Background: Alfa-Hydroxy-isocaproic acid (HICA) is an end product of leucine metabolism in human tissues such as muscle and connective tissue. According to the clinical and experimental studies, HICA can be considered as an anti-catabolic substance. The present study investigated the effects of HICA supplementation on body composition, delayed onset of muscle soreness (DOMS) and physical performance of athletes during a training period.
Methods: Fifteen healthy male soccer players (age 22.1+/-3.9 yr) volunteered for the 4-week double-blind study during an intensive training period. The subjects in the group HICA (n = 8) received 583 mg of sodium salt of HICA (corresponding 500 mg of HICA) mixed with liquid three times a day for 4 weeks, and those in the group PLACEBO (n = 7) received 650 mg of maltodextrin mixed with liquid three times a day for the same period. According to a weekly training schedule, they practiced soccer 3 - 4 times a week, had strength training 1 - 2 times a week, and had one soccer game during the study. The subjects were required to keep diaries on training, nutrition, and symptoms of DOMS. Body composition was evaluated with a dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry (DXA) before and after the 4-week period. Muscle strength and running velocity were measured with field tests.
Results: As compared to placebo, the HICA supplementation increased significantly body weight (p < 0.005) and whole lean body mass (p < 0.05) while fat mass remained constant. The lean body mass of lower extremities increased by 400 g in HICA but decreased by 150 g in PLACEBO during the study. This difference between the groups was significant (p < 0.01). The HICA supplementation decreased the whole body DOMS symptoms in the 4(th )week of the treatment (p < 0.05) when compared to placebo. Muscle strength and running velocity did not differ between the groups.
Conclusion: Already a 4-week HICA supplementation of 1.5 g a day leads to small increases in muscle mass during an intensive training period in soccer athletes.