Log In
Challenge-banner Challenge-banner-mobile

Everything You Need to Know About CoQ10

CoQ10 is a supplement that I take every day. Learn why you should be taking it, too.

Everything You Need to Know About CoQ10

Many assume that I take CoQ10 due to the health benefits it provides, such as improved heart health and reduced risk of cancers. And while I enjoy those benefits from CoQ10, they're not the only reason why I supplement with this critical nutrient. It also helps with performance in the gym and the results you can see on your body (i.e. less body fat and more muscle).

What is CoQ10?

Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10), known scientifically as 2,3-dimethoxy,5-methyl, 6-polyisoprene parabenzoquinone, is also referred to as ubiquinone. That's due to the fact that it is ubiquitous (everywhere) within the body.

CoQ10 is particularly concentrated in the mitochondria of cells. Mitochondria are considered the power plants of cells, as they produce the majority of adenosine triphosphate (ATP) from carbs and fats. ATP is the energy currency that all cells, such as muscle cells, rely on to function. In addition to the mitochondria, CoQ10 is also found in the membrane of cells. This is important as it can enhance the integrity of cells, such as muscle cells.

Although not classified as a vitamin, CoQ10 has properties similar to vitamins.

Like vitamins, it serves as a coenzyme that assists in numerous reactions in the body. One of the most critical reactions it assists in is the production of ATP in the mitochondria. Here it works to carry protons and electrons, which are essential processes in the production of ATP.


CoQ10 is produced naturally in the body


Therefore, it does not have a recommended intake level. But that does not mean that you don't need to supplement with it—quite the contrary! After you reach the age of 20 the levels of CoQ10 produced by your body begin to drop. In addition, your body's levels of CoQ10 drop further if your body's utilization of CoQ10 is increased. And if you're a bodybuilder you can be pretty sure that your body's utilization of CoQ10 is increased. That's because intense exercise, as well as the increase in metabolic rate which occurs with intense training, both increase your body's utilization of CoQ10.


There are hundreds of studies showing that CoQ10 is effective for the treatment of a wide range of diseases, such as cardiovascular disease, certain cancers, chronic fatigue syndrome, muscular dystrophy and neurodegenerative disorders (such as Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, and Huntington's disease).


Many of the clinical studies have been done on CoQ10's effects on the heart, which confirm that supplementing with it improves heart function. Research also suggests that CoQ10 is effective for helping to reduce blood pressure, which further reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease. In fact, a 2007 study by Australian researchers, which pooled the data from 12 clinical trials (known as a meta-analysis), concluded that CoQ10 supplementation reduces blood pressure by an average of about 10%. A 2011 study from Germany also reported that subjects taking CoQ10 experienced a drop in their "bad" LDL cholesterol by about 15%. Many of these properties are due to CoQ10's ability to turn on or turn off certain genes. CoQ10's strong antioxidant properties are also involved.


CoQ10's use in the prevention of cancer is also a hot topic.


Interest in CoQ10 as a possible treatment for cancer began when it was discovered that some cancer patients had a lower than normal amount of CoQ10 in their blood. Low blood levels of coenzyme Q10 have been found in patients with myeloma, lymphoma, and cancers of the breast, lung, prostate, pancreas, colon, kidney, and head and neck. Because studies suggest that coenzyme Q10 may help the immune system work better, it is used as adjuvant therapy (therapy given following the primary treatment). CoQ10's ability to enhance the immune system is largely due to its strong antioxidant properties, which may help cancer from developing. In fact, the wide range of therapeutic capabilities of CoQ10, such as preventing cardiovascular disease, may also be due to its strong antioxidant properties (see below).


Because oxidative stress results in damage to DNA and protein, it has been implicated in many neurodegenerative disorders, including Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, and Huntington's disease.


Since CoQ10 reduces oxidative stress, it may help to protect against such disorders, as well as against any neuronal damage produced by ischemia (lack of blood flow), atherosclerosis and toxic injury.


CoQ10 has powerful antioxidant properties.


