When to take a coq10 supplement

When Should You Take CoQ10?

When it comes to popular supplements, CoQ10 is a chart topper, ranking right up there with multivitamins and fish oil as an everyday staple for many people seeking a longer, healthier life. That's because CoQ10 benefits the heart and other large organs, and also has a well-earned reputation as an antioxidant and an energy supplement.

But supplementation is highly personal, and just because CoQ10 is popular doesn't mean it's right for you. So how do you know if you should add this supplement to your routine, and if so, what's the best time to take it? Let's explore.

What is CoQ10?

Occurring naturally within the body and located within almost every cell membrane, CoQ10, or coenzyme Q10, is a fighter of oxidative stress and an athlete for your body's energy production by catching and throwing electrons to the right places they need to be. CoQ10 boosts energy production helping to create ATP (adenosine triphosphate) which in turn energizes the mitochondria in our cells.

A major dilemma is that with age, our coenzyme Q10 production starts to decrease. Which is why CoQ10 supplementation is critically important. Beyond fighting oxidative stress and boosting ATP, CoQ10 supplementation has long been shown to be very important for heart health. Recent research also found that it could enhance exercise performance, boost your mood, defend against skin aging and perhaps more.

At what age should you start taking CoQ10 supplements?

For a younger person, diet might be sufficient to supply your body with the amount of coenzyme Q10 it needs. Older adults typically need at least 50 mg of coenzyme Q10 daily to maintain healthy blood levels, which is not possible to achieve from diet alone, so if you're older than middle aged, a dietary supplement is a good idea.

How old should you be when you first start taking CoQ10? Research suggests that coenzyme Q10 levels start to decline in the more important organs such as the heart around age 26 and in the skin around age 30. By around age 66, your overall CoQ10 production might be half of what it was at age 25. But of course, this all will vary from person to person. The only way you can make sure you're getting the right form and dose is with a coenzyme Q10 blood test.

CoQ10 supplement benefits

Whether you're taking it for energy, heart health or to support your overall health the good news is that adding CoQ10 to your supplement routine has many health benefits—many of them being especially relevant to people who are aging. Here are some of the most notable benefits:

  • Heart health benefits
  • CoQ10 supplementation is associated with heart health benefits, particularly when it comes to how much blood your heart is pumping out with each contraction—making it a great choice for those who want to support a healthy cardiovascular system.

  • More energy during exercise
  • It shouldn't be a surprise that coenzyme Q10 supplementation has been linked to greater exercise performance; we need coenzyme Q10 for cellular energy, after all. In a double-blind controlled clinical study of 17 healthy patients, coenzyme Q10 was evaluated against placebo to see if it could improve exercise performance on bike rides. The results showed that CoQ10 supplementation resulted in a significantly greater improvement in maximum velocity and inhibited general fatigue.

  • A sunnier disposition
  • Healthy CoQ10 levels may help fight the occasional blues—research finds that CoQ10 supplementation is associated with improvements in mood and emotional well-being.

  • Antioxidant all-star
  • Antioxidants fight free radicals to keep us in optimal health, and among antioxidants, coenzyme Q10 is a particularly powerful one. A meta-analysis of 17 trials totaling 972 participants found that CoQ10 increases serum total antioxidant capacity, superoxide dismutase (an antioxidant enzyme), and protected against an important marker of oxidative stress called malondialdehyde.

  • Youthful skin
  • According to the mitochondrial theory of aging, energy loss is one of the causes of age-related decline. Because coenzyme Q10 increases energy production, it may support healthier aging—which you can see in the skin. In a controlled trial, 33 women aged 45-60 were divided into groups to receive CoQ10 or placebo. After 12 weeks, those who supplemented with CoQ10 had significant improvements in the appearance of skin wrinkles, skin elasticity and smoothness whereas the placebo had no significant changes.

Can you get coenzyme Q10 naturally?

Your body naturally produces coenzyme Q10, and you can also obtain it from diet. But our average intake of coenzyme Q10 from food may only be around 3-6 milligrams per day, which for aged adults is not enough. Generally, the food sources with the most coenzyme Q10 are chicken, fish and certain nuts.

Here's how much coenzyme Q10 you can expect to find in typical servings:

  • Chicken thigh, 3 oz = 2.05 - 2.12 mg
  • Salmon, 3 oz = 0.33 - 0.68 mg
  • Roasted peanuts, 1 oz = 0.76 mg
  • Roasted pistachios, 1 oz = 0.57 mg

So even if you ate a salmon salad for lunch, baked chicken thigh for dinner, and had some peanut or pistachio butter with your snack…you still would be coming up a bit short, if your natural production of coenzyme Q10 is lower than optimal—which, as we mentioned, happens as part of the aging process.

