How much can daily supplementation with Q10 improve your exercise performance? How much can it improve your recovery time after hard physical activity?
The big puzzle is that we do not have more studies showing that CoQ10 improves exercise performance. Intuitively, we think, exercise and fitness should be an area in which the positive effects of taking CoQ10 will be most obvious.
Q10 and producing ATP
After all, CoQ10 is required for the production of adenosine triphosphate (ATP) in the mitochondria of muscle cells, and ATP is what the cells use whenever they need energy. Furthermore, the cells store only enough ATP, at any one time, for a few minutes' worth of exertion, which means that a steady supply of CoQ10 has to be on hand.
So what's going on? What are we missing? Why aren't there big studies showing, unequivocally, that CoQ10 boosts exercise performance or reduces recovery time after exercise or both?
The short answer is that we don't know. It doesn't make sense that we do not always see the anticipated effect.
Q10 and exercise performance studies
Here is a quick look at what the literature on the topic of CoQ10 and exercise performance tells us at the present time.
Back in 2006, Rosenfeldt and his colleagues did a systematic review of the literature to date. They found 11 small studies of CoQ10 and exercise performance.
Six positive studies
Six studies showed a modest positive effect of CoQ10 on exercise performance, and five studies showed no statistically significant effect.
In the six studies, the number of participants ranged from 18 to 28, and the administered dosages of CoQ10 ranged from 90 to 100 mg per day for periods ranging from 4 to 6 weeks.
Measurable benefits of Q10
The measurable benefits in these six studies were seen in an average 8% (range: 3% to 18%) improvement in maximum oxygen consumption and in an average 13% (range: 5% to 33%) improvement in exercise capacity.
So far, so good. Now, here, in summary form, is what the literature shows since 2006.
Q10 and exhausting exercise
Díaz-Castro and a group of Spanish researchers tested the effect of CoQ10 supplementation in young athletes doing exhausting exercise of the type that causes muscle damage, e.g. long-distance running, mountain runs, continuous climbing. Their 2012 study had a CoQ10 treatment group and a placebo group. The researchers measured increases in bio-markers of inflammation and oxidative damage in the athletes.
In the CoQ10 treatment group of the study, the degree of damage done by inflammation and by oxidative stress was seen to be less than in the placebo group. The researchers concluded that CoQ10 can be used to reduce the muscle damage resulting from extreme forms of exercise.
Q10 and trained athletes
On the other hand, also in 2012, a small study by Ostman and a group of Norwegian researchers failed to demonstrate a statistically significant effect of CoQ10 on bio-markers for oxidative stress and muscle damage. The Norwegian study enrolled 23 trained healthy men aged 19 to 44 years and assigned them to a CoQ10 group or to a placebo group.
It is difficult to understand why a Spanish study shows positive results and a Norwegian study fails to show statistically significant beneficial outcomes. Can the difference be caused by the use of different CoQ10 preparations with differing degrees of absorption? Can the difference be explained by the use of differing bio-markers?
Theoretical benefits of Q10 supplementation
It is a puzzle because, as the Norwegian researchers admit, in theory, the use of CoQ10 would seem to be likely to be beneficial for reducing the oxidative stress and the muscle damage associated with exercise.
Q10 supplementation in sedentary men
In 2010, a Turkish study, randomized and placebo-controlled and double-blind, was conducted as a cross-over study with two 8-week phases of either 100 mg of CoQ10 or placebo.
The Turkish participants in the study were 15 healthy men who lived sedentary lives. They completed five Wingate Anaerobic Tests, tests in which they pedaled at maximum speed against a constant force. They were given two-minute rest periods between tests.
The researchers collected blood samples at rest, immediately after the fifth Wingate test, and, then, 15 minutes and 60 minutes after the fifth Wingate test to check for the presence of bio-markers for oxidative stress and to check for the presence of antioxidant bio-markers.
Less oxidative stress with Q10 supplementation
The results showed that CoQ10, as compared with placebo, reduced the amount of oxidative stress associated with repeated short-term maximum exertion.
Increased time to exhaustion with Q10 supplementation
In 2008, researchers at Baylor University in Waco, Texas, conducted a randomized placebo-controlled double-blind trial and looked at the effects of CoQ10 in two different ways. First of all, they found that supplementation with 100 mg of CoQ10 increased plasma and muscle CoQ10 concentrations. Secondly, they found that CoQ10 supplementation was associated with increased time to exhaustion in various exercises performed by young men and women (age: 26 years +/- 7.6 years).
All in all, the research that we have to date seems to tip the scales in favor of recommending CoQ10 for exercise and fitness activities.
Rosenfeldt F. et al. Systematic review of effect of coenzyme Q10 in physical exercise, hypertension and heart failure. Biofactors (Oxford, England). 2003;18(1-4):91-100.
Díaz-Castro J. et al. Coenzyme Q(10) supplementation ameliorates inflammatory signaling and oxidative stress associated with strenuous exercise. European Journal of Nutrition. October 2012;51(7):791-799.
Ostman B. et al. Coenzyme Q10 supplementation and exercise-induced oxidative stress in humans. Nutrition (Burbank, Los Angeles County, Calif.). April 2012;28(4):403-417.
Gül I. et al. Oxidative stress and antioxidant defense in plasma after repeated bouts of supramaximal exercise: the effect of coenzyme Q10. The Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness, June 2011;51(2):305-312.
Gökbel H. et al. The effects of coenzyme Q10 supplementation on performance during repeated bouts of supramaximal exercise in sedentary men. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research / National Strength & Conditioning Association. January 2010;24(1):97-102.
Cooke M. et al. Effects of acute and 14-day coenzyme Q10 supplementation on exercise performance in both trained and untrained individuals. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition. March 4, 2008;5:8.