Definition: "An ergogenic aid is any substance or phenomenon that enhances performance "

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HMB's successor is called HICA

There are already supplements that contain HICA on the market, but they contain too little of the stuff to be effective. Now everyone's waiting for the product from Oy Elmomed, the company that the inventors of HICA set up; or someone who doesn't take patent law so seriously and decides to market the leucine metabolite themselves. According to a human study published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, the substance is anabolic.

HMB's successor is called HICA
The compound we're talking about is called L-leucic acid, but the Finns call it alpha-hydroxy-isocaproic acid (HICA). Its full name is DL-alpha-hydroxy-isocaproic acid. [Structural formula on the right.] It's found in muscles and tendons when cells burn the amino acid leucine.

Muscle cells are always on the lookout for leucine. If they find many leucine molecules they conclude that there's a lot of amino acid present and start to produce more muscle protein. A leucine metabolite like HICA tells muscle cells that they are burning amino acids, and that they need to step up their anti-catabolic processes.

Another leucine metabolite you're probably familiar with is HMB. HMB is sold as an anticatabolic supplement.

The Finns came across HICA when they found a patent filed by researchers at the American Johns Hopkins University in 1973. According to this, oxidised amino acids inhibit the breakdown of proteins in the body. [US Patent 1444621] The researchers, sports scientists at Finnish universities, bought the metabolite from a bulk supplier and gave it to soccer players, wrestlers and basketball players. When they got positive results, they immediately filed for a patent on the use of the amino acids in sports supplements. [US Patent 20080108698]

From the patent research we compiled the table below. It shows the effect of a 6-week course of HICA on a basketball player who took half a gram of HICA three times a day.

HMB's successor is called HICA

From the patent study it also emerged that wrestlers who took HICA had less trouble with sore muscles. It's not possible to work out what effect HICA had on their muscle mass from the patent study.

Once they'd filed for the patent in their name, the researchers set up a company which will produce HICA supplements. The company is called Oy Elmomed. And once they'd done that, they started to publish their research, for instance in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition. Here they published the results of an experiment with 15 football players who took 1.5 g HICA a day for a month or a placebo. The footballers trained twice a week with weights and played football nearly every day. The figure below shows that lean body mass rose slightly in those who got the supplement.

HMB's successor is called HICA

The figure below shows the breakdown. Body weight and lean body mass increased, while fat mass remained constant.

HMB's successor is called HICA

The supplement didn't make the subjects stronger or faster. But maybe higher doses would do so.

Muscle Tech's Anabolic Halo contains small quantities of HICA. But Muscle Tech is not breaking the law: the Finns' patent only covers supplements in which HICA is the sole active ingredient.

J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2010 Jan 5;7(1):1.