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June 2013

“Does c9-t11 Work”; does it help build muscle?

If you’re online researching the question “does c9-t11 work”, you’re probably getting bombarded with mixed messages. Such is the nature of the Internet: You find an article about an overly-hyped supplement. Unlike ads for the supplement, the article has pros and cons of using the supplement, presented with apparent objectivity. The posted scrutiny of the product and discussion in the comment section appear to even lambaste the stuff in question. Then, smack in the middle of the article, is the image of a steroid-built bodybuilder with slightly obscured text above the pic – ‘Sponsored Link.’ You click on the advertisement and are presented with wild claims about ANOTHER hyped-up muscle building product. “Great”, you say to yourself… “The guys who are exposing a scam product are making money off another scam product.”

C9 T11Before you know it, you’ve forgotten you were trying to find an answer to the question “does c9-t11 work.” Worse, you’ve probably got a half dozen other hyped products written down, with a need to research those too.

If you’ve read this far, you’ve no-doubt seen the outrageous claims: “c9-t11 increased muscle growth by 600% in weight trained males.”

Let’s start by posing a great question: If this were true, do you think you’d need to read about it in an ad? It’s safe to say that it would be all over the media. If a university study really supported such dramatic muscle augmentation from a natural supplement, some drug companies would have snatched up c9-t11 long ago as it would otherwise wipe out there sales of anabolic steroids.

But the question still remains: ‘Does c9-t11 work’; even just a little bit? Would it provide an edge in your quest to build muscle?

‘Does c9-t11 work’: What is it anyway?

C9-t11 is one of two of the most common isomers of CLA, conjugated linoleic acid. So what is ‘conjugated linoleic acid?’

Simply explained, the word ‘conjugated’ means “joined together.” Linoleic acid is an unsaturated Omega 6 fatty acid. CLA is a “joining together of an 18-carbon chain of these Omega 6 fatty acid isomers with two ‘cis’ double bonds, meaning the double bonds occur on the same side of the molecule. CLA is present in beef and dairy products. There’s also trace amounts of it produced in the human gastrointestinal tract. CLA has been around as a dietary supplement for about the past quarter century.

The c9-t11 isomer is one of twenty-eight that are conjugated by the CLA carbon chain. So basically, if you use the supplement CLA, you’re getting c9-t11.

‘Does c9-t11 Work’; should you believe the hype?

Marketers of c9-t11 would like to have us believe it increases testosterone to a significant degree. In attempting this, they cite an actual study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. But the study basically concludes that CLA increased testosterone in vitro after 48 hours, but failed to increase testosterone in vivo to any noteworthy degree. In other words, when CLA was added to leydig cells in a laboratory, it increased their production of testosterone after a period of 48 hours. But when weight training male subjects were given CLA, it failed to produce significant T-level increases in them at all. The following is exactly what the abstract of the study concluded:

‘These findings suggest that CLA supplementation may promote testosterone synthesis through a molecular pathway that should be investigated in the future, although this effect did not have an anabolic relevance in our in vivo model.’

It’s peculiar to me that marketers of CLA would promote it as an anabolic agent by citing a study that clearly demonstrates CLA as NOT being an anabolic agent. CLA at least doesn’t show any anabolic qualities through being a testosterone augmenter.

Is it anabolic by some other means; does c9-t11 work by “sparing protein?”

C9-t11 marketers make four more bold claims about c9-t11, three of which make reference to a journal called ‘Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise.’ The following three claims made in marketing material are what that material attributes to being published in the aforementioned publication:

  • 600% Increase in Muscle Growth
  • 9-Fold Increase in Biceps Mass
  • 202% Increase in Muscle Strength

Wow, sounds like front-page news material. But if anyone can actually find any online documentation of studies that show even a fraction of these claims, I’d love to be pointed to them. I’m not saying it hasn’t happened; just saying I haven’t seen it. Rear Back, Delt, and Arm

For those asking “does c9-t11 work” by way of some protein sparing effect, let’s just ponder this idea. Personally, I find it a little amusing when supplement marketers promote their products as substances that “reduce muscle tissue breakdown.” Think about why that’s questionable: The big stimulus that sparks muscle growth is a significant amount of muscle tissue breakdown. Without enough of that, nothing has a reason to happen. And if there’s too much of that, all that’s required to lessen it is a reduction of workout frequency, intensity, duration, or an increase of rest time between workouts. So if a supplement really can minimize muscle tissue breakdown, why is that such a great thing? How exactly would it result in greater net muscle gain?

