short-term supplementation with the free acid form of β-hydroxy-β-methylbutyrate (HMB-FA) on indices of muscle damage, protein breakdown, recovery and hormone status following a high-volume resistance training session in trained athletes. A total of twenty resistance-trained males were recruited to participate in a high-volume resistance training session centred on full squats, bench presses and dead lifts. Subjects were randomly assigned to receive either 3 g/d of HMB-FA or a placebo. Immediately before the exercise session and 48 h post-exercise, serum creatine kinase (CK), urinary 3-methylhistadine (3-MH), testosterone, cortisol and perceived recovery status (PRS) scale measurements were taken. The results showed that CK increased to a greater extent in the placebo (329 %) than in the HMB-FA group (104 %) (P= 0·004, d= 1·6). There was also a significant change for PRS, which decreased to a greater extent in the placebo (9·1 (sem 0·4) to 4·6 (sem 0·5)) than in the HMB-FA group (9·1 (sem 0·3) to 6·3 (sem 0·3)) (P= 0·005, d= − 0·48). Muscle protein breakdown, measured by 3-MH analysis, numerically decreased with HMB-FA supplementation and approached significance (P= 0·08, d= 0·12). There were no acute changes in plasma total or free testosterone, cortisol or C-reactive protein. In conclusion, these results suggest that an HMB-FA supplement given to trained athletes before exercise can blunt increases in muscle damage and prevent declines in perceived readiness to train following a high-volume, muscle-damaging resistance-training session.