CLA (conjugated linoleic acid)


CLA is better known to many as conjugated linoleic acid (CLA). This group of acids consists of a diunsaturated fatty acid, which is arranged around the linoleic acid.
CLA is mainly formed in the stomachs of ruminants and thus finds its way into milk and meat products, whereby CLA in turn enters human food, i.e. the body.

Health effects studies have not shown any beneficial effects on human health. Neither on body weight, lean body mass (LBM), lean body mass, insulin sensitivity nor on antioxidant protective mechanisms could be proven. No improvements were found in the immune system either.
However, there are studies in the field of strength training and bodybuilding that can prove a positive effect on lean mass and muscle growth. In sport, CLA is often taken as a dietary supplement to reduce fat mass. Another study was able to show that the energy balance is also positively influenced by CLA, so that more calories are burned.


CLA is also known and said to be conjugated linoleic acid Prevent degradation processes and prevent them that Increase protein production and the Improve fat loss.

With many diets, the fat cells are only emptied, not broken down, so they are still in the body, just waiting to be refilled. CLA is supposed to be for one Breakdown of fat cells and thus also ensure a reduction in fat throughout the body. At the same time, CLA can ensure that the Increased muscle mass becomes.

Another important property of CLA is that Reducing the likelihood Arteriosclerosis (Vascular obstruction) to get sick, as the fats (lipids) floating freely in the blood are bound by CLA and cannot adhere to the vessel walls.

CLA can also help curb free radicals and thus keep cholesterol levels in balance.


The effect of CLA could be examined in the context of scientific animal experiments. The following positive properties were proven:

  • anticancer effects (= anti-cancer effect)
  • Reduction of body fat (to a certain extent by increasing muscle mass, less often by reducing weight)
  • Protection against calcifications in the heart area (= arteriosclerotic changes in the heart arteries)
  • Increase in muscle mass
  • Normalization of blood sugar levels

Scientific studies in humans have shown a positive effect on increasing the Protein synthesis by CLA, whereby the protein- and Muscle breakdown can be counteracted. The increase in muscle mass has also been demonstrated in some studies.

The increase in muscle mass under CLA substitution is particularly evident in Bodybuilders of great interest. The Supplements are usually chemically synthesized, whereupon the mode of action does not necessarily have to be the same as CLA from natural sources. Again, there is a lack of scientific studies and long-term observations.

A sufficient amount of CLA is easy to achieve, possibly as a result of a change in diet. On average, humans already take approx. 400 mg CLA on. If scientists consider around three times this amount to be advisable, this can be achieved by consuming a large amount of the natural sources. It's important, that no low-fat–Products are included; all products should contain their natural fat content.


The dosage of CLA should be in healthy individuals about 3.4 grams per day lie. This is 3400 milligrams of CLA.
Because CLA in safflower oil or sunflower oil occurs, you can use these two means for supplementation.

However, both oils contain a different concentration of CLA, so get started first calculate should how much oil of which type you need.
Sunflower oil is cheaper and easier to get than safflower oil. However is Safflower oil richer in CLA than sunflower oil.
One gram of sunflower oil CLA contains 400 milligrams of pure CLA, whereas one gram of safflower oil contains twice that amount (800 milligrams) of CLA.

For example, if you want to consume three grams of CLA every day, you should consume 3855 milligrams of safflower oil, since 1285 milligrams of safflower oil contain exactly 1000 milligrams (one gram) of CLA.

If you are unsure about the dosage, you should definitely ask your doctor for advice before simply taking any dosage.

CLA as capsules

A lack of CLA and essential fatty acids in general can result from a diet that is too low in fat or too one-sided fat intake. This is especially a danger for people who have been on a low-fat diet for a long time or for athletes who also eat very little fat.
If you are one of the risk groups mentioned or if there is a lack of CLA for other reasons, it is possible to supplement this by taking CLA capsules. The commercially available capsules are usually taken a few times a day, depending on the concentration per capsule. It is recommended to take it with meals. The capsule should be swallowed with plenty of water. The substances contained in the capsules in addition to conjugated linoleic acid can lead to allergies. Here you should follow the manufacturer's instructions and read the product information carefully.

How should CLA be taken?

Various manufacturers offer preparations in the form of gels and softgel capsules with different levels of conjugated linoleic acid. In order to guarantee safe use, the instructions on the package insert should be followed very carefully when taking the product. The capsules contain between 600 and 1000 mg CLA, the recommendations are around 3000-6000 mg per day over a period of several weeks in order to be able to record a noticeable effect.
The capsules are taken with a glass of water, if possible with meals in the morning and evening.
Many products, especially those from drug stores, contain very low doses of unsaturated fatty acids. This requires consuming up to 6 or more capsules a day. To make it easier to take, high-quality products with a higher content of CLA should be used.

Side effects

Side effects when taking CLA may include tiredness, Gastrointestinal problems, Diarrhea, stomach pain, cramps, headache, dry skin, or dizziness occur.

