Coenzyme Q10 and Exercise Performance
Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10), also called ubiquinone, is found in every cell in the human body. It is essential for producing energy in the mitochondria, the part of a cell that produces energy in the form of ATP. 95% of the body’s ATP is converted with the help of CoQ10. In addition to CoQ10’s role in energy production, it also acts as an antioxidant, protecting cells from free-radical damage.
CoQ10 is used for a variety of different conditions, although the scientific evidence for some uses is lacking. All of the uses below have been studied in humans or animals, although the safety and effectiveness have not always been proven
Some of the uses for CoQ10 include:
- Heart Failure
- Parkinson’s Disease
- Gum Disease
- High Blood Pressure
- Breast Cancer
- Heart protection during surgery
- Increasing sperm count
- Mitochondrial diseases and Kearns-Sayre Syndrome
- Muscular dystrophy
- Huntington’s Disease
- Exercise Performance
Of the uses listed above, CoQ10 for exercise performance is of interest to many of us here on MyFitTribe. The effects of CoQ10 have been tested in athletes, healthy individuals, untrained individuals, and people with hypertension and chronic lung disease.
There has been some promising research, as well as some research that has not found any positive effects. In one study, subjects that supplemented with 60 to 100 mg /day of CoQ10 for four weeks reported improvements in measures of work capacity ranging from 3 to 29% in sedentary people and from 4 to 32% in trained athletes (1). In another double-blind study on cross-country skiers, CoQ10 supplementation improved measures of physical performance significantly. 94% of the athletes felt that their performance and recovery time were improved compared to 33% of the athletes taking a placebo (4).
Not all of the studies have found positive effects on performance. In one conducted at the Department of Physiology and Pharmacology, Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden, CoQ10’s effects on aerobic and anaerobic physical performance over 22 days of supplementation were studied. The results suggested that CoQ10 supplementation was less effective than a placebo at improving the performance of individuals performing high intensity aerobic training (2).
More research needs to be conducted in the area of exercise performance before any definite conclusions can be made regarding its effects.
If you do decide to supplement with CoQ10, we suggest talking to a healthcare practitioner to decide on an appropriate dose.
Some of the side effects of CoQ10 supplementation may include nausea, vomiting, stomach upset, heartburn, diarrhea, loss of appetite, skin itching, rash, insomnia, headache, dizziness, irritability, increased light sensitivity of the eyes, fatigue, or flu-like symptoms. CoQ10 may lower blood sugar levels and decrease blood pressure. Elevations of liver enzymes have been reported in rare cases. As well, there has not been enough evidence to recommend CoQ10 for women that are pregnant or breastfeeding (3).
- Bucci L (1993).Nutrients as ergogenic aids for sports and exercise. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press, 54–7 [review].
- Malm et al. (1997). Effects of ubiquinone-10 supplementation and high intensity training on physical performance in humans. Acta physiolologica Scandinavica; 161(3):379-84.
- MayoClinic.com (2006).Coenzyme Q10. Available online from http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/coenzyme-q10/NS_patient-coenzymeq10 [Cited Nov.27, 2007].
- Ylikoski et al (1997). The effect of coenzyme Q10 on the exercise performance of cross-country skiers. Molecular aspects of medicine; 18 Suppl:S283:90.