Free Shipping US Orders Over $50

HICA (alpha-hydroxy-isocaproic acid)

The Ultimate Guide To HICA: Increase Muscle & Prevent Breakdown

Written by:
Marc S. Schneider, M.D., P.A.

A Summary Of HICA (alpha-hydroxy-isocaproic acid)

  • HICA is a naturally occurring amino acid metabolite
  • Supplementation with HICA increases lean muscle mass
  • HICA decreases delayed onset muscle soreness

What the HICA!? Are you looking for a training advantage that will help take your athletic performance to new levels?

Did you ever wonder if there really was a non-banned supplement that could improve your results more than a perfect diet alone?

Are you tired of working your tail off every day, taking the same supplements, taking the same protein powder, but not seeing the improvement that all the magazines and websites promised you that you would see?

Well if the answer to these questions is yes, then let me tell you about a substance called HICA that could be a game changer for you.

HICA is a naturally occurring metabolite in your body that your muscles produce.

Clinical trials have proven the effectiveness of HICA in benefiting muscular development in studies of both power athletes and also endurance athletes.

What Is HICA?

HICA is one of several, naturally occurring, bioactive, organic compounds found in the body, that when provided as a supplement, significantly enhances human performance.

Creatine is another such example of a naturally occurring organic compound that benefits human performance when taken as a supplement.

HICA is the acronym for alpha-hydroxy-isocaproic acid. It is also called leucic acid or DL-2-hydroxy-4-methylvaleric acid. Putting nerd-speak aside, HICA is just a much easier term to remember, and it is actually one of the 5 key ingredients in our MPO (Muscle Protein Optimizer) product.

Now this may seem like a bit of a tangent but I need to say it: the amino acid leucine activates mTOR and is critical for stimulating muscle protein synthesis, which is the key to either building muscle, or preventing muscle breakdown. You may have heard of leucine before because it is a BCAA (branched-chain amino acid) and an EAA (essential amino acid).

Why is this important though?

Your body naturally produces HICA during the metabolism of leucine. The muscles and connective tissues use and metabolize leucine using one of two different biochemical pathways. The first pathway, the KIC pathway, takes leucine and creates KIC, an intermediate, which is later transformed into HICA. The other pathway takes available leucine and creates HMB (β-Hydroxy β-methylbutyric acid). Scientists call both HICA, and its better known cousin HMB, leucine metabolites.

As such, we can make an initial assumption that since leucine is essential for mTOR activation and muscle protein synthesis, leucine metabolites, such as HICA in this case, will also play an important role in building muscle and preventing catabolism. Let’s explore. HICA (alpha-hydroxy-isocaproic acid)

How Does HICA Work?

Your body has two basic pathways for building and restructuring itself, and it performs both, constantly. One pathway, the anabolic pathway builds new proteins. The alternate pathway helps the body breakdown existing tissues; the catabolic pathway. You may have heard that you need to break something down to build it back up. The anabolic and catabolic pathways are what this is referring to.

Scientists consider HICA to be anabolic, meaning that it enhances muscle protein synthesis. It may do this via a variety of means, but studies indicate that HICA is anabolic because it supports mTOR activation.

HICA is also, and significantly so, anti-catabolic. This means that it prevents the breakdown, specifically in the muscles, of muscle proteins.

As you exercise intensely, your muscles undergo micro-trauma that causes the muscle cells to breakdown. We all feel the effects of this micro-trauma 24-48 hours after intense exercise in the form of delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS). HICA significantly decreases this breakdown, or catabolism. The result of this is less DOMS, and more lean muscle to build upon.

Thus, as a supplement, studies indicate HICA is ergogenic. For anyone looking to enhance their athletic performance, they should be using supplements that science proves to be ergogenic.

Of course I’ve got to do this: DIOXYME only uses ingredients clinical studies demonstrate to be ergogenic, and DIOXYME only uses the proven and effective doses of each ingredient.

What Is Ergogenic?

Ergogenic, though it is not a commonly talked about term, is really the key factor behind any sports nutrition supplement. Quite simply, ergogenic means that a substance will significantly improve a users high intensity athletic output.

Ergogenic supplements can work via a number of different ways. For example, a supplement may be ergogenic by stimulating the central nervous system. This will give the athlete more energy. Caffeine, DMAA, and Ephedrine are classic, central nervous system stimulants, and they are all ergogenic. WADA (World Anti-Doping Agency), the USADA (United States Anti-Doping Agency) and the NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association) all allow caffeine in certain doses, while banning DMAA and Ephedrine. Both DMAA and ephedrine are both highly effective, however, DMAA is currently under an FDA ban while Ephedrine, though legal, is so effective that WADA and the USADA feel that it gives athletes too much of a competitive advantage.

Ergogenic supplements can work by other mechanisms as well. They can increase the energy supply directly to the muscles, they can neutralize acidic byproducts within the muscles that hinder muscular performance, they can deliver more oxygen to the muscles allowing them to work harder, they can increase muscular cellular growth allowing a bigger, more powerful muscle, and they can limit the amount of muscle that is broken down during intense exercise.

Obviously, the governing bodies of collegiate, professional, and Olympic athletes ban the use of some ergogenic aids such as anabolic steroids. These performance enhancing drugs (PED’s) work by increasing muscle protein synthesis. Though effective, WADA, the USADA, and the NCAA have banned them as they feel that they give athletes an unfair athletic advantage.

However, other non-banned supplements such as HICA, HMB, beta-alanine, creatine, phosphatidic acid, are all ergogenic and work incredibly well when appropriately taken and appropriately dosed.