Not only does it work itself to quench free radicals, which can damage all tissues in the body, but it also enhances the antioxidant potential of other antioxidants in the body, such as vitamins C and E. These antioxidant properties provide CoQ10 its wide range of beneficial effects. For example, one way it may reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease is by inhibiting the oxidation of LDL (bad) cholesterol. Oxidation of LDL in arterial walls leads to the development of atherosclerosis. Another way it may prevent cardiovascular disease, as well as diabetes, is by enhancing vitamin E's ability to reduce levels of the inflammatory protein, C-reactive protein (CRP). CRP is linked to the risk of heart disease and diabetes. A 2004 study found that adding CoQ10 supplements to vitamin E supplements reduced CRP levels an additional 20% above that achieved with vitamin E alone.


It should be obvious that CoQ10 can drastically improve your energy levels, given that it is critical for the production of ATP, and your levels are likely low due to your age and your training.


Several studies confirm that CoQ10 supplementation enhances exercise performance. A 2008 study by Japanese scientists investigated the effects of CoQ10 supplementation on fatigue during exercise. They had subjects perform exercise on a stationary bike to exhaustion after supplementing with either 100 mg of CoQ10, 300 mg of CoQ10, or a placebo for eight days. They found that the subjects taking 300 mg of CoQ10 experienced less fatigue during the exercise and they recovered faster between bouts of exercise. Although this was an aerobic-exercise study, it has implications for bodybuilders. The reduced fatigue afforded by the CoQ10 supplement suggests that adding CoQ10 to your supplement regimen can help you get more reps on higher rep sets, especially late in your workout. Also, the fact that the subjects taking CoQ10 were able to recover faster between bouts of exercise suggests that CoQ10 may be able to help you better recover between sets.


Although weight lifting is anaerobic exercise, meaning that you don't rely much on oxygen or the mitochondria to produce the energy you need during a set, it's between sets when you use oxygen to produce ATP via the mitochondria for your next set.


Because CoQ10 helps the mitochondria create ATP faster after you finish each set, it can help you to be stronger on the next set. Finnish scientists found that when cross-country skiers supplemented with CoQ10, all the measured indexes of physical performance, such as their maximal oxygen consumption, endurance, and recovery between exercise bouts, improved significantly. Several other studies in athletes have also found similar results.


CoQ10 helps to reduce oxidative damage.


It may also protect against muscle damage due to intense exercise, as well as the oxidative damage that tends to follow exercise-induced muscle damage. Japanese scientists in a 1991 study found that when exercised rats performed muscle-damaging, down-hill running, their levels of key enzymes associated with muscle damage were significantly elevated. However, rats supplemented with CoQ10 did not have elevated levels of these enzymes and therefore were resistant against muscle damage. A 2008 study by Japanese scientists from the University of Tsukuba found similar results to the 1991 study but in kendo athletes taking CoQ10. A recent study from the University of Granada found that in athletes competing in a 30+ mile run in the Sierra Nevada, those taking a placebo had a 100% increase in markers for DNA damage, while those supplementing with CoQ10 had only a 38% increase. They reported that the CoQ10 prevented the over-expression of pro-inflammatory compounds thereby reducing oxidative damage to the muscle cells.


Another way that CoQ10 may help to reduce exercise-induced muscle damage is by stabilizing the muscle membrane.


As discussed above, CoQ10 is found in the membranes of muscle cells, where it helps to add stability to the muscle cell. This can help the muscle fiber be more resilient against mechanical damage, such as intense exercise. This was shown in yet another study from the Japanese group at the University of Tsukuba. This 2007 study reported that rats given CoQ10 and performing exhaustive exercise had reduced markers of muscle damage, but not enhanced levels of free radical scavenging. Therefore, they concluded that the higher CoQ10 levels they found in the rats' muscle fibers suggested that CoQ10 was effective at reducing exercise-induced muscle injury by enhancing stabilization of the muscle cell membrane.


If you've read my article, Damage Inc., and then you are likely confused about all this talk regarding preventing muscle damage. 


After reading this article you may be tempted to avoid taking CoQ10. After all, we know that inducing muscle damage is important. So why would you want to prevent it? Well, there's still a lot that we don't know about muscle damage, recovery, and muscle growth. So don't ditch CoQ10 thinking that it's going to prevent you from being able to damage your muscles in the gym and grow. I don't think that taking CoQ10 can negatively affect your ability to grow muscle, but it can encourage them to recover faster and better. In fact, a very interesting study from Australia supports CoQ10's ability to aid muscle growth.


