What is CLA Supplement?
CLA. Now we are getting to the point of just mentioning some weird shortcuts 🙂
Don’t worry though. This one is one of the straight forward ones.
What is CLA?
Conjugated Linoleic Acid – doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue but It’s not that complicated to understand.
To give you a short answer to what is it… It’s Fat!!
Longer answer would be – It’s an Omega 6 fatty acid commonly found in vegetable oils.
Why is It mentioned on a Fitness page since It’s fat?
Not all fats are the same. There is a huge difference in putting olive oil into your salad and deep frying your chicken wings.
I am sure everyone has heard the words “good fat” and “bad fat” before and in order to understand what CLA really is, we have to say a few words about different types of fat.
- Liquid at room temperature
- Important source of energy
- Vital for healthy cells, brain function (brain cells are essentially made of fat), skin and absorption for vitamins A,D,E,K
- Increases HDL (high density lipoprotein) – lowers the risk of heart disease
- Lowers LDL (low density lipoprotein) – builds up in arteries and is dangerous to our cardiovascular system
- Omega 3
- Anti – inflammatory
- They are highly concentrated in oily fish (salmon, sardines, mackerel, trout, herring, …)
- Abundant in plant form (tofu, pumpkin seeds, walnuts, flax seeds, soy, …)
- Omega 6
- Our CLA falls into this category
- Basically a natural Trans Fat
- Pro – inflammatory in high doses
- Need to be consumed in moderation but human population uses too much, especially USA
- Source is sunflower, corn oil and safflower oil, poultry, eggs, meat, peanut butter, walnuts, cured meats, dairy
- Controversial in nutrition
- I have read many argumentative articles about saturated fats and basically, long story short, they are not as bad as Trans Fats but they are not as good for us as Unsaturated Fats and need to be eaten in moderation (just like everything else after all)
- Artificial (hydrogenated – chemically modified to be solid at room temperature and therefore have a longer shelf life)
- They increase inflamation
- May also cause Insulin Resistance (open door for Type 2 Diabetes)
- Increase the risk of heart disease
- They basically in everything that’s fried (chips, chicken nuggets, doughnuts, …) but it’s also in all time favourite frozen pizza, baked stuff (pies, cookies, …), a lot of microwave food (popcorn), solid vegetable spreads and many more. Basically the more the stuff you buy is processed the more likely it is to contain trans fats.
So can’t I just get CLA from food?
Yes, you definitely can.
The CLA found naturally in food is very different to the one in supplements and I have not found that information anywhere in the supplement description.
The supplement version is highly chemically altered version of linoleic acid found in vegetable oils.
As I mentioned before, we consume more than enough of Omega 6 Fatty Acids and I think it would be a very difficult task to find someone who is deficient in it. It would probably be a lot easier to find someone who has a vitamin deficiency.
So how does it aid weight loss?
Well, it probably doesn’t to be honest.
Studies have been made but the data was so insignificant (as little as 0.2kg a week) that it was too difficult to tie the results to CLA.
My weight fluctuates as much as 1kg a day depending on how much have I drunk, eaten, bowel movements, …
Your weight changes during the day a lot because when we wake up our bodies are empty. Everyone who has ever done the race after a six-pack knows that there is no chance to have a chiseled abs in the evening 🙂 all those ripped Instagram pics? All done in the morning 🙂
I have bought CLA before (and actually still have it because I never finished the pack) because I’ve read somewhere that it helps with losing fat in “stubborn areas” aka belly fat 🙂 It was many months after that I realised that the reason why I couldn’t get rid of that, was beer 🙂 There is no way you can lose fat in just one part of your body. And there is no pill for that. You have to create a calorie deficit to lose weight. And yes, women and men both have specific areas where the stored fat goes like belly, love handles, thighs, …
But to lose it, you just have to work your bum off. Your best bet is to tone the muscles in the problematic area so when you create the calorie deficit and the fat finally melts off, you will end up with strong muscles underneath 🙂
So to be honest, even if it really helped you to lose 0.2kg a week (0.8kg a month), is it really worth the money? Wouldn’t it be easier to just spend extra 10 mins at the gym doing an ab workout at the end of the session? 🙂
How about health benefits?
Maybe you are not reading this article because you want to lose weight. Maybe read somewhere that CLA is good for your health. Let’s see.
Yes, there have been theories mentioning that CLA helps us to be more resilient against cancer and Type 2 Diabetes.
We have to remember though, it’s highly concentrated in fatty meat, dairy and eggs. We eat enough of it. If you are a meat – eater, I can guarantee you, that you don’t need a CLA supplement. Grass – fed beef however, contain higher levels so If you really want to boost your intake, buy yourself a grass – fed beef steak 🙂
And If you are a vegetarian? Or vegan even? It’s in peanut butter which all fitness vegetarians and vegans love 🙂
Other vegetarian and (some of them) vegan sources of CLA:
- Coconut oil
- Sunflower oil
- Safflower oil
- Nuts and Seeds
I get it, if you are plant based, the source becomes a little limited but the recommended daily intake of Omega 6 Fatty Acids (according to European Scientific Committee on Food – SCF) is only 5g a day. Just as an example, 2 tablespoons of peanut butter contain nearly 4g of Omega 6.
So here you go. Not all fats are the same but what connects them is the fact that every fat (good or bad) contains 9kcal/g. Just to put it in a perspective:
- Carbohydrates – 4kcal/g
- Protein – 4kcal/g
- Pure alcohol – 7kcal/g
- Fats – 9kcal/g
So you don’t need to be a nutritionist to see that eating fat will make you fat 🙂 All these Keto Diets and theories telling you that if you eat more fat your body will get used to it and will start to burn it faster is nonsense. In order to lose weight you need to create a calorie deficit. It is recommended to cut down 200 – 500 kcal a day to achieve notable results of 0.5kg – 1kg a week. This is a gradual and effective weight loss and will be recommended to you by anyone who has something to do with fitness or nutrition. It’s not an overnight trick, It’s a long run. And it definitely doesn’t mean that a pill can help you. The only way to lose weight and be healthy is:
- Eat less crap
- Be honest with yourself (do you really need that mocha latte with whipped cream every morning?)
- Move more (drive less, cycle, walk up the stairs instead of using a lift all the time, park your car further from work, …)
- Go to the gym, run, do HIIT training at home, sign up for a yoga class, try something new, …