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What is Coenzyme Q10?

Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) is a lipid soluble, vitamin-like substance which is produced naturally in the body and is found in various foods, including beef, soybean, chicken, olive oil and peanuts. It plays a vital role in growth and maintenance of cells and the production of energy, which is essential for life and exercise. It is an integral component of the aerobic, or oxidative, energy system, which uses oxygen to harness energy from nutrients to produce the high energy molecule ATP. In fact, CoQ10 is involved in the production of 96% of all aerobically produced ATP.

It performs this role within structures known as mitochondria. These are the powerhouses of our cells, where fat, carbohydrates and protein are converted to ATP. Muscle tissue, including the heart, requires large amounts of energy and therefore contains more mitochondria than other tissues of the body.

CoQ10 is also the most important lipid soluble antioxidant in the body. Along with vitamin E it has the special task of protecting the very sensitive cell membranes from the damaging effects of free radicals, which gives it a unique position amongst all of the antioxidants.

Although it is produced in the body, a small amount of CoQ10 is always broken down, so we have to replenish it from our diet. Consequently, the concentration of the CoQ10 in the tissues of the body can decline to suboptimal levels. This can be due to a variety of factors including conditions such as cardiovascular disease, ageing, and also intense training.

Those engaged in regular intense exercise appear to have a higher metabolic requirement for CoQ10, which is not compensated for by normal food intake and the body’s own production. This can lead to highly conditioned athletes exhibiting low CoQ10 levels, which may limit their performance.

CoQ10 deficiency in athletes may not only be triggered by an increased requirement due to sustained, heavy physical exertion, but also to a reduced CoQ10 uptake resulting from a vegetarian diet; limited CoQ10 production by the body due to deficiencies of nutrients such as selenium, vitamin B6, magnesium, etc; a high intake of of vitamin E, which inhibits CoQ10 uptake from food and lowers the CoQ10 plasma level; and statin therapies, which may limit the body’s production of CoQ10 and deplete plasma levels (1).

This had led some authorities to recommend that athletes monitor their plasma levels of CoQ10 and supplement when necessary (1).

What are the benefits of Coenzyme Q10 supplementation?

Supplementation with Coenzyme Q10 has been shown scientifically to provide numerous potential benefits for physical performance. These include, but are not limited to: