The hunt for the best supplements to support overall health is fervent and seems to be never-ending. We discover something new and magical supports a system, and the supplement that’s been the go-to for ages goes out the window. It’s been antioxidants, essential fatty acids, amino acids, vitamin D - the list goes on.
But now there's a new (well, not actually new) supplement taking the wellness world by storm as people start to realize just how amazing its possibilities are.
We’re giving you a detailed guide about all things CoQ10. What it is, why you should use it, when to take it, and how much is needed to reap the benefits.
Let’s dive in.
What is CoQ10?
Although its structure is very similar to vitamin K, this fat-soluble quinone is not actually a vitamin because it can be synthesized in the body.
It’s a “vitamin-like” compound that’s naturally present in the body in small amounts, most of which is concentrated in the most metabolically active tissues like the heart, lungs, liver, kidneys, spleen, pancreas, and adrenal glands.
The entire body houses relatively little CoQ10—about 500-1,500mg—with levels continuing to decline with age 1. That means that if you’re not eating a CoQ10-rich diet, supplementing becomes a must.
But why is this little vitamin-like compound so important?
Because of one organelle in the body—mitochondria. Mitochondria are a sub-compartment of all cells that are intimately involved in cell homeostasis. The primary and fundamental role is in cellular energy metabolism, including fatty acid β-oxidation, the urea cycle, and the respiratory chain—the final common pathway for the production of ATP.
Among other functions, they play a role in intracellular signaling and apoptosis (cell death), intermediary metabolism, and in the metabolism of amino acids, lipids, cholesterol, steroids, and nucleotides 2.
The involvement of mitochondria in energy production is where CoQ10 comes into the picture.
The mitochondrial respiratory chain is a group of five enzyme complexes located on the inner membrane of the mitochondria. Each of the complexes is composed of multiple subunits whereby electrons flow between the complexes down an electrochemical gradient.
Two mobile carriers play a major role in moving these electrons between complexes—ubiquinone (coenzyme Q10) and cytochrome c 2.
The resultant proton gradient generates the majority of the mitochondrial membrane potential, harnessed to synthesize both ATP and ADP plus inorganic phosphate. This entire process, known as oxidative phosphorylation, creates the high-energy substrate needed to fuel all metabolic processes within cells.
Without sufficient levels of CoQ10, there are no electron carriers to support the movement of electrons down the electron transport chain (ETC). As a result, the respiratory chain becomes dysfunctional and there is insufficient production of highly energetic compounds, thus decreasing the efficiency of cells 1.
The Uses Of CoQ10
While there are more than two benefits of taking CoQ10, we’re talking about two of the most widely researched ones: bioenergetics and anti-oxidation.
What we mentioned above about the role of CoQ10 or ubiquinone, the reduced form of CoQ10, forms the basis of energy production in humans. CoQ10 plays an essential role as an electron transfer molecule that allows for the production of ATP—the fundamental energy substrate used to fuel all cellular processes 3.
Studies suggest that a CoQ10 deficiency leads to dysfunction of the respiratory chain due to insufficient production of ATP needed to support proper cellular function, which ultimately results in poor cellular function and efficiency.
Aside from its role in the respiratory chain, the other well-known role of CoQ10, reduced as ubiquinol, is one of the most powerful lipophilic antioxidants in all cell membranes 4. And it’s the only lipid antioxidant that can be synthesized within the body.
Studies suggest that ubiquinol-10 is equally effective at preventing peroxidative damage to lipids as alpha-tocopherol (vitamin E), which is considered to be the best lipid-soluble antioxidant available in humans 5.
It’s also known that ubiquinol-10 can spare alpha-tocopherol when both antioxidants are present in the same liposomal membranes, thus retaining levels of other key antioxidants. And interestingly, the concentration of CoQ10 in cellular membranes can be as much as 30x greater than vitamin E 6!
When To Take It
Nailing supplement timing can be a challenge. Do you take it with food, without food, in the morning, before bed, mid-day?
The truth is, there’s no concrete answer as to when the right time to take a certain supplement is because it’s going to depend on what the nutrient is, the form, the dosage, and the bioavailability.
