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Balancing oxidative stress for optimum performance
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Supplementation with Ubiquinol, the active form of coenzyme Q10, can improve physical performance by influencing oxidative status and mitochondrial functionality


Regular physical exercise is fundamentally beneficial for muscle structure, efficient metabolic processes as well as the body’s natural antioxidant defense system. The latter involves a delicate equilibrium: While medium to intense sporting activity is associated with high power performance, it also leads to increased production of reactive oxygen species (ROS) and to cell damage. During the last decade, antioxidant properties have increasingly come into the scientific spotlight. One particular piece of recent research [1] investigated the positive effects of nutritional supplementation with Ubiquinol on cellular antioxidant activity and mitochondrial functions in athletes.


An essential micronutrient
Ubiquinol, the reduced and active form of coenzyme Q10, is an important part of the respiratory chain. It plays a vital role in electron transport during oxidative phosphorylation and thus in the production of adenosine triphosphate (ATP). About 95 per cent of all aerobically generated energy is produced by the intermediation of Ubiquinol. Organs like the heart, as well as muscles, depend on a plentiful supply of this vitamin-like nutrient and have less energy and strength if it is lacking. In this respect, a study [2] from the Rhein-Ruhr Olympic Camp in Germany is particularly relevant. In this randomized, double-blind trial, 100 athletes received either 300 mg Ubiquinol or a placebo daily for six weeks. Ubiquinol is more suitable than coenzyme Q10 for use in supplementation since the body does not have to convert this “ready-to-go” nutrient before it can use it. Thus, it has a more rapid and better effect in the body than coenzyme Q10 and is highly bioavailable. In the study, the athletes had to perform a maximum power output test, and their performance was measured on a cycling ergometer before supplementation and after six weeks. During this time, the subjects trained individually in preparation for the Olympic Games in London. Both groups significantly increased their physical performance over the treatment period: In the placebo group, there was an increase of 0,30 W/kg bodyweight (+ 8,5 per cent), while in the Ubiquinol group, performance levels increased by 0,38 W/kg bodyweight (+ 11,0 per cent). More interestingly, the absolute difference in the enhancement of physical performance between the placebo and the Ubiquinol group of +0.08 W/kg bodyweight was significant (p < 0.03), supporting the hypothesis that Ubiquinol supplementation significantly enhances peak power production in comparison to placebo.


Another recent double-blind study [3] has shown that Ubiquinol also improves hematocrit and hemoglobin levels during strenuous exercise. This improvement could enhance the oxidative phosphorylation process and therefore have an ergogenic effect.

Beside its role in energy production, Ubiquinol is the only endogenously synthesized lipid-soluble antioxidant. It protects cell membranes from free radical damage and contributes to their fluidity. Moreover, Ubiquinol can regenerate vitamin E and C. [4]


Ubiquinol deficiency in athletes
Young and healthy individuals are normally able to produce adequate amounts of Ubiquinol endogenously. But with increasing age, from the 20s onwards, the body’s ability to produce the micronutrient declines [5]. Moreover, many age-related ailments, including heart problems and diabetes, are connected with low Ubiquinol levels. So supplementation for older people is generally advisable. Additionally, scientific investigations have also shown that endurance sports and already one single bout of intense physical exercise may lower Ubiquinol blood plasma levels [6,7]. Their high energy demands mean that sportspeople often have a lack of this essential nutrient. At the same time, physical exercise increases oxygen consumption and therefore free radical formation. This oxidative stress may lead to muscle fatigue and damage [8,9].


Balancing mitochondrial functionality
In pursuit of their best possible performance, athletes are in the difficult position of having to balance out mitochondrial functionality. Super-compensation is a fundamental training principle for top athletes. But workouts that are too intense or recovery phases that are too short can be harmful: Besides metabolic acidosis and lactate accumulation, heat-shock proteins are released and levels of ROS and cytokines rise. Mitochondria have a central steering role in these processes.
To explore the effects of supplementation with Ubiquinol, Professor Tiano and his team carried out a study [1] into cellular antioxidant activity and mitochondrial functions after a single bout of intense physical exercise. In a double-blind crossover study, 21 trained athletes from a rugby team, aged between 21 and 31, were randomized to take either 200 mg Ubiquinol per day or placebo. A supplementation phase of one month was followed by a two-month washout period. Treatment was then switched between placebo and Ubiquinol in a crossover manner. Blood plasma samples were obtained from the participants before and after a 40 minute run at 80 per cent maximum heart rate. Results for the placebo group showed a decrease in total plasma Ubiquinol content, lowered plasma antioxidant defenses, increased intracellular ROS levels and an uncoupling of compensatory mechanisms in mitochondrial membranes. In contrast, the Ubiquinol group showed lowered intracellular ROS levels during both the exercise and recovery phases, and accelerated recovery of mitochondrial functionality. Thus, supplementation with Ubiquinol is important for athletes to replace what is lost.

These findings are in line with previous research [10]. This study also found that supplementation before strenuous exercise decreases oxidative stress and modulates inflammatory signaling. Additionally, the results proved a reduction of subsequent muscle damage.    


Safe and backed by science
Recommended dosages for healthy athletes vary from 100 up to 300 mg Ubiquinol per day. The micronutrient is clinically documented to be well tolerated and free from adverse effects, and it is also part of the Cologne List® of tested, doping-free substances.





[1] Tiano, L: Effect of Ubiquinol supplementation on physical performance: oxidative status and mitochondrial functionality after a single bout of intense physical exercise, presented at Bridge2Food Conference, 4th Sport & Performance Platform, Cologne, April 2014.
[2] Alf D. et al.: Ubiquinol supplementation enhances peak power production in trained athletes: a double-blind, placebo controlled study, J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 29;10(1):24 (2013).

[3] Sarmiento, A et al.: Ubiquinol Improves Hematocrit And Hemoglobin During Strenuous Exercise, presented at XXXVII Congreso del Sociedad Española de Ciencias Fisiólogicas, Granada 24-26 September 2014.
[4] Littarru, GP et al.: Bioenergetic and antioxidant properties of coenzyme Q10: recent developments. Mol Biotechnol. 37(1):31-7 (2007).
[5] Kalén, A. et al.: Age-related changes in the lipid compositions of rat and human tissues. Lipids. 24:579-84 (1989).
[6] Littarru, G.P., et al.: Coenzyme Q10: blood levels and metabolic demand. Int J Tissue React. 12(3):145-8 (1990).
[7] Battino, M., et al.: Metabolic and antioxidant markers in the plasma of sportsmen from a Mediterranean town performing non-agonistic activity. Mol Aspects Med. 18 Suppl:S241-5 (1997).

[8] Mizuno, K., et al.: Antifatigue effects of coenzyme Q10 during physical fatigue. Nutrition. 24(4):293-9 (2008).
[9] Kon M., et al.: Reducing exercise-induced muscular injury in kendo athletes with supplementation of coenzyme Q10. Br J Nutr. 100(4):903-9 (2008).
[10] Diáz-Castro J., et al.: Coenzyme Q(10) supplementation ameliorates inflammatory signaling and oxidative stress associated with strenuous exercise. Eur J Nutr 51(7):791-9 (2012).

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