If you’re on a fat burning mission the idea of purchasing CLA may have already crossed your mind, but before you go ahead and add this supplement to your basket read this article to find out more about CLA and its many benefits.
What Is CLA?
CLA has been gaining a lot of attention within the fitness industry and is a growing popularity amongst gym goers, bodybuilders, and individuals looking to burn fat. You may have already heard of CLA, but what actually is it and how is it connected to weight loss? CLA, conjugated linoleic acid, belongs to the omega family of fatty acids- specifically; CLA is a mixture of at least 28 positional and geometric isomers of linoleic acid- an essential omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acid.
Being essential means these fatty acids cannot be produced by the body alone and therefore must be consumed through the diet. CLA has a series of functions within the body, whereby its consumption is required for normal food and energy metabolism and to achieve a healthy nutritional status. CLA can be found in common foods that come from animal products, including meat and dairy, however, a large growth in interest in CLA supplements has recently emerged in relation to its weight loss and other health benefits.
1. CLA for Weight Loss and Increased Metabolic Rate:
So the first benefit and the number one reason why CLA appears to be flying off the supplement shelves is its connection to weight loss. But you can’t lose fat with fat, can you?
Actually… you can! Especially when essential fatty acids such as CLA are combined with a good diet and exercise regime! For example, it has been proposed that consuming CLA can help increase weight loss and decrease body fat through a series of biochemical reactions that act to increase the basal metabolic rate. Our basal metabolic rate is the minimum amount of energy the body requires just to function, whereby an increase in BMR simply means food can be converted into energy at a more efficient rate. CLA is involved in a series of metabolic reactions that regulate fat tissue in the body whereby it is actually thought that through increasing the metabolic rate CLA doesn’t decrease overall body weight, but actually acts to alter the body fat to muscle ratio and increase energy expenditure.
But do we know this for a fact? CLA has been of massive nutritional and scientific interest over a series of decades, meaning there have been tons of scientific studies performed. Initially, the effect of CLA was extensively studied within several different animal models, for example in a study by West et al (1998) the effect of CLA on body fat and energy metabolism in mice was examined over 6 weeks. In this study, half of the mice were given a CLA whilst the other half did not receive CLA. After 6 weeks the study revealed CLA significantly reduced energy intake, growth rate and body fat mass, independent of diet composition. These findings demonstrate that CLA increased the metabolic rate in mice, causing a reduction in body fat.
But the science doesn’t stop there, nowadays there appears to be more and more human studies revealing the emerging benefits of CLA. For example, a meta-analysis of 18 studies by Whigham et al (2007), concluded that supplementing with 3.2g of CLA a day can act as an effective supplement for reducing fat mass. The effect of CLA on weight loss is especially prevalent amongst overweight individuals whereby a study investigating the long-term supplementation over 2 years, in 134 people, revealed that CLA can decrease body fat mass in overweight people and may actually help to maintain initial reductions in weight in the long run. Not only this, but the effect of CLA in healthy exercising individuals was also analysed by Wadstein et al (2001) in a double-blind randomised trial including healthy participants with a normal BMI and weight. The study confirmed that CLA could not only reduce body fat mass in individuals who are overweight but can also effectively reduce body fat in healthy exercising individuals, making it a good addition to many fitness regimes.
2. Enhanced muscle growth:
As mentioned in the benefit above, through increasing the basal metabolic rate, CLA can act to decrease our body fat percentage. However, despite a decrease in body fat percentage an overall decrease in weight is often not observed. This is because CLA can effectively increase the muscle to fat ratio and act to enhance the growth of lean muscle mass. This is beneficial for several reasons- not only does an increase in muscle mass mean you’ll burn more calories without even trying, but it also means you’ll be left with a more toned physique!
3. Lowers cholesterol and blood glucose levels:
Although CLA has a major benefit of helping to reduce body fat there are also several other health benefits associated with this supplement. For example, CLA has been shown to help reduce blood pressure, insulin sensitivity and blood glucose levels, thus reducing the risk of atherosclerosis and cardiovascular disease. For example, Kritchevsky et al (1994) found that supplementation with 0.5g/d of CLA in rabbits caused a significant reduction in both LDL and total cholesterol, whereby an examination of the rabbit’s heart showed less atherosclerosis when compared to rabbits who did not receive CLA treatment.
Not only this, but a meta-analysis in humans by Brown et al (2003) also concluded that because CLA increases the use of stored fat as energy, it can also help to prevent heart disease and act as an antioxidant through isomer specific mechanisms to lower blood pressure and insulin sensitivity. CLA is therefore thought to have anti-diabetic properties including improving insulin sensitivity, based on reductions in fasting glucose and insulin levels.
4. Supports the immune system:
When dieting and exercising regularly, the body can often become run down and become more susceptible to illnesses. However, supplementing with CLA can help to boost your immune system and may prevent you from catching those common colds! For example, in several studies, CLA has been shown to increase immune system response and may also act to prevent catabolic effects of the immune system in times of illness.
CLA Side Effects
To date, there have been no harmful reported side effects of CLA. In extremely rare case supplementation with conjugated linoleic acid may cause nausea or an upset stomach, however, these effects can be diminished when CLA is consumed with meals.
Sources of CLA
CLA can be found in a number of commonly consumed foods- in particular, animal products including meat and dairy products.
However, in order to achieve all the benefits of CLA, the amount consumed through diet alone isn’t always enough- that’s where CLA tablets and capsules can be added to your diet plan and training regime.
Sources of CLA
mg of CLA per gram of fat
Fresh Ground BeefLambChickenPork
When to Take CLA Tablets and How Much
There are various dosages of CLA recommended, whereby in order to help reduce body fat 1.8 to 7g of CLA is recommended daily. Here at Myprotein, for optimum results we recommend 2 soft gels to be taken with meals 1 to 3 times daily.
A Take Home Message
CLA is not a magic pill- consuming this supplement will not guarantee weight loss, however, when combined with a good diet and exercise regime CLA can act to effectively reduce body fat while supporting the growth of lean muscle. You can consume CLA though several dietary sources, however, if you’re unsure about your CLA intake or if you are exercising intensely a CLA supplement can help aid your fat loss goals.