CoQ10 for Muscle and Strength


As I've said, there are just so many health benefits from CoQ10, such as improved heart health, reduced risk of cancer, it's a powerful antioxidant, and you may have even heard that CoQ10 can boost muscle endurance as research has shown.


CoQ10 may also help with muscle growth and muscle strength.


Australian researchers discovered that subjects taking 300 mg of CoQ10 for 4 weeks experienced an increase in the amount of fast-twitch muscle fibers without even training!


Since the fast-twitch muscle fibers are the muscle fibers that are the strongest and the biggest, this suggests that supplementing with CoQ10 may help you increase muscle strength and muscle size by increasing the number of fast-twitch muscle fibers you carry. Although the exact mechanism is unknown, the researchers hypothesized that CoQ10 acts as a gene regulator, activating certain genes in the muscle fibers to convert slow-twitch muscle fibers into fast-twitch.


Another study, from Spain, shows that another way that CoQ10 may support muscle growth and strength gains is by limiting the amount of cellular damage during intense exercise.


University of Granada researchers had athletes competing in a 30+ mile run in the Sierra Nevada supplement with CoQ10 before the race or a placebo. They discovered that those taking the placebo had a 100% increase in markers for DNA damage, while those taking CoQ10 experienced a 38% increase. The CoQ10 prevented the over-expression of pro-inflammatory compounds thereby reducing oxidative damage to the muscle cells.


And a more recent study on Olympic athletes found that those supplementing with CoQ10 were able to increase their muscle power greater than those taking a placebo.


German researchers gave 100 German male and female athletes either 300 mg of CoQ10 or a placebo for 6 weeks during their training for the 2012 London Olympics. They measured the athletes' power production during an intense cycling test. Although this test is done on a stationary bike, it is less similar to aerobic exercise but very similar to resistance exercise, such as an intense leg workout.


They reported in a 2013 issue of the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition that the athletes supplementing with CoQ10 increased their muscle power over the six weeks by an average of just over 11% while the placebo group increased their power by just over 8%.


These differences in the percent increase in muscle power may not seem like a remarkable difference, However, they were statistically significant. And the difference is quite remarkable when you consider that these were world-class athletes at the top of their game who were undergoing rigorous training to increase their muscle power. A 2-3% increase in muscle power at that level could make a world of a difference.


This is yet another study on CoQ10 that hammers home how important this supplement is to take. And if you have not yet started supplementing with CoQ10, I hope that after reading this article and my other articles on CoQ10 here on www.jimstoppani.com that you add this one to your supplement arsenal.


Although the body is capable of making adequate CoQ10, as we age that ability decreases. And here I don't mean it decreases as you reach old-age or even middle-age. There is evidence that your body's production of CoQ10 begins to drop in your early 20's. Plus, research confirms that exercise further depletes your levels of CoQ10 in the body. Research further shows that athletes have lower levels of CoQ10 than sedentary people. And research even further shows that during times of intense training, CoQ10 levels drop even further in athletes than during periods of less-intense training.


Jim's take-home message


While some damage and inflammation after exercise can be a good thing for muscle growth and strength gains, too much impedes muscle recovery. Taking CoQ10 won't stop the muscle damage you incur from a tough workout. But what it will do is make sure that the body doesn't get carried away by increasing the oxidative damage to the DNA. This can help to speed recovery and help with muscle and strength gains.


Jim’s Dosing Recommendation


The majority of the studies in humans showing significant effects with CoQ10 used doses of around 300 mg per day of CoQ10. Although CoQ10 is somewhat rich in beef, sardines, mackerel, and peanuts, there are only about 30 mg of CoQ10 in one pound of sardines, two pounds of beef, or two and a half pounds of peanuts. So you definitely need to supplement with it, as it would be difficult to get enough CoQ10 in your diet.


