CLA (conjugated linoleic acid) is a naturally occurring fatty acid, similar to an omega-6 fatty acid but with health benefits for skin and weight loss. It's one of the "good fats," present in foods such as beef and dairy products, but only in low levels. Ironically, beef and dairy products are the same foods that are also high in what we think of as "bad fats," or saturated fats, so obtaining enough CLA through diet alone is problematic.
Also ironically, even though CLA is a fat, studies show that 1.4-3.0 grams per day of CLA will lead to overall body-fat loss.1,2
And yet, to get that much CLA into your system naturally, you'd have to consume upwards of 2 pounds of beef, a pound of cheese, or 100 ounces of milk every day!
Increased consumption of CLA doesn't have to come from dairy products or beef, however, as the benefits of CLA can be achieved through supplementation.
WHY IS CLA GOOD?
It might seem weird that a fatty acid could help reduce body fat while increasing lean muscle mass, but that's what the science suggests!3
While technically a trans fat, CLA is naturally represented in our food sources and is different than industrial-produced trans fats, such as vegetable oil. Like many naturally occurring agents, CLA has an organic, meaningful place in our diet.
CAN CLA HELP ME LOSE WEIGHT?
Even though conjugated linoleic acid is a trans fat, there's a purpose for this one! Specifically, CLA helps reduce the urge for unneeded food intake and inhibits the production of additional fats. Basically, CLA is a special type of fat that takes the place of our need for other, unhealthy fats.
CLA hardwires us to stay lean and clean, helping us to burn the calories that already exist, instead of craving additional calories that serve no purpose.
A recent study investigating the effect of 4.2 grams of CLA per day in 53 healthy individuals showed a significant decrease (3.8 percent) in body fat compared with individuals not taking CLA.<sup<4< sup="">
An additional study in obese and overweight populations demonstrated that at least 3.4 grams of CLA per day for a period of 12 weeks was actually necessary to see a significant reduction in body fat.2 In other words, without CLA intake there was no significant fat loss!
WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF CLA FOR TRAINING?
One trial, monitoring the benefits of CLA supplementation on muscle development, showed that consuming 7.2 grams of CLA per day, when accompanied by a bodybuilding regimen, led to an increase in skin-fold corrected arm girth, leg press gains, and overall body mass, as compared to a placebo group which performed the same routine without CLA.5