HICA Clinical Trials

Researchers in Finland first evaluated HICA while working with wrestlers. The athletes consumed 500mg of HICA three times a day, once after each of their 3-a-day preseason workouts. The experiment was observed over a period of 6 weeks. Typically, the researchers would see lean muscle mass losses in the wrestlers following these preseason 3-a-day training sessions. However, once the study placed the participants on the HICA regimen for this 6 week training schedule, the scientists noted that the wrestlers gained an average of 2 pounds of lean muscle. Interestingly, the wrestlers also reported significantly less delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS).

The same Finnish research group further evaluated HICA in elite soccer players. The soccer players went through an intensive 4 week training regime where they were running 4 times per week, strength training twice a week, and playing a game once weekly. Typically the athletes would run 5-7 miles during these games. The control group of the athletes did not take the HICA supplement, and lost significant lean body mass due to muscle catabolism. However, athletes taking HICA experienced a similar net gain in lean mass, as well as significantly less DOMS.

Scientists surmise that delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS), which usually occurs 24-48 hours after intense exercise, and that can last for 5-7 days, is due to damage and inflammation within the muscle. There is scientific evidence that HICA supplementation can inhibit the breakdown of muscle and connective tissue proteins. As such, HICA supplementation can decrease DOMS.5,6,7,8

Furthermore, Lang et al has shown that HICA improves muscle recovery in medical patients who have been immobile for extended periods of time. This study illustrated that HICA supports mTOR activation of muscle protein synthesis.9

How Is HICA Taken?

HICA is naturally found in certain foods such as in wine, soy sauce and some cheeses.1,2,3,4 However, these foods do not lend themselves adequately for athlete supplementation. Several studies have used a daily 1500 mg dosage for HICA as an ergogenic aid. These studies have divided the HICA dosage into three daily doses.

HICA Found in Wine

Photo by Elisha Terada on Unsplash


DIOXYME recently evaluated HICA by supplying a single, pre-training, dose of MPO (Muscle Protein Optimizer), which contains an ergogenic amount of HICA, to elite professional hockey players (NHL, AHL, ECHL). The players trained for 7 weeks at The Hockey Summit during the lead up to their preseason training camp. At The Summit, the players went through weekly testing of their power development. The control group did not take MPO. Though all players improved their power over the course of the seven weeks, research concluded that the players taking the MPO supplement generated significantly more power in testing than those not taking the supplement.

How do we recommend dosing with HICA?

We believe the ideal method for taking HICA is mixing it in a synergistic combination with HMB, beta alanine, phosphatidic acid and creatine monohydrate. Thus, the DIXOYME medical team formulated the MPO product. In addition, we recommend, and we stack, 12 grams of BCAA with MPO. Our BCAA 6:3:3 contains a single 12 gram dose of BCAA in a 2:1:1 ratio in each serving. This combination produces increased power, strength, and endurance with each and every dose.

In addition we have found that our athletes who take MPO daily along with appropriate macronutrient intake, can gain very large amounts of lean mass in a very short (2-3 month) period of time. Please refer to this article to learn more about MPO and the ingredients used alongside HICA.

HICA Conclusion

In summary, HICA, though it is not very well known, can be a very useful ergogenic supplement for athletes. Moreover, trials indicate that when incorporated with appropriate supplementation and nutrition, HICA will increase lean muscle gains due to its role in mTOR mediated protein synthesis. Studies have also demonstrated that HICA will decrease muscle catabolism, and ultimately minimize delayed onset muscle soreness.





HICA References

  1. Van Wyk CJ, Kepner RE, Webb AD: Some volatile components of vitis vinifera variety white riesling. 2. Organic acids extracted from wine. Journal of Food Science. 1967, 32 (6): 664-668. 10.1111/j.1365-2621.1967. Link
  2. Begemann WJ, Harkes PD: Enhancing a fresh cheese flavor in foods. 1974, U. Lever Brothers Co.
  3. Begemann WJ, Harkes PD: Process for enhancing a fresh cheese flavor in foods. U.S. 1974
  4. Smit BA, Engels WJ, Wouters JT, Smit G: Diversity of L-leucine catabolism in various microorganisms involved in dairy fermentations, and identification of the rate-controlling step in the formation of the potent flavor component 3-methylbutanal. Appl Microbiol Biotechnol. 2004, 64 (3): 396-402. 10.1007/s00253-003-1447-8. Link
  5. Westermarck HW, Hietala P: Use of alpha-hydroxy acids in the manufacture of a medicament for the treatment of inflammation. Exracta Oy. Patent Number WO 97/00676. 1997
  6. Barlas P, Craig JA, Robinson J, Walsh DM, Baxter GD, Allen JM: Managing delayed-onset muscle soreness: lack of effect of selected oral systemic analgesics. Arch Phys Med Rehabilitation. 2000, 81: 966-972. 10.1053/apmr.2000.6277. Link
  7. Lieber L, Friden J: Morphologic and mechanical basis of delayed-onset muscle soreness. J Am Acad Orthop Surg. 2002, 10 (1): 67-73. Link
  8. Antti A Mero, Tuomo Ojala, Juha J Hulmi, Risto Puurtinen, Tuomo AM Karila and Timo Seppälä: Effects of alfa-hydroxy-isocaproic acid on body composition, DOMS and performance in athletes. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition 2010 7:1 Link
  9. Lang CH, Pruznak A, Navaratnarajah M, Rankine KA, Deiter G, Magne H, Offord EA, Breuillé D. Chronic α-hydroxyisocaproic acid treatment improves muscle recovery after immobilization-induced atrophy. Am J Physiol Endocrinol Metabol. 2013; 305(3):416–428. Link