Flip through any fitness magazine, and what’s the first thing you see? Flashy ads, featuring models with ripped physiques, claiming all their results are from uber-powerful fat demolishing power matrix pills. These fat burners have varying degrees of effectiveness, and most are plagued by what I call “overcomplication disorder” - they have two or three known effective ingredients, like caffeine, green tea, or yohimbe. The rest is a proprietary blend of all kinds of long chemical names, and super-scientific explanations of how they work, designed to sell the product. What if there was a simple supplement that had one ingredient, and actually did work? Good news; there is.
Conjugated linoleic acid, or CLA, is quickly gaining popularity as a type of natural “fat burner.” It is not a thermogenic supplement like many other fat burners on the market, it simply helps your body become more efficient at processing and storing dietary fat intake. In very simple terms, CLA helps prevent your body from storing extra fat by interfering with the chemical that adipose cells, or fat cells use to absorb and store excess fat. Studies show that CLA also helps the body use stored fat for energy while increasing lean body mass. It doesn’t directly burn fat cells on it’s own, but it encourages the body to burn fat with a proper caloric deficit and exercise, and prevents your body from absorbing fat and forming new fat cells.
Many double-blind clinical studies have been performed on CLA, where half of a given group was given a placebo, and half was given CLA supplementation. All of these studies showed the same thing: those on CLA showed decrease body fat, although not necessarily decreased weight, and increased lean body mass. The only adverse effect found was some minor gastrointestinal bloating and discomfort. This varies person to person, and is often not a big enough problem to steer people away from CLA.
These studies show that a person with a clean diet and exercise can expect to increase fat loss over a long period of time with CLA supplementation. The shortest clinical study showed that users began to see results of CLA supplementation after twelve weeks; this is not an overnight fat burner. However, given all of the above information, CLA seems like a healthy and extremely effective supplement for those looking to burn fat and increase lean body mass without using any harsh stimulants.
This may not be a miracle pill, or a quick fix, but if something quick and natural can help increase lean body mass while decreasing fat mass, that can hardly be considered a bad thing. CLA isn’t too expensive either, so if you’re the type that loves supplements, this is a great one to consider!
Written by: Matt Dustin, NASM-CPT
References: Guallier JM, Halse J, Hoivik HO, Hoye K, Syverstsen C, Nurminiemi M, Hassfeld C, Einerhand A, O’Shea M, Gudmundsen O. Six months supplementation with conjugated linoleic acid induces regional-specific fat mass decreases in overweight and obese. 2007 Mar;(3):550-60. PMID: 17313718
Guallier JM, Halse J, Hoye K, Kristiansen K, Fagertun H, Vik H, Gudmundsen O. Conjugated linoleic acid supplementation for 1 y reduces body fat mass in healthy overweight humans. 2004 Jun;79(6):1118-25. PMID: 15159244