CLA: The Healthy Fat That Burns Fat

Conjugated linoleic acid — CLA for short — is a hot topic in the health and fitness realm right now. You can find articles about CLA on just about every paleo and natural health blog, touting its many benefits and how it can change your life.

But what is CLA? And does it actually have as many benefits as its supporters claim?

Let’s dive in!

What is CLA — Conjugated Linoleic Acid?

We’ve all heard of healthy fats like omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids are the good fats that come from foods like salmon, walnuts, and flax seeds. Omega-3s are great for your heart, cholesterol, blood pressure, hair, skin, and nails, in addition to many other aspects of your health. They’re kind of a big deal!

CLA is like a cousin of omega-3s. It’s a little different because CLA is a trans-fatty acid. But don’t freak out, because it’s nothing like the toxic trans-fats that you’ve been warned against. Like omega-3s, CLA is a type of fatty acid that’s much more than just fat. It’s a special type of healthy fat that provides way more benefits than just giving your body the energy it needs.


Another thing to note is that CLA isn’t just one specific fat, but the name of a type of fatty acid chains. It’s characterized by the kind of bonds in the fatty acid chain. If you look at the image above you can see that the double bonds happen in different places on the chain which is what differentiates each type.

CLA supplements will sometimes list how much of each different type of chain is contained in their formula. The ratios of these specific chain types can affect how beneficial the CLA actually is.

Conjugated Linoleic Acid Benefits

So exactly how healthy is this healthy fat? Well, there are many health claims that go along with this fatty acid. The list of possible CLA benefits include:

  • Cancer prevention, including breast, colorectal, lung, skin, and stomach.
  • Asthma relief.
  • Cardiovascular disease prevention.
  • Regulation of high blood pressure.
  • Lowering high cholesterol and triglycerides.
  • Preventing osteoporosis.
  • Lowering insulin resistance.
  • Reducing inflammation.
  • Fighting immune system invaders.
  • Combating food-induced allergic reactions.
  • Improving body composition (aka: fat loss).

That’s a lot of potential benefits! Now keep in mind that not every single one of these has been conclusively proven. Some of these claimed benefits have more research to back them up than others. Our favorite benefit also happens to be one of the best researched, and that’s fat loss!

There are tons of fat burning, metabolism revving, waist slimming diet pills on the market that aren’t worth the bottle they come in, so it’s pretty easy to understand the skepticism that follows when you talk about CLA for weight loss.

Research To Back It Up

Fortunately, unlike all those other phony weight loss supplements, CLA has the research to back up the claims, which is why so many people get excited about it. Scientists and doctors are even interested in CLA as a means of treating the problem of obesity in Americans because of how potent the effects can be.

One study found that CLA helped healthy and active people drop their body fat by a couple of percentage points compared to a placebo group (the group taking a dummy pill), whose body fat remained the same. Researchers stated, “The results of this pilot study show a significant effect of CLA on body fat in humans. These results are in accordance with other studies, but the effect obtained in this study is much more pronounced than that previously reported.”

Another study analyzed 18 studies done on humans and found that there was indeed a significant loss of body fat.

Of course, CLA isn’t going to do all the work for you. Most of these studies analyzed CLA as part of a weight loss regimen. Meaning that the study participants were already doing everything they needed to, the CLA was just there to boost results. There is no substitute for exercise and a healthy diet when it comes to turning up the heat and increasing your fat burn. But if you want to maximize your results and achieve your goals faster, CLA might be the helping hand you need!

How to Get Conjugated Linoleic Acid

Happy female search something in the fridge, fresh fruits and vegetables in the refrigerator, cooking diet food, fit and body care concept

There are two main ways to incorporate more CLA into your diet:

  1. Natural sources
  2. Supplements

Natural Sources

CLA is a naturally occurring fatty acid that can be found in the meat and dairy products of grazing animals like cows, goats, and sheep. Of course beef and dairy products are more common in the United States, so we’ll focus our attention there. But don’t go running off to buy a lifetime supply of steak and butter just yet! Not all of these products are created equal when it comes to CLA.

You might be aware that there are two main approaches to raising cattle: grass-fed and grain-fed. The thought of grass-fed cows conjures images of happy animals frolicing in fields and chewing their cud freely under the open sky. Grain-fed cows, however, live a less glamorous lifestyle and are fed an unnatural diet of corn and/or soy.

Interestingly enough, cows that are grass-fed are not only healthier themselves, they’re healthier for us! These cows typically have two to three times more CLA than grain-fed cows. This makes grass-fed beef and dairy products a rich (albeit more expensive) source of CLA.


The other option is getting your CLA by way of supplements. You can find CLA capsules/pills online and in many pharmacies, supplement shops, and the like. The CLA found in these supplements doesn’t come from an animal. Instead, it is created in a lab by modifying other oils like safflower oil. So if you’re vegetarian or vegan this could be a great option.

Taking a synthetic supplement is also a great way to get your CLA while avoiding red meat which can be unhealthy in large amounts. While there is large amounts of CLA in grass fed beef, red meat has been shown to shorten a persons lifespan when consumed regularly. Which is another reason we don’t recommend switching to an all beef diet just to reap the benefits of CLA.

I personally don’t like the capsule method because I can never remember to take mine! That’s why I love that IdealLean Pre-Workout  and IdealLean BCAAs both come with CLA already built in. These supplements contain Tonalin® CLA (a well-researched CLA supplement) as a part of our Fat Loss Blend. In fact, Tonalin CLA, “has been clinically shown to help reduce body fat by up to 10% while increasing lean muscle mass and may help prevent fat cells from refilling.” And because it’s already included in our Pre-Workout and BCAAs you don’t have to spend extra money on supplements that you’re going to forget to take anyways.

I drink IdealLean Pre-Workout before my workouts, of course, and I enjoy IdealLean BCAAs during workouts because they also contain hydrating coconut water powder, and throughout the day on my rest days because they help me recover quickly.

Risks and Side Effects

When it comes to taking CLA supplements, there are some risks and side effects if you take too much. Most of them are pretty mild including upset stomach, diarrhea, nausea, and fatigue. But it can also range to risks that are a little more concerning. Taking too much CLA could cause a fatty liver or even lower your “good” cholesterol.

Just like any other supplement you should always talk to your doctor first, especially if you’re taking other medications. It could cause bad interactions which might lessen the effectiveness of other drugs. Some doctors also don’t recommend children or pregnant women taking CLA supplements. That’s why it’s always a good idea to check in with your doc before you start taking something new.

The CLA Takeaway

Conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) is a popular supplement in the world of fitness and weight loss right now. When you get down to it, there’s definitely a reason why. In the case of CLA there is real, legit research to back up its weight loss and fat burning claims.

CLA won’t do all the work for you when it comes to fat burn. There’s no replacement for diet and exercise, but there is evidence that shows CLA could boost your fat burn to help you reach your fitness goals even faster!

The easiest way to supplement CLA into your diet is with IdealLean CLA! Adding in CLA will help give your fitness and nutrition an extra boost and get you the results you want!

For more information on IdealLean CLA click here!

Try it now and improve your workout results!

Kirsten Jackson

Kirsten Jackson

Writer and expert

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