Achieving superior body conditioning depends on two factors – adding muscle and losing fat.
With that in mind, surely any product that could deliver both benefits should take precedence in every supplement plan?
Well, if you aren’t already supplementing with conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), you might be short-changing your results.
Know your CLA
CLA is a non-essential polyunsaturated fatty acid, which falls into the broadly accepted ‘healthy’ fats category. At least 28 isomers of linoleic acid are bound together in various ways to create different forms of CLA.
It is naturally present in small amounts in meat from cattle, sheep and goats and it is found in certain dairy products.
However, the quantities supplied from your diet generally aren’t sufficient to meet the levels that studies show can positively impact your body composition.
Modern-day diets and food processing practices can further reduce the amount of CLA we consume.
READ MORE: Supplement focus: The ABCs of CLA
Better body composition
That’s why supplements offer a convenient way to meet the recommended intake for better results.
Quality CLA supplements use advanced lipid technology to create convenient, easy-to-swallow soft gel capsules that enable precise CLA intakes at predetermined time intervals.
Results from animal studies indicate that CLA could be a super supplement, with emerging evidence from ongoing human trials that supports claims about CLA.
Based on the available research, the main ways that CLA supplements can help you achieve a better body include:
- Decreasing the amount of fat your body stores.
- Maintaining or preserving lean muscle by helping your body burn calories more efficiently.
READ MORE: A beginner’s guide to fat-loss supplements
Some short- and long-term studies that employed high CLA doses in healthy and obese, and sedentary and active adults have shown that CLA can have beneficial effects in reducing fat mass and increasing lean body mass.
For instance, researchers concluded that supplementing with CLA and safflower oil “may be beneficial for weight loss, glycemic control, or both” based on the findings from a 2009 study on obese postmenopausal women with type 2 diabetes that was published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
And several meta-analyses (studies that review findings from multiple studies) support the claim that CLA supplements could reduce body fat and improve lean body mass in certain individuals.
One such meta-analysis included a clinical study that suggested a positive association exists with CLA intake and fat reduction. Overweight and obese male and female volunteers who took 3.4-6.8g of CLA per day (an isomeric mixture of mainly 9- and 10-CLA) for 12 weeks reduced their body fat mass significantly.
In another study, subjects (obese individuals) who supplemented with 4.2g per day of an isomeric mixture of 9- and 10- CLA for 4 weeks decreased their waist circumference, but their body weight and body mass index remained the same.
READ MORE: The more muscle supplement stack
How CLA enhances fat metabolism
CLA supplements that provide a free fatty acid mixture high in isomers (such as cis-9, trans-11, trans-10 and cis-12) help to mobilise stored fat so that the body can more easily burn it for energy.
Under normal circumstances, when dietary fat is not used for energy, it is stored in fat cells. The enzyme lipoprotein lipase plays an integral role in body fat storage and CLA has been shown to inhibit this enzyme.
As a result, when using a CLA supplement, fatty acids are seemingly diverted to muscle cells, where they are be preferentially burnt for fuel.
And CLA may also prevent fat accumulation by inhibiting enzyme action related to the fat storage process, which can improve body composition and toning.
Based on these actions within the body, coupled with study results, CLA is generally marketed as a stimulant-free body toner, which doesn’t have the stimulatory effects associated with thermogenic fat burners. This characteristic also means that CLA is an ideal product to use for prolonged periods to assist with long-term body composition management.
While CLA can deliver benefits when used in isolation, it would appear that combining this product with other common supplements can deliver even better results.
In one study, 6g of CLA taken with 5g of creatine monohydrate per day, in conjunction with resistance exercise for 6 months, enhanced strength gains and improved body composition in older male and female adults (above 65 years).
In another study, a CLA supplement (6g/d) taken in combination with creatine (9g/d) and whey protein (36g/d) improved strength and lean body mass during heavy resistance training in well-trained young men and women (average age of 22.5).
And combining CLA with another potent non-thermogenic fat burner in the form of L-carnitine can also be an effective supplement strategy for weight management and body conditioning.
This supplement stack works synergistically because CLA diverts fatty acids to muscle cells. Once there, L-carnitine can improve the efficiency with which these fatty acids are transported into the mitochondria of the cell, where they are metabolised for energy.
READ MORE: Supplements to help you lose weight faster