Marketers of c9-t11 also claim that it “works” as a muscle builder by increasing fatty acid-derived ‘prostaglandins.’ They say that these lipid compounds increase muscle protein synthesis. All that’s required to check on this, however, is a search on Google Scholar. You can simply type in a search with the words ‘c9-t11’ and ‘prostaglandins.’ Unless you get more promising search results than I did, you’ll find nothing about increased protein synthesis from c9-t11 or CLA.

Bottom line: There might be a study somewhere that shows the c9-t11 in CLA as being slightly beneficial to muscle recovery and growth. But whether one study’s results justify the hype being generated by marketers of c9-t11 is questionable, at best.

‘Does c9-t11 Work’… even a little bit?

Since beginning this post, I’ve finally stumbled upon the study that c9-t11 marketers are likely citing. It was an experiment done in 2006 at the University of Saskatchewan, Canada. Publication of the study results can be found right here.

The seven-week research study was done on 85 subjects undergoing a three-times-per-week weight training regimen. There were 43 females and 42 males ranging from 18 to 45 years old. The subjects were all healthy and had prior resistance training experience. They were randomized; some receiving 5 grams per day of CLA and others receiving a placebo. In addition to measuring muscle hypertrophy, the study’s researchers measured for changes in body composition, muscle thickness of the elbow flexors and knee extensors, resting metabolic rate, bench and leg press strength, and urinary markers of myofibrillar breakdown.

Let’s just focus on muscle size and bench press increases, since those were the only significant positive changes the researchers observed in the CLA users.  The Smith-Machine Squatsresearchers say the CLA group gained an average of 1.4 kg (about 3 lbs.) of muscle during the seven weeks. This is in contrast to the control group’s average gain of .2 kg. (.4 lbs.). It’s also reported that the males in the CLA group had an average .05 gain in bench press strength. That’d be equivalent to someone going up to 210 lbs. max bench from a previous best of 200 lbs.

So, does c9-t11 work?

The reported increase in muscle mass does represent a 600% increase over the control group:

(1.4 Kg. - .2 kg) / .2 = 600%

So one has to wonder why the researchers concluded so modestly in their abstract:

“Supplementation with CLA during resistance training results in relatively small changes in body composition accompanied by a lessening of the catabolic effect of training on muscle protein.”

This summation becomes even more confusing when followed by the following paragraph in their ‘discussion’ section:

The main findings of our first 7-wk study were that CLA supplementation during resistance training significantly increased lean tissue mass and reduced fat mass. Although these results were statistically significant, the changes in the CLA group were small, and one could question their clinical significance. The small increase in lean tissue mass may be attributed to a lessened catabolic effect of training with CLA supplementation, as evidenced by an increased urinary

3-methylhistidine output in the placebo group with no change in the CLA group. The small increase in lean tissue mass with CLA was not sufficient for increasing muscular strength, with the exception of bench press strength in males.

As usual, researchers are downplaying the results as marketers are hyping them.

Give Me Your Feedback; I’ll Give You Mine

Testing CLA out on oneself shouldn’t cost a small fortune. I just picked up a Vitamin Shoppe bottle of 180, 1000 mg. soft-gels for about 36 bucks. If I take the 5 grams-per-day dosage that was used in the study, it’ll cost me about a dollar a day. Since I’ve never really given CLA a long-term test run, I’ll give it at least eight weeks and report back with my results. And given that I already have a system that gives me steady and reliable gains, I’ll be able to observe any increases very clearly.

If you’ve used CLA/c9-t11, please give us your feedback in the comment section. And if you’re marketing the stuff, keep your hype to a minimum. Or at least provide some untouched, legitimized before/after photos.


  1. Macaluso, Filippo; Morici, Giuseppe; Catanese, Patrizia; Ardizzone, Nella M.; Gammazza, Antonella Marino; Bonsignore, Giuseppe; Lo Giudice, Giuseppe; Stampone, Tomaso; Barone, Rosario; Farina, Felicia; Di Felice, Valentina ‘Effect of Conjugated Linoleic Acid on Testosterone Levels In Vitro and In Vivo After an Acute Bout of Resistance Exercise’ (Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research; June 2012 - Volume 26 - Issue 6 - p 1667–1674)