But where CoQ10 is concerned, remember that it is a fat-soluble nutrient, so it must be taken with something that enhances absorption, whether that’s a fat source (liposomal or dietary fat) or a bioenhancer (ex. BioPerine).
Nutrient absorption is key to receiving any benefits because if it’s not absorbed, it can’t do its job. Nail that, and then you can move on to when the optimal time to supplement is.
Currently, there’s little scientific research available dictating when the best time to take CoQ10 is, but most experts generally suggest popping your supplement in the AM.
And because CoQ10 is a powerhouse for boosting energy (even more so if you’re taking it via Performance Lab Energy), you’ll want to reap those benefits all day long.
That makes taking it before bed less than ideal as it will likely interfere with sleep. One study does note that doses exceeding 100mg at night can cause mild insomnia in some people 7.
Keep in mind that for CoQ10, some research also suggests splitting dosages throughout the day rather than supplementing in one go.
Getting the right dose of CoQ10 is important for maintaining proper tissue concentrations.
Studies suggest that lack of CoQ10 may contribute to the development of human diseases by one or multiple processes, including impaired or dysfunctional respiratory chain activity; enhanced reactive oxygen species (ROS) production; increased ROS susceptibility, or impaired de novo synthesis of pyrimidines 4.
Other research supports the notion that defects in either the structural and/or regulatory components of CoQ10 complexes or non-CoQ10 biosynthetic mitochondrial proteins can lead to reduced concentrations of CoQ10 along with increased levels of oxidative stress, and thus an increased risk of disease.
And if that’s not enough, the normal aging process lowers tissue levels of CoQ10 suggesting that adequate supplementation could help to ease aging symptoms and/or prevent or slow the onset of disease 8
Concerning the safety of CoQ10 supplementation, the highest dose is 1200mg daily according to several randomized, controlled human trials. However, short-term clinical trials have exceeded that for specific therapeutic purposes 8.
If you’re looking to reduce inflammation, doses ranging from 60-500mg are effective for decreasing levels of inflammatory cytokines. And if maintenance is what you’re after, 100mg daily of highly bioavailable CoQ10 should do the trick 9.
There’s no shortage of research supporting the role of CoQ10 in maintaining health and well-being. Whether it’s for its antioxidant properties, boosting skin health, or supporting mitochondrial function and energy levels, the benefits are well-worth investing in.
- R Saini. Coenzyme Q10: The essential nutrient. J Pharm Bioallied Sci. 2011;3(3):466-467.
- PF Chinnery, EA Schon. Mitochondria. J Neurol Neurosurg Psychiatry. 2003;74(9):1188-1199.
- FL Crane. Biochemical functions of coenzyme Q10. J Am Coll Nutr. 2001;20(6):591-598.
- CM Quinzii, LC López, J Von-Moltke, et al. Respiratory chain dysfunction and oxidative stress correlate with severity of primary CoQ10 deficiency. FASEB J. 2008;22(6):1874-1885.
- B Frei, MC Kim, BN Ames. Ubiquinol-10 is an effective lipid-soluble antioxidant at physiological concentrations. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA. 1990;87(12):4879-4883.
- M Turunen, P Sindelar, G Dallner. Induction of endogenous coenzyme Q biosynthesis by administration of peroxisomal inducers. Biofactors. 1999;9(2-4):131-139.
- PDQ Integrative, Alternative, and Complementary Therapies Editorial Board. Coenzyme Q10 (PDQ®): Health Professional Version. 2021 Jun 23. In: PDQ Cancer Information Summaries [Internet]. Bethesda (MD): National Cancer Institute (US); 2002-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK65890/
- HJD ernández-Camacho, M Bernier, G López-Lluch, P Navas. Coenzyme Q10 Supplementation in Aging and Disease. Front Physiol. 2018;9:44.
- HN Bhagvan, RK Chopra. Coenzyme Q10: Absorption, tissue uptake, metabolism and pharmacokinetics. Free Radical Research. 2006 May;40(5):445–453.