Ep. #1035: Can Conjugated Linoleic Acid (CLA) Help You Get Bigger, Leaner, and Stronger?


Hello, hello, and welcome to another episode of Muscle for Life. I am your host, Mike Matthews. Thank you for joining me today, and I know I sound a little bit funny because I am still a little bit congested from a cold that I had for a few days. So I hope it is not too annoying. I was putting off recording this episode for a couple of days, waiting for my normal voice to return.

And figure this is probably good enough. So here we are to learn about a popular body composition supplement that has been popular for some time. When I got into working out when I was like 17 years old, so this is like 20, 21 years ago. C L a was popular. So for 21 years now, it has remained a best selling body composition supplement.

It is supposed to improve body composition in a couple of ways. It is supposed to aid fat loss. It is supposed to aid muscle building. It is also supposed to decrease your risk of poor metabolic and cardiovascular health. It is supposed to increase testosterone production and workout performance and all of that.

Any adverse side effects and hence it’s popularity. However, many people are leery of claims like those, and many of those people reach out to me and ask my opinion on C, and they also often notice that my sports nutrition company Legion does not sell cle. Is that because we don’t endorse it or we just haven’t gotten around?

To selling it. And so in this episode, I’m going to give you a balanced evidence-based take on C, what it likely can and can’t do and why I don’t currently sell it. Okay. As usual, let’s start this discussion with a quick description of c l. What is this stuff? Well, the acronym stands for conjugated linoleic acid, and that is just a group of naturally occurring fatty acids.

C l is found primarily in the meat and dairy of different animals like cows, goats. And Buffalo, though the amount can vary depending on the animal’s. Diet, altitude, breed, and lactation age. For example, some evidence shows that dairy produced by cows that are free pasture roaming, cows out eating grass like cows were meant to do, can contain up to 500% more C than cows that are.

Typical dairy cow diet of corn and corn silage, grass silage, and other byproducts of human food production stuff that isn’t otherwise useful like almond husks, for example. Now, c l can also be created in a lab. Scientists can synthesize it using vegetable oils like sunflower oil and safflower oil, and there are many different forms of c l as well.

There are actually 28 possib. Forms and all of these forms share the same chemical formula, but the atoms are arranged differently in each different form, and that means that they have slightly different properties. Now, the forms that you will find in supplements are usually C nine T 11, and that’s also the form that is most prevalent in the human diet.

Research shows that 75 to 80% of C L A in the human diet is this C nine T 11 form, as well as another form called. 10 Cs, 12 C L a, or T 10 C 12. And in fitness circles, these C L A supplements are popular specifically for weight loss, for fat burning, also for muscle building. But a lot of the marketing claims revolve specifically around weight loss.

So, Let’s talk a little bit about that. While scientists don’t fully understand how C L A affects fat burning, some believe that it’s connected to how C L A interacts with what are called peroxisome, proliferator activated receptors. That’s a mouthful. Usually referred to just as. P P A R. That’s the acronym commonly used.

And what those receptors are, are transcription factors, which are proteins that bind to specific DNA sequences and then regulate the expression of genes. And in the case of these peroxisome proliferator activated receptors, the genes that are affected include ones related to. Metabolism. So C L A can influence metabolism at a cellular level, and research conducted in rats shows that C, and particularly the C nine T 11 and T 10 C 12 forms that you’ll find in supplements binds to the P P A R A receptor, which according to some researchers, can increase fat burning.

Now, there’s also evidence from a human study that T 10 C 12 inhibits. P P A R Y, which is a receptor found in fat cells that increases fat gain. That said, other research on human cells shows that C nine T 11 activates P P A R Y. So having the opposite effect, and if we look at some other research on human cells, we see that there’s evidence that c l can suppress or inhibit enzymes that can contribute to fat gain.

We also can see in some other animal studies that it appears to increase levels of enzyme. Boost energy expenditure. And so you see why there has been a lot of interest in c l over the years. There is a fair amount of preliminary research that shows that it may be an effective fat loss supplement. It may be worth adding to your regimen.

It is a natural supplement, so it is not going to produce anything like, The results you would see from a proper calorie deficit. Of course, you know, if you know what you’re doing and you have a fair amount of fat to lose, you could lose one, two, maybe even three pounds of fat per week if you have a lot of fat to lose.

Would a natural supplement ever be able to match that? No, of course not. But if you could add a natural supplement and let’s say you could lose an extra pound of. Per month. That’s not bad. Right? And if you could maybe take two supplements like that, or three, and maybe their efficacy when used together doesn’t exactly add up.

