Most gym-goers are aware of the supplements that can help them build muscle and increase strength (creatine, protein, etc.). When it comes to supplements meant for leaning out and boosting the metabolism, though, there’s a lot of confusion regarding what works and what doesn’t.
If you’re getting ready to shred down for a show or just want to look a little leaner for an upcoming event or vacation, one of the best supplements to add to your regimen is CLA (short for conjugated linoleic acid).
If you’ve never heard of this supplement before, or if you’re confused about how it works, keep reading. Explained below is everything you need to know about CLA.
What Is CLA?
Conjugated linoleic acid is an omega-6 fatty acid that occurs naturally in foods like meat and dairy products. It’s a product of digestion, specifically via the microbes in the first stomach (rumen) of grass-eating animals like cows. Because of this, it’s most abundant in animal products from grass-fed and finished animals.
CLA has been shown to be an effective tool for those who want to lose body fat without sacrificing their lean muscle mass. Because of this, it’s a favorite throughout the bodybuilding community.
Because of its status as an omega-6 fatty acid, some people have concerns about CLA consumption. It’s true that, in large quantities and without sufficient omega-3 fatty acid consumption, omega-6 fatty acids can cause inflammation throughout the body and trigger or exacerbate certain health issues.
The body does need omega-6 fatty acids, including CLA, to thrive and perform in the most optimal way, though. CLA also appears to function more like an omega-3 fatty acid in the body, too. As a result, it can help to reduce inflammation.
CLA can be sold on its own in capsule or liquid form. It may be included in other supplements as well, such as pre-workout supplements or even mass-gainer supplements because, even though it’s traditionally thought of as a weight-loss supplement, it can also help with the process of retaining muscle during a bulking phase.
There’s plenty of research backing up the purported benefits of CLA for athletes and gym-goers. The following are some of the most promising results experts have seen from their studies thus far:
Increased Fat Loss
Perhaps the most well-known and greatest benefit CLA has to offer is increased fat loss. Specifically, it’s helpful to those who are trying to lose body fat without sacrificing muscle mass.
As you likely know, dieting down for a show or photoshoot can cause you to lose some of your hard-earned muscle alongside excess fat, which is something nobody (but especially a bodybuilder) wants to have to deal with. Many people report improvements in body composition when they supplement with CLA while also eating in a calorie deficit and losing body fat.
There are a few different mechanisms by which CLA promotes a decrease in body fat. First, it appears to affect certain receptors known as the PPAR-gamma receptors. By acting on these receptors, CLA inhibits both fat storage and fat cell production.
CLA can also help to boost energy expenditure, which allows you to burn more calories during your workouts and as you go about your day.
CLA is useful to those who are dieting, too, because it often helps to improve satiety. When supplementing with it, you’ll feel fuller while eating less, which will help to reduce your chances of overeating and make it easier for you to stay in a calorie deficit.
Strengthened Immune System
In addition to its fat loss benefits, CLA may also help to strengthen the immune system. Because of its anti-inflammatory properties, it can help the immune system to function in a more optimal way and make it easier for the body to fight off infections. Nothing sets back progress in the gym like a sudden illness, and CLA supplementation can help to prevent this from happening.
Better Blood Sugar Control
Some research shows that higher CLA levels in the body have been linked to a reduced risk of type 2 diabetes. It seems that CLA may also help to increase insulin sensitivity (the more insulin-sensitive a person is, the easier it is for them to shuttle glucose out of the blood and into the muscle cells, where it can be used for energy).
CLA supplementation, alone, will not prevent one from developing diabetes, of course. When it’s paired with a healthy, low-glycemic diet, though, it can be a useful tool for promoting better overall health and blood sugar control. CLA may also benefit those who are already struggling with type 2 diabetes by helping them to control their blood sugar, depending on their doctor’s specific recommendations.
Increased Bone Strength
Gym-goers and athletes think a lot about strengthening their muscles. They don’t always consider the importance of having strong bones, though.
Having strong, healthy bones will help to reduce their risk of fractures and other injuries, especially as they age, and CLA has been shown to promote increased bone strength. It increases the body’s ability to absorb calcium and reduces the activity of osteoclasts, cells that break down bones.
Increased Heart Health
CLA may improve heart health as well. Some recent studies have shown that it can help to prevent atherosclerosis, the accumulation of fatty plaques on the arteries, which has been linked to serious health conditions like heart disease, heart attacks, and strokes.
Researchers have suggested that CLAs effect on heart health has to do with the fact that it can improve liver function. This, in turn, helps to prevent plaque buildup because the liver is able to metabolize fat in a more effective way.
Who Should Use CLA?
Clearly, CLA has a lot to offer those interested in improving their body composition and their overall health. Some people have more to gain from this supplement than others, though.
The following people are, in general, considered to be the best candidates for CLA supplementation:
- Those who are in good general health
- Those who are looking to lose body fat or improve their body composition
- Those who are not pregnant or nursing
- Those who do not have any kind of liver disease (since CLA is metabolized by the liver, in large doses, it could contribute to liver problems, so it’s important to talk to your doctor before supplementing with it)
- Those who are not taking any blood-thinning medications (CLA can also slow blood clotting)
CLA is also beneficial to those who do not eat meat or dairy products (such as vegans or vegetarians). Because it’s most abundant in these foods, and since the body cannot make CLA on its own, these people may experience more noteworthy benefits from adding it to their supplement routines.
How to Use CLA
To see the greatest results from CLA supplementation, it’s also important to make sure you’re taking it in the appropriate way. Keep the following guidelines on dosing and timing in mind when you start taking CLA to avoid negative effects and notice improvements sooner:
Most studies show that a minimum of 3 grams (or 3,000mg) of CLA per day is needed to see fat loss and other benefits. Some people take up to 6,400mg per day, but there aren’t many studies testing doses beyond this amount.
As with most supplements, taking more than the recommended dose may increase your risk of experiencing negative side effects. You may also benefit from starting slow and working your way up to a higher dose. Don’t dive in and take 6,000mg right away.
When to Take It
Most people see the best results from CLA supplementation when they take it with food. Taking it during or right before a meal can help the body to better utilize the CLA.
Choosing the Right Supplement
When choosing a CLA supplement, check to make sure that it provides you with an adequate dose of the fatty acids you’re hoping to consume. It ought to contain at least 3,000mg of CLA per serving.
Consider the credibility of the brand you’re shopping with, too. Do they test their supplements for purity and efficacy? Do they have a reputation for creating safe, high-quality products?
Avoiding Negative Outcomes
Most people do not experience any negative side effects when they take CLA. In rare cases, they may experience symptoms like nausea, headaches, or fatigue. As long as you’re taking the recommended dose and taking it with food, though, your chances of experiencing these side effects are slim.
Try CLA Today
As you can see, there are plenty of benefits to CLA supplementation, especially for those looking to lose weight and give their metabolism a boost.
Now that you understand the ins and outs of CLA, are you interested in incorporating it into your supplement stack? If so, ProSupps offers lots of supplements that contain this essential fatty acid.
Head to our online store to check out all our products and place your order today.