Conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) is a mouthful to say, but getting a mouthful of it looks like a good idea for
bodybuilders interested in adding muscle at the expense of bodyfat. Yes, CLA is a dietary fat. More
specifically, it's an essential fatty acid.
Essential fatty acids are just that: essential for keeping your cells healthy and helping your body properly utilize food. Think of CLA as a type of signal light that allows the nutrient traffic to run more smoothly and efficiently in your muscle cells. It helps create an environment where more fat is burned for energy instead of being stored, while allowing the cells to utilize protein more effectively for muscle building. Not only that but CLA is also now considered to be a strong antioxidant and anticarcinogen.
Don't just take our word for it. Anecdotal evidence from bodybuilders is growing, and scientific inquiry has backed up many of these claims. A good example is a recent study by Gabriele Stangi of the Institute of Nutritional Sciences in Germany. Published in the Journal of Nutrition (2000(13D]:1140-46), the report reinforces CLA's reputation. The Deutsche doe found that rats fed a CLA - fortified diet gained 11% less weight than rats who enjoyed an otherwise identical diet sans CLA. The CLA rodents not only had less bodyfat, but also ended up with higher amounts of lean tissue than their fellow critters. What's more, the CLA group had lower concentrations of cholesterol than their tubbier rat brothers. These changes in body composition were noted after only three weeks of CLA supplementation and, as far as we know, the rats weren't even pumping iron.
So can gym rats expect similar benefits from supplementing with CLA? It's definitely worth a try, especially considering that the body doesn't produce CLA.
Where do you get this great nutrient? Try meat and cheese. Significant amounts of CLA are found in red meat, cheese, milk and some processed foods, including America's spreadable delight, Cheez Whiz! Of course, you may not want to depend on Cheez Whiz for your dose. In fact, to get enough CLA from your diet, either from whole foods or processed goodies, you would probably have to take in too many calories, especially since today's meat and dairy products may contain less CLA than in years past as a result of contemporary feeding practices and other modern agricultural methods.
CLA is readily available as a supplement. It is commonly found in capsules in concentrations ranging from 500 milligrams to one gram, with recommended doses ranging from two to four grams per day, preferably taken with meals throughout the day.
Considering CLA's performance in studies as an antioxidant and anticarcinogen, this talented fatty acid can be useful to bodybuilders at any level. As far as getting it from Cheez Whiz, though - maybe you can slap some of the gooey stuff on a rice cake during a cheat day, but you didn't hear it from us.