Conjugated linoleic acid supplements are generally touted for their fat-burning properties, but the most recent data published in the Journal of Sports Sciences shows that CLA does far more than just get you shredded. In a placebo-controlled crossover trial, scientists from Taiwan reported that subjects who took CLA for eight weeks had a 75 percent greater increase in glycogen storage (compared to those taking a placebo) after a 60-minute bout of high-intensity cardio exercise followed by a high-carbohydrate reloading meal. This finding was supported by a 79 percent increase in immediate post-exercise insulin response and a 150 percent increase in immediate post-exercise muscle glucose transporter type 4 (GLUT 4) expression. Moreover, GLUT 4 expression remained elevated by 56 percent over placebo at three hours post-exercise.
What does all this tech-speak mean for you? First, CLA appears to boost insulin response after exercise, and insulin is a key regulator for transporting glucose and other nutrients into muscle cells. Second, elevated GLUT 4 combined with high insulin ensures heightened glycogen storage in fatigued muscles, which should set you up for faster recovery. Finally, the data suggest that CLA might enhance carbohydrate-loading strategies commonly used by bodybuilders during contest prep as well as non-competitors trying to look their best for a beach vacation or other big event.
Action Point: In line with this study, we generally prescribe taking up to 2 grams of CLA three times daily with meals. On training days, take one dose immediately after working out along with your protein and 25 to 60 grams of fast-absorbing sugar like dextrose.