I suggest taking 300 mg of CoQ10 daily with meals. Since CoQ10 is fat-soluble, it is better absorbed when taken with food. You may want to make sure those meals include a cup of grapefruit juice. Japanese scientists discovered that uptake of CoQ10 is enhanced when taken with grapefruit juice, which acts on a certain protein in the digestive tract to allow for a higher absorption of CoQ10. Another way to enhance CoQ10 uptake is to take it with about 5 mg of BioPerine. This patented piperine extract from black pepper has been shown to increase the absorption of CoQ10 by about 30% more than when taking CoQ10 alone. Since I have 5 mg of BioPerine in both Pre JYM and Post JYM to aid nutrient absorption, you could also consider taking CoQ10 with your pre-workout or post-workout meals.




Supporting Research

Alf, D., et al. Ubiquinol supplementation enhances peak power production in trained athletes: a double-blind, placebo-controlled study. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition 10:24, 2013.

Crane FL. Biochemical functions of coenzyme Q10. J Am Coll Nutr. 2001 Dec;20(6):591-8.

Molyneux, SL, et al. Coenzyme q10: is there a clinical role and a case for measurement? Clin Biochem Rev. 2008 May;29(2):71-82.

Langsjoen Per.H., et al. (1985) Response of patients in classes III and IV of cardiomyopathy to therapy in a blind and crossover trial with coenzyme Q10. Proc. Natl. Acad. of Sci., U.S.A., vol. 82, pp 4240-4244.

Langsjoen P. H., et al. (1994) Treatment of essential hypertension with coenzyme Q10. In: Eighth International Symposium on Biomedical and Clinical Aspects of Coenzyme Q (1994) Littarru G.P., Battino M. , Folkers K. (Eds) The Molecular Aspects of Medicine, Vol. 15 (Supplement), pp S287-S294.

Mellstedt H., et al. A deficiency of coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) in conventional cancer therapy and blood levels of CoQ10 in cancer patients in Sweden. In: Eighth International Symposium on Biomedical and Clinical Aspects of Coenzyme Q (1994) The Molecular Aspects of Medicine.

Morisco C., et al. Effect of coenzyme Q10 therapy in patients with congestive heart failure: A long-term multicenter randomized study. In: Seventh International Symposium on Biomedical and Clinical Aspects of Coenzyme Q Folkers K., Mortensen S.A., Littarru G.P., Yamagami T., and Lenaz G. (eds) The Clinical Investigator, (1993) 71:S 34-S 136.

Pepe, S., et al. Coenzyme Q10 in cardiovascular disease. Mitochondrion. 2007 Jun;7 Suppl:S154-67.

Rosenfeldt, FL, et al. Coenzyme Q10 in the treatment of hypertension: a meta-analysis of the clinical trials. J Hum Hypertens. 2007 Apr;21(4):297-306.

Hiasa Y., et al. (1984) Effects of coenzyme Q10 on exercise tolerance in patients with stable angina pectoris. In: Biomedical and Clinical Aspects of Coenzyme Q, vol. 4 (1984) Folkers K., Yamamura Y., (eds) Elsevier, Amsterdam, pp 291-301.

Judy W.V., et al. (1986) Double blind-double crossover study of coenzyme Q10 in heart failure. In: Folkers K., Yamamura Y. (eds) Biomedical and clinical aspects of coenzyme Q, vol. 5. Elsevier, Amsterdam, pp 315-323.

Kamikawa T., et al. (1985) Effects of coenzyme Q10 on exercise tolerance in chronic stable angina pectoris. Am. J. Cardiol.; 56:247-251.

Rossi E., et al. Coenzyme Q10 in ischaemic cardiopathy. In: Biomedical and Clinical Aspects of Coenzyme Q, vol. 6 (1991) Folkers K., Yamagami T., and Littarru G. P. (eds) Elsevier, Amsterdam, pp 321-326.

Sarter B. Coenzyme Q10 and cardiovascular disease: a review. J Cardiovasc Nurs. 2002 Jul;16(4):9-20.

Singh, U., et al. Coenzyme Q10 supplementation and heart failure. Nutr Rev. 2007 Jun;65(6 Pt 1):286-93.

Young, J, et al. Coenzyme Q10: a review of its promise as a neuroprotectant. CNS Spectr. 2007 Jan;12(1):62-8.

