Well, it's been years since the various
fatty acids have met to catch up on old times. The last time, CLA,
an isomer of linoleic acid, was the man. His relatives, linoleic
acid and the monounsaturated fatty acids weren't in the limelight
as much and alpha linolenic acid, was only starting to become popular.
Yep, CLA enjoyed riches, fame, countless beautiful women, the whole
shebang. Why? Well, apparently it was able to significantly reduce
body fat while increasing lean body mass. Well,as I and many others
had discovered, something was amiss. We took the correct dosages,
kept a consistent caloric intake, trained correctly, yet, nothing
happened. What was going on here? It had worked for damn near every
animal beginning with the letters A through Z, but not for us. AHD,
well, it must fall in the category of once promising supplements
and potential drugs that couldn't reproduce the same results in
humans as they did animal models. So, we swept it under the rug
and forgot about it. Since then, the omega 3 fatty acids, in the
form of flax and fish oil have enjoyed prosperity because of their
reputations for allowing a greater and/or quicker loss of body fat
stores, while also providing some benefits to muscle tissue, hormone
levels, health, and insulin sensitivity as well. So what happened
to CLA? Why didn't it reproduce the magnificent results seen in
the laboratory when given to humans? Stick with me, and I'll explain
the whole story, as well as give you a rundown on the rest of the
various fatty acids and why you should be consuming them, if you
aren't already. If you are consuming the correct fatty acids, the
following should serve as an interesting report to affirm your wise
CLA (A Case of Mistaken Identity?)
CLA, or Conjugated Linoleic Acid, was
once thought to be one of the best supplement in terms of it's possible
effects on what bodybuilders were seeking, more specifically, more
muscle and less fat. Not only this, but it was also thought to posses
some pretty powerful anti-carcinogenic properties as well. Well,
as discussed earlier, CLA's effects on muscle and fat tissue, as
seen with animal models, were not being duplicated in the real world.
The problem? Manufacturers were "jumping the gun" so to speak. You
see, CLA consists of two main isomers. One being cis-9, trans-11
and the other trans-10, cis-12. The researchers, at the time, weren't
exactly sure which isomer was responsible for what effect. What
they did know, was that CLA, when given to their animal models,
was producing some pretty dramatic effects as far as increases in
muscle mass and decreases of body fat, without altering the diets.
So, the manufacturers rushed to get CLA to the market, and consequently
were guessing at which isomer was mainly responsible. According
to most analyses and statements, the cis-9, trans-11 isomer was
the main component of the marketed CLA products. Well, as we all
know, that wasn't the correct isomer, at least in terms of increased
muscle mass and decreased fat mass. So, was it indeed the trans-10,
cis-12 isomer that was responsible for turning those chubby, cute
animals into ripped mass monsters? According to a large amount of
current research, the answer is a resounding yes! Now, of course,
I'll give you some of this "evidence". In one study, mice were given
three different preparations of CLA. Each contained a different
percentage of the two isomers. The mice fed the highest percentage
of the trans-10, cis-12 isomer (79.2%) lost almost double the fat
percentage when compared to the preparation that contained around
72.4% of cis-9, trans-11 isomer. The mice fed the higher concentration
of the trans-10, cis-12 isomer also possessed the highest percentage
of muscle or protein content as well(1). Similar findings were found
in hamsters(2). The same researchers that performed this study also
decided to put cultured 3T3-L1 mouse adipocytes together with both
the cis-9, trans-11 and the trans-10, cis-12 isomer and see what
happened in terms of biochemical markers. The markers measured were
lipoprotein lipase (a key component in fat production) and intracellular
triacylglycerol and glycerol. Basically, the lower these markers
are, the smaller the fat cells become, hence the more fat we lose.
Well, the t-10, c-12 isomer reduced activity of lipoprotein lipase
and concentrations of both triacylglycerol and glycerol levels.
All the while, the c-9, t-11 isomer did nothing(3). Would you like
some more? It was also found that the t-10,c-12 isomer decreased
the activity of stearoyl-CoA desaturase enzyme, which also displays
an ability to decrease fat production. It was found to inhibit the
mRNA expression of the enzyme's gene. In other words, it's able
stop production of this lipogenic enzyme at the genetic level. However,
the c-9, t-11 isomer had no effect in this regard(4,5,6). Another
study found the t-10, c-12 isomer inhibited milk fat synthesis,
whereas, the c-9, t-11 had no effect(7). So, is the cis-9, trans-11
isomer useless? Not necessarily. It has some potent anti-carcinogenic
properties for those concerned with health(8.)
So, to recap, the trans-10, cis-12 isomer
is likely the one responsible for the reductions in body fat and
increased muscle tissue,despite an unaltered caloric intake. Activating
PPAR alpha may at least partially explain these anti-lipogenic effects.
The cis-9,trans-11 still has some "healthy" qualities in terms of
possibly reducing glucose levels via its PPAR gamma activation as
well as being destructive to certain cancers by this same activation.
