CLA creates the supplemental trilogy?

claProtein powders are big business in the supplement industry because almost every weightlifting enthusiast uses them on a daily basis. And of course creatine is the most highly decorated supplement in existence with decades of positive research showing it to be a bonafide ergogenic aid. Another available supplement, Conjugated linolenic acid (CLA), has research showing it to be a bit hit-and-miss. In rodents, it is the shit. In humans, its effects seem non-existent. A recent research review by Dale, A et al has looked into CLA by conducting what is known as a meta-analysis. This basically means they read a bunch of previous papers on the topic and then come to a conclusion. They specifically looked into CLA as a means to increase fat-free mass (FFM), so I am assuming that researchers are finally starting to give up on CLA for actual fat loss. They found that CLA does have a positive effect on FFM but it’s probably not worth mentioning. In fact, I wasn’t going to even bother writing this article until I found a related article from this year regarding CLA and the two supplements I mentioned earlier – protein and creatine.

Researchers wanted to look into the combined effects of CLA, creatine, and whey protein supplementation during strength training. Sixty-nine participants were split into three groups: the 6g CLA + 9g creatine (yes, a pretty high daily dose) + 36g whey group (CCP), the 9g creatine + 36g whey + placebo oil group (CP), and the 36g whey + placebo oil (P). All groups lifted weights for six days per week for five weeks. The results are somewhat surprising. The bench press of the CCP group increased almost twice as much as the CP group, as did the leg press (although the increases themselves weren’t mind-blowing). While all groups added muscle, the CCP group had greater increases than both the CP and P groups. This study echoes the results found by Tarnopolsky M et al in 2007 who found that CLA and creatine improved strength and body composition in the elderly.

Does this mean CLA is worthwhile? If being used alone then probably not. That said, these two papers do seem to suggest a genuine potential for a trilogy of CLA with creatine and protein (although whether this needs to come from a “fast” protein like whey or a whole-food source like meat is not clear). Due to all the knuckleheads on the internet I tend to take CLA feedback with a grain of salt these days but I am definitely interested in hearing your experiences with CLA for this purpose (the “CLA got me ripped” crew need not respond). 6g of CLA a day isn’t going to break the bank so anyone who wants to try this has my blessing. CLA and my digestive tract (I tried using 25-30gms per day) had an argument a long time ago and they’ll probably never make up so I doubt I’ll ever try this personally.

Dale A. Schoeller, Abigail C. Watras, and Leah D. Whigham. A meta-analysis of the effects of conjugated linoleic acid on fat-free mass in humans. Appl. Physiol. Nutr. Metab. 34(5): 975–978 (2009).

Cornish SM, Candow DG, Jantz NT, Chilibeck PD, Little JP, Forbes S, Abeysekara S, Zello GA. Conjugated linoleic acid combined with creatine monohydrate and whey protein supplementation during strength training. Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab. 2009 Feb;19(1):79-96.

Tarnopolsky M, Zimmer A, Paikin J, Safdar A, Aboud A, Pearce E, Roy B, Doherty T. Creatine monohydrate and conjugated linoleic acid improve strength and body composition following resistance exercise in older adults. PLoS One. 2007 Oct 3;2(10):e991.

About the Author

Matt Cahill has worked extensively in the nutritional supplement field, and is the former CEO of Designer Supplements. During his time in the field has researched and developed prohormones, testosterone boosters, and other related compounds, both for his own company and others.