Metabolic Technologies, based in Ames, IA, is a spinoff technology company from Iowa State University. The company was built around the discovery of the ingredient. The strategic acquisition integrates TSI’s HMB production and global sales and business development capabilities with MTI’s intellectual property portfolio and clinical research and development strengths.
Research history backs ingredient
HMB was first discovered by MTI in the early 1990s. It has long been popular among sport nutrition brands for its strength, recovery and improved body composition benefits for highly trained and competitive athletes. But lately TSI has been spreading the word about an expanding and body of evidence that shows HMB provides muscle health benefits to a much larger base of consumers beyond traditional sports nutrition.
HMB, or β-hydroxy β-methylbutyrate, is naturally produced in the body during the metabolism of the essential amino acid leucine, which is found in virtually all protein sources. TSI co founder and president Larry Kolb said research done on myHMB, the company’s branded, nature identical form of the substance, has shown that HMB supplementation can lead to beneficial results. In a study done on judo competitors and wrestlers the researchers concluded that, “The results indicate that supplying HMB promotes advantageous changes in body composition and stimulates an increase in aerobic capacity.”
Kolb said focusing on the metabolite of leucine means the ingredient can simulate the ingestion of massive amounts of the base protein sources.
“A lot of the anabolic effects of leucine itself are harnessed with HMB,” he said. “A three gram dose of HMB is equivalent to 60 grams of leucine, which would really be impossible to take. And to get that much leucine in the diet, you’d have to eat about 600 grams of protein daily, which would really be impossible, too.”
Playing to individual strengths
While TSI, which is based in Missoula, MT, has worked with the ingredient and with MTI for years, reforming the relationship makes sense as the company prepares for the market changes in the years that will follow the pandemic crisis, Kolb said.
“That more traditional relationship we had, of us being the marketer of the ingredient, had really eclipsed its bandwidth. We want them to focus on their strengths, on R&D, on putting together the next studies that we can use to support and grow a dossier that is already very robust in terms of supporting claims,” Kolb said.
“We excel at manufacturing and commercialization globally. We can employ those assets to open up new markets for the ingredient,” he added. The ingredient is manufactured in TSI’s facility near Shanghai. Kolb said that plant was not subject to a pandemic shutdown and has continued to operate at capacity throughout the pandemic crisis.
Coping with the changes in sports nutrition
Sports nutrition ingredient sales have been suffering at the moment as many gyms in the US and worldwide have been closed. How and to what degree they will reopen remains an open question as health authorities continue to gather data on how the virus that causes COVID-19 is transmitted and what kind of risks are associated with certain social settings. So buying dietary supplements that support heavy workouts has not been front of mind for many consumers.
Kolb said TSI had already started to change the marketing around myHMB to attract more mainstream active nutrition consumers as well as those concerned with maintaining strength and muscle mass as they age. The new focus is on muscle health, as opposed to talking about achieving maximal gains. And delving into new sales channels will help cope with whatever is coming, too, he said.
“Sports brands across the board have been damaged by this prolonged shutdown. We have a lot of branded customers who are in GNC and the closing of shopping malls and some of their other stores has had a devastating impact,” he said.
“But we just had a we had a launch with Golden Hippo, the Tony Horton (founder of the P90X training method) line. In that product we can show that myHMB can really make a plant protein powder perform similar to whey protein. That’s a social media-focused brand and in the COVID period it has done very well,” Kolb said.