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CoQ10 supplements: Dosage & risks

Coenzyme Q10 is usually very well tolerated, and no serious side effects have been reported in clinical studies. It is sold most commonly in doses ranging from 50 mg to 400 mg. There have not been any serious safety concerns with CoQ10 supplementation reported in the literature, nor any contraindications. There is no safety data on its impact on breast-feeding mothers, so check with your doctor if you want to supplement while nursing.

How long should you take CoQ10 supplements?

CoQ10 supplements can be taken without a duration limit. Clinical studies of high doses have lasted several years without issue. At the very least, you should take CoQ10 for a few weeks. It's not an acute kind of supplement that you take on an as-needed basis.

Should you take CoQ10 with food?

Yes. It's best to take coenzyme Q10 with a meal because CoQ10 is fat-soluble. You may read that ubiquinol (more on that below) is a little bit more water dispersible than ubiquinone, but it is still a fat-soluble compound. Taking fat-soluble compounds on an empty stomach not only inhibits absorption but may also impact GI comfort.

Best ways to take coenzyme Q10

Now that we've covered a few facts about taking CoQ10, let's talk about the logistics of taking this dietary supplement. There are a few considerations to timing your supplement. Most importantly, coenzyme Q10 in both forms is fat-soluble so it should be taken with meals.

Another is that some mild GI side effects may occur in some people (generally less than 1%) after taking. Also rare: you could have some difficulty sleeping. All these indicate that it may be better to take coenzyme Q10 in the morning, but for most people taking it at night wouldn't be a problem either, just as long as you take it with a meal.

Which CoQ10 supplement is the most effective?

There are two important forms of CoQ10 you need to know about, ubiquinone and ubiquinol. Ubiquinone is the oxidized form, meaning it wants to take an electron, and ubiquinol is the reduced form which means it wants to give an electron. When CoQ10 was first introduced as a supplement, it was only available in the ubiquinone form; later on, an efficient way to produce a stable ubiquinol form was discovered.

While there is still some debate over which is superior, studies comparing the two often show that ubiquinol has greater bioavailability. In a randomized double-blind clinical trial on 10 men over the age over 55, two-weeks of ubiquinol supplementation significantly increased plasma concentrations of ubiquinol, ubiquinone, and overall CoQ10 levels significantly greater than ubiquinone supplementation did.

But this doesn't necessarily mean that ubiquinone has no place for use. Some people can achieve optimal levels with ubiquinone supplementation, but as they get older, ubiquinol maybe required to achieve optimal levels.

Could you supplement with CoQ10 and curcumin at the same time?

Yes, CoQ10 and curcumin are important longevity supplements that yield complementary whole body health benefits. There is no reason why they cannot be taken together. Of course, talk to your doctor when you're adding new supplements.

In a recently published clinical study, CoQ10 was tested in combination with curcumin to see if could exert neuroprotective effects. 100 participants with occasional head-cavity discomfort were randomly divided into four groups to receive either placebo, CoQ10 or curcumin, or both. The results found that the group that received both CoQ10 and curcumin had the greatest relief from occasional head-cavity discomfort.

Coenzyme Q10 alternatives: Other supplements to consider

Coenzyme Q10 isn't the only supplement that supports energy production, heart health and offers antioxidant power—but it may be the only one that offers all of these benefits in one formula.

Other options to consider include the antioxidant alpha-lipoic acid, l-carnitine, which supports optimal mitochondria function as you age, and l-arginine, which has heart-healthy benefits in addition to being a good energy supplement for athletes. And if you're looking for a great all-around antioxidant, you can't beat vitamin E, which supports a healthy immune system, cognitive function and more.

What if your heart health goal is supporting already-healthy cholesterol levels or supporting a healthy inflammatory response? Consider taking a heart health probiotic, which contains specific probiotic strains that help to maintain healthy cholesterol and C-reactive protein levels within the normal range.

Not sure whether you should take CoQ10? Take a Supplement Quiz for personalized recommendations!

About the Author: Chancellor Faloon is a graduate of Florida State University with a bachelor’s degree in Biological Sciences. He is dedicated to disseminating guidance on achieving better health and wellness. He has had various roles in the company, but scientific writing has always been his top priority. Chance has also raced in multiple full and half marathons.