Now the only thing left to do is wait for someone to produce a CLA
product with at high (80-95%) concentration of the trans-10, cis-12
isomer. Then, we shall see the truth.
The Omega Brothers
The omega 3 fatty acids seem to have the
most advantages in terms of fat loss and increases in muscle mass.
Although there are about as many ideas on why this is as there are
pimples on a boy in the middle of puberty, I'll give you a quick
In terms of benefits derived from these
fatty acids, it seems limitless. Currently, it's known that omega
3's limit the mass of adipose tissue, by regulating the hypertrophy
of fat cells(9,10,11,12). What's even better is their ability to
specifically limit the hypertrophy of white adipose tissue (The
stuff that covers your muscles)(13). Not only will they limit or
prevent accumulation of fat, they've been shown to increase oxidation
of fat, leading to a reduced amount of fat weight (14,15,16). The
reasons these effects occur are thought to be because of increased
uncoupling protein activity (which increases thermogenesis), limiting
the various lipogenic enzymes by suppressing the transcription of
their genes as well as reducing insulin stimulated glucose transport
into fat cells by lowering the binding capacity of the insulin receptors
on the adipocytes (16,17,18). Some more benefits? Sure! While reducing
the sensitivity of insulin in fat cells, omega 3's increase sensitivity
in muscle tissue (18). It's also been shown to increase fat cells'
sensitivity to adrenergic stimulation, causing a greater lipolytic
response and consequently increasing the effectiveness of agents
(ephedrine, norephedrine, caffeine) that are used in order to reduce
Still not satisfied? How about their ability
to protect against certain cancers, like prostate(19). Don't forget,
they can reduce aldosterone levels as well, which can lead to less
water retention(20). Furthermore, they've developed quite a reputation
amongst bodybuilders for their anti-inflammatory properties. People
that suffer from joint pain have found omega 3's to greatly reduce
the amount of pain experienced while training. They have also been
shown to be of benefit to conditions such as septicemia, Alzheimer's
disease,Parkinson's disease, inflammatory bowel disease, diabetes
mellitus, essential hypertension and atherosclerosis (21). Not only
do these fatty acids benefit fat loss as mentioned previously but
they also posses anti-catabolic properties as well.(22,23)
To recap, these guys will allow you to
decrease body fat,increase muscle mass, increase insulin sensitivity,
and a whole other host of goodies. If you're not supplementing your
diet with these already, start consuming some flax or fish oil.
Although the omega 6's aren't as exciting
as their omega 3 counterparts, they still are very important and
provide some similar effects to the omega 3's, although not to the
same extent. Omega 6 fatty acid shave also been shown to inhibit
lipogenesis by inhibiting transcription of genes for key lipogenic
enzymes(24). It's also been shown to have the highest rating of
post-ingestive satiety, which would be good for someone who is dieting(25).
It's also the key component for the production of the PGE2, which
is prostaglandin involved in the production of testosterone. Some
good sources for omega 6's are sunflower and safflower oil.
It's important that you not neglect these
fatty acids, as they too, play an important role in many aspects
involved in your bodybuilding goals.
Although the omega 9 fatty acids haven't
received a lot of press in the past, they are slowly but surely
starting to shame some of the respect that the other two fatty acids
share. These fatty acids share similar protective properties with
omega 3's in terms of cancer protection. They have also been shown
to decrease satiety by the least when compared to the other fatty
acids(26). This can benefit those "hypertrophy challenged" guys
who just can't seem to eat enough by allowing them to ingest more
calories while allowing them to "stay hungry" at the same time.
It was also found to have a higher diet induced thermogenesis when
compared to saturated fatty acids. Omega 9's have also been shown
to have a positive effect on HL levels, which could lead to an elevation
of testosterone levels, based on a correlation.(27,28,29). Some
good sources of omega 9's are peanuts, olive oil,high oleic acid
safflower oil, and pistachios.
Now, I'm sure you all know to stay away
from this pudgy kid. But, just to make sure, it's been shown to
increase fat cell size dramatically as well as decrease insulin
sensitivity as well as only having a mediocre effect on satiety,
not being more filling than omega 6's and being just as filling
as the omega 9's. So, guys with the racy metabolisms better stick
with the omega 9's.
Try to consume as little of this type
of fat as possible. At one time, it was found that it could slightly
increase testosterone levels. However, the omega 9's may be just
as if not more effective in increasing t-levels while actually benefiting
you in terms of health and insulin sensitivity. Saturated fat, on
the other hand, can clog arterial walls and lead to an increase
in low density lipo proteins.
Well, this is probably the only reunion
that actually benefited your gains in muscle and loss of body fat,
since they're usually laced with crappy foods. Plus, the type of
fat you got to see wasn't the kind hanging off someone's ass! The
key points to take away are that if you aren't already consuming
some omega 3,6, and 9 fatty acids, you should definitely start.
Minimize saturated fat intake. As far as CLA goes, I'm anxious to
get my hands on some with a high proportion of the trans-10, cis-12
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