Supplements containing HICA, a metabolite of the amino acid Leucine, hitting the supplement market recently. I hadn’t heard of the compound until a Chinese supplier dropped me an email offering it for sale and touting it as a highly potent anabolic. A quick online search brought me to Ergo-Log, and after reading the article, I downloaded the full study. Almost immediately I noticed two things:
The study was recent.
The study was available for free online.
As a researcher, I’m often forced to pay for various studies when they appear in a journal that I don’t have a subscription to. Generally we’re talking about anywhere between $30 and $45, unless the study isn’t recent and has been reprinted for free.
But when a study concerns a novel ingredient in the nutritional industry, is recent, and is available immediately for free, it tells me something: The people who conducted (or paid for) the study, are publishing it to advertise a product. In this case, the researchers who performed this study also hold the patent for the ingredient. This isn’t a hard and fast rule, but most of the time when we see a nutritional supplement or ingredient being studied, and that study is immediately available for free, we’re generally talking about a thinly veiled advertisement.
So what kinds of results can we get from HICA? Well, it produces no additional improvements in performance, strength, speed, etc…when compared to placebo:
This study was performed on football (soccer) players who presumably were concerned with getting stronger, faster, etc… so HICA is pretty much completely useless for athletes trying to improve performance. The HICA-supplemented group experienced less muscle soreness, but that amounts to a big who-gives-a-f*ck, because that decrease in soreness did not improve their subsequent performance. They did, however, gain a massive 400g (yes, four hundred grams) of muscle on their legs.
Yeah, it’s got human data, and it’s safe, but who cares? It sucks.