We are constantly on the lookout ways to increase our strength, endurance and recovery from our training sessions. Recently we came across a new supplement that looks very promising indeed. Actually that’s saying something. Dozens of products come and go every year, each claiming to be the next greatest thing to build muscle, typically with questionable scientific studies upon which to stake their claims.
Even the ones that “work” (like creatine, for instance) requires further consideration before spending our hard-earned dollars, as most guys training BJJ don’t train like bodybuilders (nor should they). Another issue surrounds how this stuff works: By affecting our hormones? By what pathway? Is there a risk of side-effects?
Enter HICA or alpha-hydroxy-isocaproic acid, a natural metabolite of the branched chain amino acid, leucine. You’ve probably heard of branched chain amino acids (leucine, isoleucine and valine) and how important they are in keeping your body from breaking down muscle tissue for energy during a workout. HICA is believed to “work” by increasing protein synthesis (anabolism), and decreasing muscle protein breakdown (catabolism). It has also been shown to reduce DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness). That could lead to muscular gains and strength without the negative side effect of steroids or prohormones as HICA doesn’t affect your hormones. Sounds good – that’s got our attention. So, what’s the proof – especially since we aren’t bodybuilders? There are so many studies out there used to “support” various claims but when you get a copy of the actual study you often find that it really isn’t all that relevant to what you are doing.
In a nutshell, here are the reported claims being made about HICA:
- Gains in muscle and strength without the negative side effects of steroids or prohormones.
- More rapid recovery from workouts, so you can train more often.
- Reduced DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness) allowing you to train harder.
The HICA study research is applicable to those of us training BJJ because it was done on wrestlers and soccer players, neither group of which were lifting weights or eating extra protein trying to get big. What they were doing was training hard and taking 1.5 grams of HICA per day. The wrestlers in particular presented an interesting case. During the 6 week period, the wrestlers – National caliber type wrestlers by the way, were enduring up to 10 multi-hour marathon training sessions per week. Even so each wrestler, on average, managed to gain an average of 2 lbs of lean muscle. Wrestling, many could argue, offers a training stimulus very similar to, in terms of physiological demands, BJJ. The question then becomes, if HICA yields these kind of results for athletes who are chronically over trained and not lifting weight, how much lean muscle could someone who was boosting their protein and doing some strength and conditioning gain? Time, and experimentation, will tell.
By the way, don’t confuse HICA with ordinary leucine. You’d have to take dozens of grams of the amino acid leucine to get anywhere near an equivalent amount of the leucic acid found in HICA. While leucine is an important amino acid, it won’t give you the same results. As an added bonus too, the studies found that HICA also accelerates your recovery from workouts, and reduced DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness). We will keep you up to date on further research but suffice to say we are very interested!