So you can’t lose an additional three pounds of fat per month, but maybe it’s an additional two pounds of fat per month. And if those supplements are relatively inexpensive and are proven to be safe, That is worth considering, right? There are many people who would go in for that because they do the math and they see that that could shave a month off of their cut, for example, if they have a fair amount of fat to lose.

And so such is the promise of cle that it can make enough of a difference to be worth the money and worth the hassle of swallowing pills every day. Now, if you are scientifically savvy, you know that the preliminary research that I’ve shared with you, the. Research on human cells, not in living human beings.

And the research in rats can be promising. It can suggest that further research should be done in living humans, but the results that are seen in rats and in in vitro research cannot be directly extrap. In vivo in living people, you have to do that research separately because many times things don’t exactly pan out, for example, although we share a lot of DNA with rats, our metabolisms work in very different ways, and so you can find quite a few examples of supplements and drugs that have promising effects in rats promising metabolic effects.

Specifically related to weight loss and energy expenditure that then don’t work in humans because our metabolisms are different in very meaningful ways. One of them being that rats have a much faster metabolism than us humans. So when we look at these weight loss studies and we see time and time again that in mice, C l A works, it’s sig significantly boosts fat burning.

It decreases appetite, it prevents fat storage. It’s great. What about human studies though? Well, unfortunately, most of the studies done in living people with C l A have shown no effects on fat loss whatsoever. And if we look at the few studies that have shown positive effects, the results are underwhelming.

For example, in one study published in the Journal Nutrients, people Who supplement with C L A twice per day for 12 weeks. So 12 weeks lost about one and a half pounds of fat. In another study by scientists at the University of Barcelona, overweight people who took c a for 12 weeks lost about 1.3 pounds of fat.

And perhaps the most dramatic weight loss seen in a C study comes from research conducted by scientists at the Max Rubner Institute. And in this study, researchers found that 85 obese. And about 75% of them had metabolic syndrome who took C L A for four weeks, lost about two and a half pounds of fat.

Now again, those are a few studies that have shown positive results. Most of the studies have shown no such results. And further muddying. The matter is research that shows that C’S weight loss effects can be very unpredictable. In one study that was published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, some people who took C for six months lost about seven pounds of fat while others gained.

Over four pounds of fat on average. Research also shows that C L A is not effective in humans, at least at preventing weight regain after dieting, and it also does not appear to help people eat less. Whereas again, in mice, it does reliably decrease appetite in humans. Not so much. So if we look at the data on the whole, if we look at the weight of the evidence, it’s that c l A is a dud.

When you look at most of the studies, you have no meaningful effects on fat loss. And if you look at the studies that have shown positive effects, they also have shown on reliability, inconsistency, and. Irrelevance, just inconsequential amounts of additional fat loss. If we look at them in terms of your average gym goer, who is looking to lose anywhere from five to 15 pounds, and then who is looking to diet for anywhere from probably four to maybe 16 weeks?

If you add c. To that, and if you are generous in your expectations, it is just not going to make that much of a difference in a best case scenario. So I think there’s little reason to add C L A to your fat loss supplement stack, so to speak. One of the easiest ways to increase muscle and strength gain is to eat enough protein and to eat enough high quality protein.

Now you can do that with food, of course, you can get all of the protein you need from food, but many people supplement with whey protein because it is convenient and it’s tasty, and that makes it easier to just eat enough protein. And it’s also rich in essential amino acids, which are crucial for muscle building.

And it’s digested well, it’s absorbed well. And that’s why I created Whey Plus, which is a 100% natural grass fed whey isolate protein powder made with milk from small sustainable dairy farms in Ireland. Now, Y way isolate. Well, that is the highest. Whey protein you can buy, and that’s why every serving of Whey Plus contains 22 grams of protein with little or no carbs in fat.

Whey plus is also lactose free, so that means no indigestion, no stomach aches, no gassiness, and it’s also 100% naturally sweetened and flavored, and it contains no artificial food dyes or other. Junk And why Irish dairies? Well, research shows that they produce some of the healthiest, cleanest milk in the world, and we work with farms that are certified by Ireland’s Sustainable Dairy Assurance Scheme, S D S A S, which ensures that the farmers adhere to best practices in animal welfare, sustainability, product quality trace.

And soil and grass management and all that is why I have sold over 500,000 bottles of way plus and why it has over 6,004 and five star reviews on Amazon and on my website. So if you want a mouthwatering high protein, low calorie whey protein powder that helps you reach your fitness goals faster, you want to try Whey Plus today, go to buy legion.com/whey.

