The Capsugel and Kaneka Pharma Europe part-funded study split 100 young German athletes into Ubiquinol (Kaneka) and placebo groups for a six-week period. Using watts per kilogram of body weight (watts/kg bw) readings, the double-blind, placebo-controlled study found the Ubiquinol group increased power over the placebo group by more than 2.5%, although athletes in both groups increased power over the study period leading up to the 2012 London Olympic games.
Power was measured for the 53 male and 47 female athletes using lactate threshold testing on a cycling ergometer after three and six weeks.
The researchers/nutrition consultants – Dietmar Alf, Michael E Schmidt and Stefan C Siebrecht – concluded: “While adherence to a training regimen itself resulted in an improvement in peak power output, as observed by improvement in the placebo group, the effect of Ubiquinol supplementation significantly enhanced peak power production in comparison to placebo.”
CoQ10 has properties similar to vitamins, but since it is naturally synthesised in the body it is not classed as such. With chemical structure 2,3-dimethoxy-5-methyl-6-decaprenyl-1,4-benzoquinone, it is also known as ubiquinone because of its 'ubiquitous' distribution throughout the human body.
The coenzyme is concentrated in the mitochondria - the 'power plants' of the cell - and plays a vital role in the production of chemical energy by participating in the production of adenosince triphosphate (ATP), the body's so-called 'energy currency'.
There is an ever-growing body of scientific data that shows substantial health benefits of CoQ10 supplementation for people suffering from angina, heart attack and hypertension. The nutrient is also recommended to people on statins to off-set the CoQ-depleting effects of the medication. Other studies have reported that CoQ10 may play a role in the prevention or benefit people already suffering from neuro-degenerative diseases.
But in Europe at least, heart and other health associations have not been positively assessed by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA).
Over the six-week period in the current study the placebo group increased W/kg bw from 3.64 to 3.94 – an increase of 0.3 W/kg bw or 8.5%.
The ubiquinol group increased from 3.70 W/kg bw to 4.08 – an increase of 0.38 W/kg bw or 11.0%.
The researchers noted the increases in performance in the ubiquinol group were, “statistically significant for absolute differences and in multivariate analysis but slightly missed the significance level using percentage values.”
They said while the results were particular to elite athletes ubiquinol benefits could be broader.
“Older athletes and ‘weekend warriors’ might profit even more from CoQ10 supplementation than young, well-trained athletes. Aging reduces the number of mitochondria and the level of Q10 in all tissues decreases with age.”
“Increasing the Q10 content of remaining mitochondria might at least partly compensate for the lower number of mitochondria. Untrained athletes’ muscles are not as adapted to changing energy needs during exercise as are those of elite athletes. Other supplements have elicited stronger effects in increasing physical performance in recreational athletes and CoQ10 might be another such example.”
Of the mechanisms of action they observed: “In this study, CoQ10 supplementation resulted in increased short term maximum performance, which implies anaerobic output, perhaps via an increase in ATP and creatinine phosphate synthesis.”
“An alternative explanation is that CoQ10 supplementation could work via a direct increase in muscular Q10 levels, suggesting that aerobic energy conversion might be improved by inhibiting ammonia production from AMP.”
Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition
‘Ubiquinol supplementation enhances peak power production in trained athletes: a double-blind, placebo controlled study’
Authors: Dietmar Alf, Michael E Schmidt and Stefan C Siebrecht