Schmelzer, C., et al. Ubiquinol-induced gene expression signatures are translated into altered parameters of erythropoiesis and reduced low-density lipoprotein cholesterol levels in humans. IUBMB Life 63(1):42-48, 2011.

Bowry V.W., et al. (1995) Prevention of tocopherol-mediated peroxidation in ubiquinol-10-free human low-density lipoprotein. J Biol Chem 1995 Mar 17;270(11):5756-63.

Ingold K.U., et al. (1993) Autoxidation of lipids and antioxidation by alpha-tocopherol and ubiquinol in homogeneous solution and in aqueous dispersions of lipids: unrecognized consequences of lipid particle size as exemplified by oxidation of human low density lipoprotein. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 1993 Jan 1;90(1):45-9.

Wang, X. L., et al. Co-supplementation with vitamin E and coenzyme Q10 reduces circulating markers of inflammation in baboons. Am. J. Clinical Nutrition, Sep 2004; 80: 649 - 655.

Safarinejad, M.R. Efficacy of Coenzyme Q10 on semen parameters, sperm function and reproductive hormones in infertile men. The Journal of Urology 182(1):237-248, 2009.

Mizuno, K., et al. Anti-fatigue effects of coenzyme Q10 during physical fatigue. Nutrition 24(4): 293-299, 2008.

Rosenfeldt, F., et al. Systematic review of effect of coenzyme Q10 in physical exercise, hypertension and heart failure. BioFactors 18 (2003) 91–100.

Bonetti, A., et al. Solito, G. Carmosino, A.M. Bargossi and P.L. Fiorella, Effect of ubidecarenone oral treatment on aerobic power in middle-aged trained subjects, J. Sports Med. Phys. Fitness 40 (2000), 51–57.

Fiorella, P. L., et al. Metabolic effects of coenzyme Q10 treatment in high level athletes, Biomedical and clinical aspects of Coenzyme Q10 , K. Folkers, G.P. Littaru and T. Yamagami, eds, 1991, p. 513–520.

Kon, M., et al. Effect of Coenzyme Q10 supplementation on exercise-induced muscular injury of rats. Exerc Immunol Rev. 2007;13:76-88.

Kon, M., et al. Reducing exercise-induced muscular injury in kendo athletes with supplementation of coenzyme Q10. Br J Nutr. 2008 Oct;100(4):903-9.

Shimomura, Y., et al. Protective effect of coenzyme Q10 on exercise-induced muscular injury. Biochem Biophys Res Commun. 1991 Apr 15;176(1):349-55.

Wyss, V., et al. Remarks on prolonged ubiquinone administration in physical exercise, in: Highlights in Ubiquinone Research. G. Lenaz, O. Bernabei, A. Rabbi and M. Battino, eds, Taylor & Francis, 1990, pp. 303–308.

Ylikoskia, T., et al. The effect of coenzyme Q10 on the exercise performance of cross-country skiers. Molecular Aspects of Medicine 18 (Suppl 1): 283-290, 1997.

Zeppilli, P., et al. Influence of coenzyme Q10 on physical work capacity in athletes, sedentary people and patients with mitochondrial disease. In: Biochemical and clinical aspects of Coenzyme Q10 , K. Folkers, G.P. Littarru and T. Yamagami, eds, 1991. p. 525–533.

Diaz-Castro, J., et al. Coenzyme Q(10) supplementation ameliorates inflammatory signaling and oxidative stress associated with strenuous exercise. Eur J Nutr. 2011 (in press).

Linnane A.W., et al. Cellular redox activity of coenzyme Q10: effect of CoQ10 supplementation on human skeletal muscle. Free Radic Res. 2002 Apr;36(4):445-53.

Itagaki, S., et al. Grapefruit juice enhance the uptake of coenzyme Q10 in the human intestinal cell-line Caco-2. Food Chemistry, Volume 120, Issue 2, 15 May 2010, Pages 552-555.

Badmaev, V., et al. Piperine derived from black pepper increases the plasma levels of coenzyme q10 following oral supplementation. Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry. 2000 Feb 1;11(2):109-113.




Related Articles