Conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) is popular among nutritionists as a supplement for bodybuilding. Several human and animal studies have found that it can decrease body fat and increase muscle tissue.

Other health benefits under CLA’s belt include a better immune system, antioxidant, anti-carcinogen, and better mental performance.

CLA is a naturally-occurring fatty acid that works the same as omega-6 fatty acid. It’s commonly found in beef, lamb, and dairy products. In fact, Cheez Whiz has been found to contain a high amount of CLA! We wouldn’t recommend that you buy several jars and consume this on a daily basis, though. It’s just not feasible, and the number of calories you would have to consume to get your fill of CLA will only mean bad business for your metabolism.

It’s also important to keep in mind that the natural sources for CLA are considered high in unhealthy fats, so it’s important that you don’t limit yourself to only getting your CLA intake from food.

Now you might be wondering, how much should I be taking anyway?

Research involving CLA supplementation says that taking between 1.4 to 3.0 grams of CLA supplements per day is the optimal amount to notice body fat loss. Note that most supplements don’t work in a wink, however, and these trials typically lasted for 12 weeks or three months. So don’t expect immediate changes in the first week!

Now, to get that much CLA in your system, you would need to consume at least 100 ounces of milk, two pounds of beef, and one pound of cheese daily. Definitely a no-no.  

What’re all these scientific studies we keep mentioning?

Researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison placed 80 people who went on a diet, an exercise program, and received three grams of CLA every day. A placebo group took sunflower oil.

The six-month trial found that a third of the people taking CLA supplements lost fat and gained muscle. It’s important to note that all participants (even those taking placebo supplements lost weight.

But here’s where they differ. You know how keeping off weight is never easy and more often than not, they come back more stubborn than before? That’s not the case with CLA.

In this study, those who took the sunflower oil regained their weight at a 75-25 percent fat to muscle ratio. Everyone who took CLA, when they regained weight, had a 50-50 ratio of fat to muscle.

Michael Pariza, one of the study’s pioneers, said that while CLA is not entirely responsible for weight loss (remember that their study combined taking the supplements with diet and exercise), it works to control your weight so all the pounds you lost don’t just come back.

“It’s not going to cause you to lose fat, but once you have achieved the weight loss that you want from a traditional diet, then at that point you could use CLA to control your weight so you don’t gain it all back,” Pariza said.

Pariza, who is also the director of the Food Research Institute at the University of Wisconsin, recognizes that CLA works best as a nutrient that regulates the body’s energy and metabolism.

So how does it help with weight management?

You might be feeling skeptical about a trans fat having the ability to make you lose fat, but it has the ability to convert food into energy instead of letting the body set it aside as fat or sugars.

Conjugated linoleic acid also increases the body’s basal metabolic rates and kills the fat in adipose tissues (fat cells) to prevent them from getting larger. Remember that when fat cells increase in size, they also alter the body’s fat-to-muscle ratio.

CLA also works to reduce the cravings for the food we don’t need and can serve as a substitute for unhealthy fats since it’s a “good” fat.

And the best way to get it is by taking CLA supplements?

Yes. As we stated earlier, you would have to consume way too much beef and dairy just to get the proper amount of CLA that would allow it to make a difference in your weight loss goals.

These days, though, most of the meat is not grass-fed, which means they contain less CLA, and those that are grass-fed pull more money out of your pocket, making it difficult to go on a diet on a budget.

The same concept applies to dairy products that come from non-grass-fed cows: they contain less CLA.

Like any other supplements, the best way to ensure that you get your money’s worth and see results is to follow the instructions as stated on the bottle, incorporate a healthier diet and make an effort to do more physical activities. And remember that results come slowly but surely!

If you’re interested to know more about the other benefits of CLA, check out the link below!

READ: Conjugated Linoleic Acid (CLA): Can You Fight Fat with Fat?