Use the coupon code muscle at checkout and you will save 20% on your first order. And if it is not your first order, you will get double reward points and that is 6% cash back. And if you don’t, absolutely love way plus. Let us know and we will give you a full refund on the spot. No form, no return is even necessary.

You really can’t lose. So go to buy legion.com/way now. Use the coupon code muscle at checkout to save 20% or get double reward points and then try way plus risk free and see what you think. Now what about muscle building that is also often used to sell c l? It’s often sold as a body recomposition supplement, but most research shows that is simply not the case.

And the few studies that indicate it may be able to help. And these are the outliers, these are the exceptions, not the rule. They also show in. And see. So for example, scientists at RA Research Institute found that young obese men who took C L A and fish oil for 12 weeks increased their muscle mass by about 2.4%.

Though young lean men and older obese and lean men saw no benefit. That’s odd. Another study was conducted by researchers at the University of North Carolina, and it found that obese people who took 6.4 grams of c a, which is a lot every day for 12 weeks, gained about 1.3 pounds of muscle in that timeframe.

But then you have people who took 3.2 grams of c l, which is still a decent amount. They took it every day. They saw no benefit. One more example is a study that found that overweight people who took C for a year increased their muscle mass by an average of about 2%. But when you look at the data and you look at the individual results, you see inconsistency.

You see that some people lost as much as two and a half percent of their muscle mass over the course of that year. And so the evidence is clear. C l a is not going to help you gain muscle faster. It is also not going to boost your testosterone levels. Some people make that claim as well because there’s research on human cells that found that C may be able to increase your testosterone or increase testosterone production, but the results were not replicated when the scientists repeat.

The research in living humans. There’s also a study that is often used to sell CLE as a testosterone booster where scientists injected mice with a mushroom extract containing high amounts of C nine T 11, and that showed that it could prevent the enzyme aromatase from converting testosterone to estrogen.

Okay, interesting. But again, this is a study in mice, not humans, and we can’t just directly extrapolate rodent research to humans. And also the mushroom extract used contained other compounds that could have been responsible for the result. So it’s impossible to say whether the C, whether the C nine T 11 form of CLA contributed or not.

It’s also, of course, impossible to know whether we would see similar effects in humans without doing. Research, improving insulin sensitivity is another common claim used to sell C L a and insulin sensitivity refers to that just how sensitive your body is to the effects of insulin. And generally speaking, higher sensitivity is better.

That means your body doesn’t need to produce as much insulin. You’ll be able to deal with carbohydrates better. And of course your risk of type two diabetes then is much lower. And generally speaking, your metabolic health is higher, is better when you have a body that is more sensitive to the effects of insulin rather than less sensitive.

And there are animal studies that show that the C nine T 11 form can increase insulin sensitivity. Okay, interesting. But then there’s research that shows the T 10 C 12 form causes inflammation that prevents glucose and fatty acids from entering cells. And so that is increasing. Resistance not good. But of course now we have to look at human studies and we see inconsistency.

That is a theme in the c l research. For example, in one study there were 10 men who took 3.2 grams of c l. Every day, six of them experienced an increase in insulin sensitivity. Two of them experienced a decrease, so an increase in insulin resistance, that’s bad. And then the remaining two experienced no change.

And then there was another study that was published in Applied Physiology, nutrition, and Metabolism. And in this experiment, researchers found that out of nine people who took C L A every day three experienced an increase in insulin sensitivity by about nine to 13%, but six decreas. Insulin sensitivity by nine to 79%.

And then we have more human studies that have shown that C L A has little effect or no effect on insulin sensitivity. So the problem here is when you take C to increase your insulin sensitivity, it may work slightly, it may do nothing, meaning you’re just. Wasting your money. And then it may have the opposite effect, and it may have a strong opposite effect, which would be bad.

And so I don’t recommend taking C L A for improving insulin sensitivity. Now, what about athletic performance? Can C L a boost your endurance? Can it boost your power? Can it boost your strength? Maybe, maybe not. It’s more of the same because some studies show that it has no effect whatsoever on these parameters.

There are a couple of studies that show that it may slightly increase athletic performance, and as expected, there are some anomalous results in the literature. For example, one study showed that c l increased the bench press strength, but not the leg press strength in men, and didn’t have any such effects in women.

So the evidence here is inconsistent. There’s not much to go off of. We can’t really draw any firm conclusions about whether C L A can improve athletic performance. At least there’s no research showing that it can decrease athletic performance. So, I wouldn’t personally spend my money on it. If I were looking to improve my workouts, for example, I would go to ingredients like beta alanine and citraline and caffeine and theanine and nitrates.

