CLA: Conjugated Linoleic Acid for Fat Loss

CLA is a healthy fat and potent antioxidant used by millions for its fat loss potential. It’s found in beef, lamb, whole milk, and butter. Grazing animals have 300% to 500% more conjugated linoleic acid than animals fattened on grains.

But it can still be hard to get enough, especially if you don’t eat animal products. So read on to learn more about CLA and how you can use it to lose weight.

What Does CLA Do?

Conjugated linoleic acid works in a complex process involving many enzymes. So it’s not well understood by scientists exactly how it works. But it appears to have the ability to increase the rate of fat loss. In layman terms, it makes big fat cells smaller and keeps small fat cells from getting bigger.
There are several other supposed health benefits besides fat loss.

Reported Benefits of CLA

· Reduce body fat (especially belly fat)
· Increase lean mass
· Potential to block cancer and the growth of tumors
· Reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease
· Fight inflammation
· Lower cholesterol and triglycerides
· Reduce appetite
That’s an impressive list of benefits, but does it actually work for fat loss?

Does CLA Work?

Dozens of studies over the last 30 years have tried to measure the effects of conjugated linoleic acid. Unfortunately, many of them have contradictory results due to differences in the experimental design, the form of CLA used, and the participants involved. But several studies show a positive effect on body composition.
In one study, participants took either a placebo or doses of CLA ranging from 1.7 to 6.8 grams daily. Body composition was measured at the start, middle, and end of the 12-week study. The CLA groups lost a lot more body fat than the placebo group. And the people who took 6.8 grams lost more than 2 pounds of body fat! That may not sound like much, but it’s an amazing result considering the subjects were not asked to alter their diet or exercise.  That’s not to say you shouldn’t work out or watch what you eat. Rather, it suggests that the results could be even greater with proper diet and exercise.
Another study by the University of Wisconsin Food Research Institute looked at CLA use after concluding a diet. They found the weight regained by participants was more muscle and less fat. This indicates that CLA could prevent fat gain even without dieting, or while bulking to gain muscle.
Not all studies have produced these results. But there is plenty of data suggesting CLA is effective for weight loss. And no toxicity has been documented with long-term use of 1 year or more. So it’s a worthy addition to your weight loss program.

How to Use CLA

As mentioned, conjugated linoleic acid is in certain meat and dairy products. But, you’d have to eat like 10 pounds of hamburger every day to get an effective amount. And it’s definitely not a good idea to roll into In-N-Out and down a dozen Double-Doubles with cheese (as awesome as that sounds).

Fortunately, there’s a less artery-clogging alternative. Safflower oil is a natural plant extract which is made up of conjugated linoleic acid. And it contains more of the compounds which have been shown to affect fat loss. I’ll spare you the chemistry lesson, but you should know that isomers called T10C12 and C9T11 are the active ingredients that have been studied in the lab. About 80% of safflower oil is made of a mixture of these two isomers, which makes it a more potent source of CLA than meat or dairy… so you can bypass the coronary bypass.

Safflower oil is widely available as a supplement that comes in the form of softgels like the ones pictured below.

When to Take CLA

How Much CLA to Take

The recommended dose is 3 grams per day, but dosages up to 6 grams per day were more effective in some studies. A good supplement contains 1 gram per softgel, so that’s 3 to 6 capsules per day. Note that most supplements are sold by milligrams (mg) instead of grams (g). For those Imperialists who shun the metric system, 1 gram = 1,000 milligrams. So the daily dose is 3,000 to 6,000 mg.

When to Take CLA

It’s best to split it up into equal doses throughout the day. For example, you would take 1-2 capsules in the morning, mid-day, and at night with meals.  It can be beneficial to take before working out or performing cardio. Also, when taken with guarana it may have a synergistic effect on fat loss (more on this in a future post).

The Best CLA Supplement

There are tons of supplements on the market, and not every manufacturer has your best interests in mind. So it’s important to do your research before buying or taking anything. A good CLA supplement is made from natural ingredients, has high potency, and is cost effective.


Synthetic versions of isolated conjugated linoleic acid have been associated with negative effects in some studies. So it’s best to stick with supplements made with safflower oil which naturally contains a balance of the active CLA compounds.


The target is 3,000 to 6,000 mg per day, so it’s important to check the label to see how much CLA the supplement actually contains. A typical safflower oil supplement contains about 80% conjugated linoleic acid, but a potent supplement will contain up to 95%.

The label below shows a supplement containing 1250 mg of safflower oil. An 80% potency supplement would contain 1,000 mg of CLA. But this particular supplement contains 1,187 mg or 95%. In practical terms that means you only need to take 5 capsules a day instead of 6. Which saves you a little money.


Most people just look at the total price when searching for an affordable supplement. Some savvy (aka frugal) individuals will figure out the cost per serving and try to minimize that. Even savvier (aka downright cheap) folks like me will go the extra mile and calculate the cost per effective dose.

But being cheap doesn’t mean skimping on quality. In fact, the pricier high-quality supplement is often cheaper because it has a lower cost per effective dose.

Don’t worry, you won’t have to do any math or chemistry to find a good supplement. I’ve already done the homework for you. I use Max Potency CLA 1250 by Sports Research because it meets all three of the above requirements. It’s natural, potent, and affordable. It’s also 3rd party tested so you can be confident you’re getting a pure supplement.

And just so you know, I’m not getting paid to endorse this product. I suggest it purely based on quality and affordability. The recommended dose will cost you just $11.48 a month!

Click the link below to order on Amazon and give it a try.


Now you’re as informed as the savviest of penny-pinching sports nutrition experts. So you can make an intelligent decision when it comes to CLA supplementation.

If you’re interested in learning more about effective muscle building and fat burning supplements, download my free Supplement Guide.

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