CLA – The Fat Loss Supplement everybody forgot about. Leigh Roberts is a Bachelor of Business graduate who has been involved with bodybuilding and supplements for approximately 10 years. Leigh has gained his understanding of performance enhancement through years of research, counselling, and real world experience. Over the past two years he has been a private consultant for numerous bodybuilders, and is the part owner of Serious Supplements.
CLA has received a bad rap in the supplement industry. Claimed by many to be nothing less than a gimmick, but I guarantee you this, A LOT, and I mean A LOT of guys out there use supplements with less scientific backing than CLA. These are also the guys who attribute their lack of bodybuilding progress to not doing enough tricep kickbacks or pec deck work.
CLA is (to my knowledge) the third most studied ergogenic supplement and has certainly been shown to hold merit in not only increasing fat loss but also assisting in muscle growth.
CLA is a naturally occurring fatty acid found primarily in beef and dairy fats. The reason that it is found primarily in beef and dairy products is because CLA is formed from linoleic acid by bacteria in the gut of cows (or herbivores). The cows then absorb the CLA and it becomes incorporated into lipids in the cows, including milk lipids.
CLA has been shown to increase certain enzymes responsible for fatty acid beta-oxidation. This means that the body’s ability to burn fat goes up significantly with CLA supplementation.
The best way to get fat is to send the fat you eat straight to your fat cells to be stored. This is generally what happens when we eat fat with high carbs, however CLA supplementation has been shown to decrease the enzyme necessary for fat cells to take up fat and triglycerides from the blood. This fat is then more apt to be taken up by muscle tissue where it can be burned for fuel. In fact, CLA also increases the muscles ability to burn fat as fuel
As noted above, a lot of people in the industry continue to question the use of CLA.
They ask; what about the studies that say CLA is ineffective for fat loss?
Take this quote from the 2007 CLA study analysis by Leah D Whigham et al. "Our findings indicate that the 10 human studies that showed no statistically significant effect of CLA on fat mass lacked statistical power because the treatment duration was too short, there were too few subjects, or both. For example, based on the average difference in change in fat mass of 0.09 kg/wk between CLA treatment and placebo, the expected difference at 12 wk would be 1.1 kg. Because the average SD for within-individual change in fat mass was 2.6 kg, it is estimated that it would require 44 participants in each group to have an 80% power to detect this change with a P _ 0.05"
So not only does CLA burn fat, it has also been shown to aid in muscle growth.
Researchers from Canada examined the affects of supplement stacking on size and strength in healthy young participants. Subjects were assigned to one of three groups:
- Creatine, CLA, Whey Protein (CCP) (6 g/day CLA, 9 g/day Creatine, 36 g/day whey protein)
- Creatine and Protein (9 g/day Creatine, 36 g/day whey protein, 6 g/day placebo sunflower oil)
- Protein only(45 g/day whey protein, 6 g/ day placebo)
All participants followed the same high-volume, heavy-load, periodized, free-weight strength-training program for 5 weeks. At the end of five weeks, the most important results of this study were that bench-press and leg-press strength and lean-tissue mass increased more in the group consuming all three supplements (CLA, Creatine, and protein) than in the other groups combined (i.e., consuming Creatine and protein or only protein).
The recommended dose and timing of CLA supplementation is difficult to extrapolate from the studies we currently have available. Some human studies report significant effects of CLA were not seen until 8 weeks of use, others report effects much quicker.
Here is the Serious Supplements recommendation:
For Fat Loss:
Run for 8 weeks minimum; the longer the better...
150-170 pounds: 3-5 grams of CLA per day
170-200 pounds: 3-8 grams of CLA per day
200-230 pounds: 5-10 grams of CLA per day
If the above dosing parameters are too costly, then 1 study has suggested that 3.2g per days has been shown to be an effective dose of CLA.
Other considerations / Stacking
Take your CLA supplements over the day with food. The rise in insulin will prevent the immediate oxidation of the CLA, and enhance the delivery of it to subcutaneous fat cells. (This is good).
Take with Guarana (maybe take your morning CLA with a zero sugar energy drink).
Stacking with an effective aromatise inhibitor is also advised, as lowered estrogen will also help you burn fat. Serious Supplements recommends Triazole.
Stack with Fish oil
<170 pounds: 2 grams combined EPA + DHA
170-200 pounds: 3 grams combined EPA + DHA
> 200 pounds: 4 grams combined EPA + DHA
Take your CLA with Whey Protein and Creatine.
- Conjugated linoleic acid supplementation for 1 y reduces body fat mass in healthy overweight humans.
- Comparison of dietary conjugated linoleic acid with safflower oil on body composition in obese postmenopausal women with type 2 diabetes mellitus.
- Efficacy of conjugated linoleic acid for reducing fat mass: a meta-analysis in humans
- Supplementation with conjugated linoleic acid for 24 months is well tolerated by and reduces body fat mass in healthy, overweight humans. Gaullier JM, et al. J Nutr 2005;135:778–84
- Conjugated linoleic acid combined with creatine monohydrate and whey protein supplementation during strength training. Cornish SM, Candow DG, Jantz NT, Chilibeck PD, Little JP, Forbes S, Abeysekara S, Zello GA. Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab. 2009 Feb;19(1):79-96.