I would go to things that have a large body of evidence showing efficacy in healthy humans. I wouldn’t waste my money on c a because it may or. Do anything, and it looks like currently the best case scenario is it has a slightly positive effect. Now, the last topic I want to comment on is c L and cardiovascular health because many older people in particular, Are marketed to with claims regarding cardiovascular health.

Many older people are told that they can take c L A to have a healthier heart. And of course, if they have a healthier heart, chances are they’re going to live a longer and healthier life. So what does science have to say? Well, you probably can guess. The results are all over the place. There are some animal studies that show that C L A may protect against cardiovascular disease by boosting arterial health, improving cholesterol levels, and reducing oxidative stress.

But on the other hand, if we look at human studies and cholesterol levels, for example, we have conflicting results. We have some studies showing that CLE can indeed improve cholesterol, and then we have others showing that it has no effects. It doesn’t alter cholesterol levels at all. And then there are others suggesting that it may have a detrimental effect.

Cholesterol. Furthermore, research shows that C L A may actually increase oxidative stress in the body and levels of blood markers such as C-reactive protein, and both of those things, higher levels of oxidative stress and higher levels of C reactive protein are associated with a higher risk of cardiovascular disease, not a lower risk.

But then despite that, there’s research that shows that taking c l. Actually appear to increase your chance of developing cardiovascular disease. So as you can see, c a is just a strange molecule, and I would not recommend taking it for the purposes of improving heart health because it may be able to.

Reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. It may not, it may actually increase the risk of cardiovascular disease despite one study showing that it appears to not. But I did mention that there are a couple of mechanisms that have been observed that are associated with an increase in. The risk of cardiovascular disease.

And so instead, if somebody were asking me, Hey, are there a couple of supplements I can take for a, a healthier heart? I would say, yeah, take a well-formulated multivitamin, for example, that is going to ensure you don’t have any major. Uh, nutritional holes in your diet with essential vitamins and minerals, and I would recommend looking into coq 10, which is often in a well formulated multivitamin like my own, which is called Triumph.

You can find it [email protected], b u Y. legion.com/triumph. I would also recommend eating enough fiber, so eat your fruit, eat your vegetables. Uh, I would not necessarily recommend supplementing with fiber. Get it from food. There’s a difference. Omega-3 fatty acids take a fish oil. That is probably going to decrease your risk of heart disease.

There’s good research that indicates that, and so that is the. With C. That’s why I don’t take it. And that’s why Legion does not sell it. Even though many people come to us asking for it. Why don’t you have C I wanna buy C I like you, I wanna support you, not whoever else. Uh, well, I’ve explained now why I don’t sell it.

It’s like BCAs Legion gets asked. All the time to make BCAs, and our customer experience team has a nice little canned response that explains why we don’t sell BCAs, which basically comes down to the weight of the scientific evidence, is that they don’t do anything for anybody who eats enough protein.

And funny enough, many people appreciate the. , but then just say, Hey, well you know, it makes my water tasty. So if you do happen to make BCAs, even if it’s only just to make tasty water, I’ll buy them from you . And I appreciate that. But unfortunately that’s not a great sales pitch. Right? Uh, you can imagine the sales page, which is explaining the research that shows.

That you don’t need to take amino acid supplements if you eat enough protein, and if you don’t eat enough protein, you should just eat enough protein. Don’t take amino acid supplements. They are a waste of money. And if you eat enough protein and take a bunch of amino acid supplements, there are some potential negative side effects.

But if you really want to give us your money, if you really want some tasty water and you’re not willing to just like put some fruit in your water or some. FLAVORED drops. Okay, fine. Here are BCAAs. I’m no marketing master, but I’m good enough to know that that is not a great strategy. And so anyway, I wish they were otherwise with C and BCAAs and eaas and quote unquote testosterone boosters and many other supplements that many people buy, but which.

Don’t have good scientific evidence for efficacy. If I could sell such things ethically, I would, because then Legion would make more money and I would make more money. And that’s good for Legion and that’s good for me, but I’m not willing to lie to take people’s money so I don’t sell ’em. Well, I hope you liked this episode.

I hope you found it helpful, and if you did subscribe to the show because it makes sure that you don’t miss new episodes. And it also helps me because it increases the rankings of the show a little bit, which of course then makes it a little bit more easily found by other people who may like it just as much as you.

And if you didn’t like something about this episode or about the show in general, or if you. Uh, ideas or suggestions or just feedback to share. Shoot me an email, mike muscle for life.com, muscle f o r life.com and let me know what I could do better or just, uh, what your thoughts are about maybe what you’d like to see me do in the future.

I read everything myself. I’m always looking for new ideas and constructive feedback. So thanks again for listening to this episode, and I hope to hear from you.


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