After taking CLA, you may feel more tired, which makes the physical performance impaired becomes.
Depending on the dosage, gastrointestinal problems with diarrhea, stomach cramps or stomach pain can also occur. Failure to react to the diarrhea and the associated dehydration can lead to dizziness, headaches, dry skin and increased thirst.
Then you should at the latest drink plenty of fluids and put the CLA down or take a break.

At high doses It can also happen that the athlete develops insulin resistance because the pancreas is influenced by the CLA.
Long-term use of CLA in high doses can lead to the development of diabetes.
This side effect is however not yet adequately investigated by studies. Also Long-term studies The side effects of CLA are so far not known.

Before taking CLA you should ask your doctor for advice, especially if you have previous illnesses such as heart disease or diabetes in the family.

Serious side effectsthat would have led to discontinuation of CLA use did not occur during the studies. This seems to result from the fact that the conjugated linoleic acids are essential as described and therefore general in food anyway be included. However, it can in rare cases too nausea come with the daily intake of CLA. Furthermore, contain the substances that are contained in the capsules in addition to the CLA certain risk of side effects.

So it can happen that you have an allergic reaction to one of the additives. This could be for example Gluten or soy or egg white happen, these substances can be contained in the CLA capsules depending on the preparation. If you have known allergies, it is advisable to read the ingredients of the preparations carefully and, in the worst case, to refrain from taking CLA or to use it to choose another preparation.

Are there any dangers from CLA?

For a healthy athlete who takes CLA according to the manufacturer's instructions to supplement a balanced diet, CLA generally does not pose any serious health risks. However, there are some studies that indicate that high doses of CLA may develop insulin resistance or affect insulin release. However, it is still unclear how high the risk is of developing diabetes from taking CLA.
The side effects that could occur when taking CLA should also not be underestimated. Fatigue, cramps, gastrointestinal complaints and dizziness can limit physical performance in sport or even in everyday life.
CLA should only be taken after careful consideration, they are by no means risk-free compared to natural fat sources.

Muscle building

Athletes following their exercise regimen on the targeted building of muscle mass align, you have to consider other things in addition to the sports planning. That's how she plays nutrition a central role. Besides the adequate intake of proteins A sufficient amount of essential fatty acids is also very important. Here again is that CLA as an important essential fatty acid to call. Because the CLA has brought about positive changes in two ways.

  • The first effect affects lipid metabolism. Studies in animals and humans have shown that taking CLA is a significant fat reduction causes. The experiments that were carried out on athletes confirmed the results that had previously been obtained from animal experiments on mice and rats. It turned out that one at least three months ingestion of 3.4 grams daily on average one Reduction of fat tissue by 20 percent was achieved. This means that the test subjects have lost a lot of body fat and have already become healthier as a result. In addition, it was shown that in animal experiments, the proportion of muscle fat was also reduced with daily CLA administration.
  • The second, im Bodybuilding area possibly even more important effect relates to the Muscle building. Various studies have shown that regular intake of CLA positive for the growth of the muscles affects. The athletes who received the CLA preparation in the studies could build muscles much faster than the group of athletes who received a placebo that looked the same. Experts explain this difference by the fact that the Protein synthesis, i.e. the build-up of proteins through CLA intake clearly improved Has. That means, the organism can take in the food amino acids convert significantly better into the body's own proteins. Researchers have found that a low-fat diet is average around 300 milligrams of CLA from food records. However, the CLA only has an effect on the breakdown of body fat and muscle building from one Daily intake of 3000 milligrams. It is therefore advisable to supplement the diet with CLA.

The two positive effects, so the increased Loss of body fat and the increased Build muscle mass, can of course only occur under certain conditions. It goes without saying that in addition to taking CLA one tight training plan worked through must become. In addition, of course, one must focus on this training plan and the desired muscle building balanced diet be respected. In addition to the positive effects of the CLA already described, the conjugated linoleic acid yet another positive effect. Various studies have shown that taking CLA also has a Normalization of insulin levels in the blood causes. This creates a for humans Decrease in the feeling of hunger and thus a normalization of eating behavior. This effect also contributes to training success in the long term.

In which sports does it make sense to take CLA?

CLA are essential fatty acids. These cannot be synthesized by the body itself and must be taken in through food. In the case of a balanced diet, the use of food supplements is not absolutely necessary.
Natural foods such as fish, oil, nuts, meat and dairy products should be used to meet the daily requirement for fatty acids. A low-fat diet can lead to an insufficient supply of the building blocks that are essential for the metabolism.
Athletes in all sports should supply their bodies with all the essential nutrients and enough energy in the form of food for optimal performance.
A low-fat diet hinders endurance athletes as well as strength athletes who want to build muscle mass healthily. Even those who want to lose weight should not do without fats: The metabolism and thus the burning of fat reserves only works with the necessary fuels and fire accelerators.
Health athletes who use the positive effects of exercise and sport on their cardiovascular and immune systems should definitely follow a balanced diet.
In all of these models, the use of dietary supplements only makes sense if coverage through food is not sufficiently guaranteed. A healthy lifestyle and diet should always be a priority when taking capsules.

