The Health Benefits of CoQ10 for Runners

Runners may benefit from the natural anti-inflammatory and energizing properties of coenzyme Q10. The body produces this molecule -- called CoQ10 for short -- naturally. Health care providers sometimes recommend supplemental CoQ10 to people with heart problems, Parkinson's disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol or diabetes. CoQ10 is an antioxidant, which helps fight inflammation, and has properties essential to energy production -- making it of interest to high-intensity exercisers. Some research suggests that CoQ10 offers shortened recovery times and less muscle irritation after exertion for runners and other athletes.

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CoQ10 Properties

CoQ10 is present in every cell of the body and is characterized as a quinone. The body produces it naturally using two amino acids: phenylalaline and tyrosine. Organs that work the hardest and burn the most calories, such as the heart, kidney and liver, have the highest natural concentrations of CoQ10. It has antioxidant properties, so it may help prevent damage from free radicals and could also boost the immune system. Free radicals are unstable molecules that form during digestion, in your skin when you're in sun or in your organs when you're exposed to toxins. Free radicals can damage your cells over time, and runners who put extra demands on their body may be more susceptible to their damaging effects, which might cause diminished health, slower recovery after exertion and sore muscles.

Specific to Runners

CoQ10's potential to contribute to the maintenance of muscle strength and to bolster energy are of particular interest to runners. CoQ10 works in cellular components called mitochondria that produce an energy-storing compound -- adenosine triphosphate, or ATP -- that provides instant energy. Efficient production of ATP helps runners, who put a lot of demand on their energy systems, go harder and farther before fatiguing.

Exercise Studies With CoQ10

A study published in 2008 in the "Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition" highlighted the potential benefits of CoQ10 for runners and other intense exercisers. Participants who supplemented with CoQ10 for two weeks experienced higher concentrations of the compound in their blood plasma and exhibited greater stamina when running on a treadmill. Also in 2008, the journal "Nutrition" published a study showing that eight days of supplementation with 300 milligrams of CoQ10 decreased cyclists' sensations of fatigue and enhanced their recovery. Athletes participating in kendo, a Japanese form of fencing, who took CoQ10 for 20 days, experienced less muscle damage during training, reported a study published in a 2008 issue of the "British Journal of Nutrition." All of these positive effects on exercise imply that runners who take CoQ10 could last longer, recover faster and experience fewer injuries, but research is still considered inconclusive.

Supplementation Guidelines

Most people get CoQ10 through their diet from fish, pork and meat and, in lesser amounts, in vegetables such as spinach and broccoli. You typically take in only small amounts through food sources, though, and for CoQ10 to have a positive effect, a runner might need much more. CoQ10 supplements may offer especially important benefits for runners older than 40 because the body becomes less efficient at making the molecule as you age, and the compound may be more accessible when it's consumed in a readily absorbed, liquid-capsule form. Talk to your doctor to determine whether CoQ10 is right for you and the appropriate dosage, which usually ranges from 150 to 300 milligrams per day.