Neither classed as a vitamin or mineral, Coenzyme Q-10 (CoQ10 for short) is a naturally occurring biochemical which can be found in every cell of our bodies. Because CoQ10 plays an important role in energy production, it led to speculation that it may improve athletic performance. Therefore, in this article, we will try to find out if there is any scientific evidence to support these claims and whether it is reasonable to recommend coenzyme Q10 supplementation to athletes undertaking high-intensity training.
What is Coenzyme Q-10?
Coenzyme Q10 (often referred to as CoQ10 or ubiquinone) is an antioxidant (a non-essential, lipid-soluble nutrient) that your body produces naturally. It is located in the body primarily in skeletal and cardiac muscle, inside the mitochondria. CoQ10 produces energy (ATP) for cell development and maintenance — and is an essential part of your body’s basic cell function.
What is the main function of Coenzyme Q-10 in the body?
CoQ10 is an enzyme in the body that helps cells produce energy (ATP). Adenosine triphosphate (ATP) is an organic compound that provides energy to drive and support many processes in living cells, such as muscle contraction, nerve impulse propagation, condensate dissolution, and chemical synthesis.
In cells that need to make the most energy, like heart and muscle cells, CoQ10 is used up quickly. As people age, CoQ10 has been shown to clearly fall. It’s been theorized that this drop in CoQ10 can lead to a whole host of health problems: from heart failure to cancer.
Also, CoQ10 is a powerful antioxidant (part of the mitochondrial antioxidant defense system), preventing damage to DNA and cell membranes. The science is very clear in the relationship between oxidation and disease –if oxidation continues unabated, the risk of chronic disease skyrockets.
What are the claimed health benefits of taking CoQ10 supplementation?
Although there is significantly more research in the area of CoQ10 and long-term health, it’s still too soon to say if CoQ10 definitely wards off disease.
One of the areas where CoQ10 has been proven effective is in treating high blood pressure (hypertension). Of course, if high blood pressure is under control, the risk of developing heart disease or a stroke freefalls.
Other diseases like diabetes, cancer, and Alzheimer’s need a few more years of research. Although it’s conceivable that CoQ10 may reduce the risk of these diseases – but the research isn’t as clear as the marketers would have you believe.
What foods contain coenzyme Q10?
Although your body manufactures CoQ10, you can find it in certain foods, as well. Examples include meat, fish, and whole grains. A more detailed list of foods rich in coenzyme q10 is provided below.
Most people trying to follow a healthy diet rich in whole foods and low in processed foods are already getting some dietary intake of CoQ10. However, it’s important to be mindful of the sources of CoQ10 you consume. For example, fatty fish can be a good source of CoQ10, but they may also contain high levels of mercury and other contaminants. Therefore, it’s essential to choose fish that are low in contaminants and to limit your intake of fish that are high in mercury.
Is supplementation with coenzyme Q10 really necessary?
The short answer is: Yes! The amount of CoQ10 found in dietary sources listed above, however, isn’t enough to significantly increase CoQ10 levels in your body. Therefore, CoQ10 supplementation is a viable option for everyone and may be easier for some people trying to get enough of this compound than planning their diets around food sources. Our bodies appear to absorb CoQ10 similarly from food and dietary supplements, so neither has an advantage over the other in terms of bioavailability. CoQ10 supplements are most commonly seen as capsules. However, soft gels are a better option because they tend to be better absorbed than capsules.
Is coenzyme Q10 a safe supplement?
CoQ10 supplements appear to be safe and produce very few side effects when taken as directed. Mild side effects may include nausea, headaches, insomnia, fatigue, dizziness, and irritability. You generally shouldn’t use CoQ10 if you’re pregnant or breastfeeding. And talk to your doctor before using CoQ10 if you take an anticoagulant medication, such as warfarin (Coumadin, Jantoven), as it may make it less effective.
What is the recommended dose for CoQ10 supplementation?
Standard supplements range from 90–200 mg of CoQ10 per day. In some cases, a medical professional may suggest doses as high as 500 mg, but always follow medical advice when beginning a new supplement regimen.
Does coenzyme Q10 improve exercise (athletic) performance and reduce muscle fatigue?
The theoretical rationale of CoQ10 supplementation in exercise is a possible improvement in electron transport and thereby oxidative metabolism. A number of studies have evaluated the effects of CoQ10 supplementation on exercise performance. For example:
Only a few studies have reported at least some positive effects of taking CoQ10 supplements on exercise performance, while most of them (the larger and more reliable ones) reported no effects. The conclusion is self-evident. From current research, there seems to be very little evidence to support CoQ10 supplementation as an ergogenic. Also, there seems to be no effect on reducing the amount of muscle damage.
So should athletes take coenzyme q10 or not?
Hence, if you’re looking for a supplement to help your workouts or physique, CoQ10 shouldn’t be your first choice.
When putting CoQ10 in the perspective of all known performance enhancers, it’s a very weak supplement, especially when compared to creatine, HMB, and other proven supplements. In other words, CoQ10 might help your body, but it might do nothing. On the other hand, you can bank on the fact that creatine and whey protein are going to give your workouts and result in a serious jolt.
Based on available findings, and the recent general caution about antioxidant supplementation in combination with exercise (Gomez-Cabrera et al., 2008), it is not recommended that athletes take coenzyme Q10 or another antioxidant
Closing thoughts about CoQ10 and its effects on exercise (athletic) performance
Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) is a naturally occurring fat-soluble substance that is involved in the generation of ATP in the mitochondria of all tissues. It also functions as an antioxidant, removing free radicals from circulation and moderating lipid peroxidation. Much of the research has studied the effects of CoQ10 in heart patients, where improvements have been noted in heart function, VO2 max, and exercise performance, but published studies where supplements have been given to healthy athletes have shown no such positive effects. CoQ10 is legal and appears to be safe in doses of 100 to 250 mg, but it is ineffective as an ergogenic supplement.
To conclude, the evidence in favor of using CoQ10 to improve exercise performance is poor – and so at the moment, it seems there really is no reason to shell out money for performance purposes. Buying this supplement for other purposes makes sense.
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