CLA in Sport: Benefits and Side Effects

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CLA became known in recent years as a dietary supplement that many use as an aid in fat loss and diet. But there are also many athletes who use it. But what are its benefits in sport and what side effects can it conceal?

What is CLA?

CLA otherwise conjugated linoleic acid is a fatty acid found in foods such as meat and dairy products mainly from grass-fed animals.

CLA: What does it do?

Fat reduction

According to meta-analyzes (Whigham et al., 2007), supplementation of CLA results in “moderate body fat loss” compared to placebo in already overweight individuals. When studied over a 12-week period, this weight loss equals 1 kg of body weight. This also means that muscle mass increases, something that many athletes want!

In general, many consider CLA to be a fat-burner. What exactly is going on? In fact, the precise mechanism of CLA has not been fully established, but it seems to have a regulatory effect on reducing fat storage and on activation of key enzymes related to lipid oxidation regulation (Martins et al, 2015). In addition, it prevents weight gain.

In fact, it does not contribute to fat loss through thermogenesis and therefore we should not put it into the same category as “fat burning” supplements.

Decreases appetite

CLA seems to be able to reduce appetite, increasing the feeling of satiety. How does this work? The trans-10 and cis-12 isomers of CLA reduce the expression of specific neurotransmitters in the brain associated with hunger.

Reduces inflammation

Several studies show that CLA plays an important role in the body’s anti-inflammatory response as well as in boosting the immune system. This is of interest to most athletes, as they often face inflammation due to exercise and minor injuries. In addition, they enhance liver health and helps with its detoxification.

Strengthens the immune system

CLA also boosts the immune system, helping to protect against infections, inflammatory disorders, and allergies. In fact, it seems to be able to help people who suffer from asthma and allergies by reducing the over-reaction to the airways.

Bone health

Another part that is of interest to all athletes is the benefit of CLA to bone health. It prevents bone density loss, both by contributing to increased calcium absorption (by increasing parathyroid hormone) but also by reducing osteoclast activity. Osteoclasts contribute to bone resorption, one of the main reasons for osteoporosis.

CLA: Side effects

Some of the side effects that CLA can have are stomach disorders, nausea, diarrhea or even fatigue. People with diabetes will need to consult their doctor about taking it, as it may worsen its management.

Still, there are indications that it may reduce blood clotting, so it is advisable to avoid taking it at least two weeks before and after surgery. For the same reason, people who have blood clotting or bleeding problems should also avoid it and should be consulted by a physician if he or she is treated for hypertension.

Generally, taking CLA is considered safe, however in any health issue, the expert’s consent is required. So far, studies have shown that CLA was well tolerated for a 24-month intake, but it is advisable to pause every 3 months, as with most dietary supplements.

At you will find a wide variety of supplements with CLA.




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