There are lots of different supplements on the market, and you can be forgiven for having a hard time distinguishing between the ones that work and the ones that are just the latest flash in the pan. Coenzyme Q-10 (CoQ10) is certainly buzz-worthy and has been getting more attention recently for the number of positive benefits that are associated with it.
It’s worth our time to take an in-depth look at CoQ10 — what it is, what it can do, and when's the best time to take it.
What is CoQ10 and What Does it Do?
CoQ10 is an enzyme that your body produces naturally. CoQ10 is also found in many foods, including organ meats like liver, fatty fish, vegetables, fruit, and legumes. Like other enzymes, CoQ10 aids the chemical reactions involved in energy production that take place in your body, supplying us with energy throughout the day.
Most importantly, CoQ10 is a powerful antioxidant. Antioxidants help maintain your body and your body’s natural processes by inhibiting and removing potentially harmful oxidizing agents, known as free radicals. These free radicals often play a role in cardiovascular disease and a range of other health conditions heavily affected by oxidative damage. A healthy diet rich in vegetables and fruits can aid our body in keeping our antioxidant levels high, but sometimes a little support via the route of taking supplements can be a big help.
Some Reasons You May Need CoQ10 Supplements
If you’re staying fit and eating right, you may not need extra CoQ10. But, this vital enzyme is found in all the cells of your body, especially in vital organs like the liver, kidneys, heart, and pancreas. To support the functions of these organs and our overall health, we want to ensure that our bodies have all the CoQ10 that they need, as a CoQ10 deficiency can result in a wide range of issues ranging from high blood pressure to heart conditions like congestive heart failure.
There are several reasons that you may be deficient in the levels of this vital nutrient.
- Aging. While the effect isn’t the same in all parts of the body, CoQ10 levels generally fall as we age.
- Nutritional deficiencies. While our bodies do produce CoQ10, we also get it from food sources. Foods high in B vitamins are good sources of the enzyme. If your diet is low in these foods, you could be deficient in CoQ10.
- Medication side effects. Statin drugs, typically prescribed for high cholesterol, can be a cause of CoQ10 deficiency.
- Effects of disease. Some medical conditions like diabetes, cancer, and heart disease are linked with low levels of CoQ10.
The Benefits of CoQ10
While most folks have enough CoQ10 to function properly, having some form of CoQ10 supplementation has been shown to help improve quite a few different systems and functions within our bodies.
Supporting cardiovascular health
CoQ10 has been demonstrated to improve overall cardiovascular health, and has even been shown in some research to help support the recovery of the heart after surgery when used in conjunction with other supplements.
If you’re unfortunate enough to have suffered from a heart attack, you’ll be happy to know that the use of CoQ10 was shown in a clinical trial to help improve heart function and overall health.
Alleviating muscle pain and discomfort associated with statins
Statins are commonly prescribed to treat high cholesterol levels. Unfortunately, some patients suffer from serious side effects, including muscle pain, nausea, increased blood sugar levels, and other issues.
A correlation also occurs between the use of statins and levels of CoQ10 — as more statins are taken, CoQ10 levels drop. CoQ10 dietary supplements have shown some promise in alleviating statin side effects, as well as helping to correct the CoQ10 deficiency that can also sometimes occur with statins.
- A study in the American Journal of Cardiology suggested muscle pain caused by statins was alleviated when taking CoQ10.
- Be sure to consult with your doctor before taking CoQ10 for statin side effects to avoid any interactions between CoQ10 and your existing medications.
Improves cognitive function
One of the key elements of aging is the susceptibility of our bodies to damage from oxidation. This is especially true in the brain. CoQ10’s antioxidant properties suggest that it may show potential in supporting overall cognitive health even with age.
Supports athletic performance
Muscle function can be affected by the stress of cellular oxidation. Stressed muscles have less energy, reducing their capability to contract, limiting stamina. Reducing oxidation stress and improving the mitochondrial functions of the cells in our muscles is a pathway towards improving exercise performance.
One study demonstrated a decrease in the production of lactic acid by subjects who took CoQ10 when cycling, a marker of improved endurance potential.
Another study of sedentary men showed a decrease in fatigue when participating in a weight-lifting test after the subjects had taken CoQ10 for an 8-week period.
The cell damage caused by oxidative stress can result in metabolic dysfunction. People with metabolic issues typically show lower than normal levels of CoQ10, so supplementation of CoQ10 is a promising avenue in helping the body regulate metabolic processes.
Studies have backed this theory, including one study which showed a significant reduction in abnormally high blood sugar levels among test subjects after 12 weeks of treatment with CoQ10.
When to Take CoQ10: Morning or Night?
The effectiveness of many medications and supplements relies upon when and how they’re taken. CoQ10 is a fat-soluble enzyme, so it is most effective to take CoQ10 supplementation with a light meal. An active digestive system also helps our bodies absorb and process this enzyme, so it’s not recommended to take CoQ10n before going to bed.
To summarize, take CoQ10 about 30 minutes after you wake up, and after you’ve had a light meal.
Adding CoQ10 to Your Diet
As you can see, CoQ10 performs a vital role in supporting our energy levels and keeping us healthy, and while most young, healthy people have enough CoQ10, supplementation has primarily shown benefits across a range of bodily systems.
If you’re using a supplemental source of CoQ10, there’s strong evidence that a dose of 90-200 mg of CoQ10 per day will yield the best health benefits. There are differences in strength depending on the brand of supplement and the ingredients, so be sure to consult the bottle or a health provider familiar with CoQ10 therapies and dosages.
You may want to consider taking CoQ10 as part of a daily regimen of other useful supplements and vitamins for the best results for overall health. ASYSTEM produces a set of supplements, the Superhuman Supplements, that includes a daily dose of CoQ10 as part of their Multiman vitamin.
As with any supplement, be sure to consult with your physician before incorporating a supplement into your daily routine. It’s important that your provider can check for any possible interactions with other medications you may be taking, as CoQ10 supplements may have adverse effects on blood thinners and chemotherapy drugs, among others.
These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA. ASYSTEM products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.
Meet our Experts
This article has been reviewed by members of our Scientific Advisory Board.
Dr. Jay Cowin, Nutrition Expert
Founder of Functional U, a Nutrition, Performance & Optimal Health practice.
Dominick Gauthier, Performance Expert
Former Olympic Athlete, Founder, B2ten Foundation (coach to multiple Olympic Champions)