How important is CLA in bodybuilding?

In the sports world, people are critical of the intake of CLA and other nutritional supplements.
Many athletes are in favor of taking supplements, especially if they are on a very low-calorie diet and diet is not very diverse, for example in preparation for a competition. Dietary supplements such as omega-3 fatty acids or CLA capsules are also used in weight training. In general, taking supplements is not a substitute for a balanced diet high in protein and fat.
Bodybuilders are primarily dependent on a diet high in protein and avoid foods containing carbohydrates. In order for the metabolism, digestion, cardiovascular system and other body systems to function properly, the intake of essential fatty acids is essential. These cannot be produced by the body itself and, in addition to the synthesis of hormones, are also involved in cell structure. Essential fatty acids should be consumed through a balanced diet, for example by consuming fish, vegetable oils, nuts or nut butter.
CLA is naturally found mainly in dairy products and meat.
Those who reduce their intake of these foods as part of a strictly low-calorie diet should cover their essential fatty acid requirements through dietary supplements. This is where CLA and other supplements can be helpful.
In general, however, a balanced diet is preferable to taking nutritional supplements.

Can you lose weight with CLA?

Weight loss results from a negative calorie balance. The body thus receives less energy in the form of food than it needs for its metabolic processes and additional services during the day.
This requires a burning of the fat reserves, which leads to a lasting decrease. So a decrease can only be achieved if the intake of calories through food is reduced. A decrease just by taking CLA capsules is not possible.
CLA capsules contain essential fatty acids that the body absolutely needs. In low-calorie diets, a low-fat diet is often used, whereby the supply of essential fatty acids is kept alarmingly low. If these are not supplied in the form of foods such as fish, oil, nuts or dairy products, it may be necessary to use dietary supplements. In this respect, CLA capsules can support weight loss.
However, one should prefer a moderate, reduced-calorie and balanced diet. The decrease then takes place more slowly, but leads to more stable success in the long term.

Rating by - Does taking CLA make sense?

You should avoid taking CLA and other food supplements as long as you eat a balanced and varied diet.
A supply of essential fatty acids through food is essential, as the body needs them for all systems and metabolic processes and cannot produce them itself.
Taking CLA capsules does not make sense with a healthy diet and lifestyle and does not bring any added value. In the case of strongly reduced calorie diets, such as bodybuilders preparing for competitions, the intake of CLA can be justified. In general, however, you should attach importance to a healthy and balanced diet and refrain from CLA supplements. Its use has not yet been scientifically proven, and it can also lead to side effects that can more or less impair athletic performance.
Furthermore, CLA supplements are quite expensive, especially since according to the manufacturers, taking them over several weeks and months is recommended in order to develop their effect.


CLA refers to naturally occurring linoleic acids that are derived from components of animal foods (such as in dairy and meat products). Studies that have been carried out with animals have shown a positive effect on health. However, previous studies on humans have not yet been able to fully confirm this tendency. The main goals of the medical research are the effects on the heart, cancer, diabetes and weight control. When taking CLAs, a protective effect against various cancers should occur. Trends in the protective effect could be demonstrated in studies with animal and human tissue. However, more human studies need to be performed in order to produce meaningful results.

CLAs have been shown to have a positive effect on blood lipid levels and arteriosclerosis in animal studies. However, there are still no studies on humans that have been able to check and substantiate these statements. CLAs are also said to have positive effects on the sugar metabolism in the body and thus to play an important role in diabetes. However, as with the effects on cancer and the heart, studies that can prove this effect are still lacking.

Another benefit of conjugated linoleic acid is said to have an impact on human physique. CLA is said to have a weight-reducing effect. Studies on mice have shown that the supplementation of CLA boosted energy consumption, built muscle and reduced fat. So far, however, these results have only been demonstrated in mice, but not in humans. There is still a need for scientific work in the form of studies to investigate effects on the human body. The influence of CLA on the body structure is very interesting for the field of sport, since CLA is already being supplied as a dietary supplement without knowing any reliable results from studies.

CLAs are mainly found in fatty products from ruminants (meat and dairy products) and their CLA content can even be increased by adding other nutrients such as oils containing linoleic acid (sunflower oil or soybean oil). The results of the studies carried out so far are positive and indicate promising further investigations. However, these investigations must first be carried out in order to gain new knowledge. Ingesting CLA-containing foods can be more beneficial than harmful to the body, so it should be resorted to occasionally.

Other food supplements

For more information, see the following Food supplements:

  • amino acids
  • BCAA
  • Glutamine
  • HMB
  • carbohydrates
  • L-carnitine
  • protein
  • Pyruvate
  • Ribose
  • Weight gainer

You can find an overview of previously published topics in sports medicine at: Sports medicine A-Z.