What is CLA?

Conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) is a type of essential fatty acid. Now, before you run for the hills at the word “fat”, you should know that not all fats are bad. An essential fat means that the body needs to have this fat to function properly. The body can produce certain fats on its own, but essential fats have to come through the diet.

In broad terms, there are two main types of essential fats, omega 3 and omega 6. CLA is a sub-category of the omega 6 essential fatty acids a linoleic polyunsaturated fatty acid.  CLA can be found naturally in foods, or in the form of a man-made supplement.

Weight loss

Some have theorised that CLA can change body composition and facilitate weight loss by altering metabolism. It’s important to note that fat cells inside the muscle don’t seem to affect body fat levels, as this is determined more by subcutaneous fat (fat between the skin and the muscle.) CLA interacts with this process on a cellular level. Most of the benefits of weight loss and changes in metabolism have only been observed in cells (in a test tube) or in animal studies.

Cholesterol and blood glucose levels

Hyper-triacylglycerolemia (high levels of triglycerides in the bloodstream) and elevated plasma cholesterol are suggested as major risk factors for cardiovascular disease. There are two main types of cholesterol that affect heart health. Simply put, there’s HDL (which carries cholesterol away from the heart) and LDL (which carries cholesterol to the heart). Generally, if HDL is low, and LDL and fat in the bloodstream are high, then the risk of heart disease goes up. There have been studies that demonstrate anti-sclerotic and improvements in blood lipid profiles in animal models. This discovery led scientists to think that it might be the same for humans.

Whilst the majority of the human studies indicate no adverse effects on heart health when supplementing with CLA, they showed no benefit of an improved blood lipid profile.  When someone starts to become insulin resistant, they need more insulin to do the same job, which in turn puts a strain on the pancreas (which can lead to diabetes).

Immune functions

There have been several studies to date that look at what does CLA do for the immune system — so far the results have been highly variable. When looking at how to make a conclusion based on the science available, a good place to start is to look at what the majority of the studies show. Is there a general trend, and if so is it in favour of an effect or not?

Where can CLA be found

Now we’ve answered what does CLA do, you might be wondering how you can get more CLA through your diet. The most common food that you can find CLA in are meat and dairy. CLA can be found in:

  • Beef
  • Lamb
  • Chicken
  • Pork
  • Cow’s milk
  • Cottage cheese
  • Cheddar cheese


There’s no general consensus as of yet for how much CLA you should take, at what time, and for how long. The studies show a big difference in dosages from as little as 0.7g/d to as much as 6.8g/d for what does CLA do at these different doses.

The majority of the studies look at CLA usage of 8-12 weeks with a few going beyond that. Perhaps the most common dosage would be around 3g daily. If supplementing, then this would best be taken with meals.

What does CLA do?

So, what does CLA do? Most people buy CLA for its potential weight loss properties. CLA is purported to aid muscle growth, lower cholesterol, improve blood glucose levels and support healthy immune function.

CLA is a dose-dependent supplement and has been used with as little as 0,7g/d up to 6.8g.d. The average use seems to be around 3g/d in supplement form for about 8 to 12 weeks.

The jury is still out on the effectiveness of CLA as a supplement in humans. Perhaps as technology improves and more studies are conducted, what is seen in theory might be observed in a real-life setting.

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CLA Capsules

***This article is based on MyProteine official information shared on their website.

Why do we call it – “Classic Bodybuilding”?

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