Enter any drugstore or the pharmacy section of your local supermarket and you will no doubt be mesmerized by the sheer number of vitamins and minerals available for sale, all claiming to hold the secret to a long and healthy life.
Not all supplements are created equal, and it is often the case that our body is unable to effectively use these supplements to help our health because they aren’t formulated in the right way. Coenzyme Q10 is one such supplement. This antioxidant, also known as ubiquinone or ubiquinol, is a major contributor to our overall health, but how do you know if you’re getting the right amount to best help? There are many questions surrounding CoQ10, including when to take it and how to find an effective form of it to best support your overall health.
How Does CoQ10 Help Health?
CoQ10 is an antioxidant that’s naturally produced by the mitochondria in our cells. You might remember mitochondria from high school biology class as the “powerhouse of the cell”. CoQ10 supports the mitochondria against damage from chemicals in the body known as free radicals. This supportive role is important because mitochondria are responsible for the production of 90 percent of the body’s energy, and without them, our bodies can’t function optimally.
What Are Free Radicals?
The cells of the body carry out many different processes each day, and free radicals are produced naturally as waste products of functions like cellular respiration. Cellular respiration is a vital activity in the body because it is responsible for the production of energy. In cellular respiration, mitochondria convert carbon into a substance called adenosine triphosphate, or ATP. We obtain carbon from the food we eat and the air we breathe, and the final product, ATP, is the fuel used by our cells, organs and tissues. It might seem strange that the body would produce a waste product that would potentially harm it as a by-product of a critical cellular function, but free radicals do have a purpose besides causing damage. Free radicals contribute to the heart being able to pump more blood in stressful situations, so they’re not all bad. These molecules consist of an atom of oxygen or nitrogen that has an unpaired electron in its outer shell. As a result of the missing electron, free radicals are unstable, so they try to take electrons from nearby molecules, compromising the molecular structure of the targeted molecule. This action is what makes free radicals a potential issue for optimal health as cells such as fats, protein, DNA and more can be affected by them.
How Do Antioxidants Help Health?
Free radicals do have the potential to cause damage to our cells, but the body has a natural defense mechanism against this damage: antioxidants. Antioxidants are substances that help the cells of the body against damage caused by free radicals. Our bodies naturally produce antioxidants, but they can also be found in healthy foods like fruits and vegetables. The antioxidants that are produced by our bodies are called endogenous antioxidants, while antioxidants produced by plants and ingested through the food we eat are called phytonutrients. CoQ10 is an endogenous antioxidant, while antioxidants like vitamin A and vitamin C are phytonutrients. Antioxidants help to maintain cell health by seeking out free radicals that are looking to steal electrons and stabilizing them by offering up the missing electron. Upon stabilization, free radicals are no longer able to damage other molecules. If you want to add more antioxidants to your diet, look for foods that are brightly colored, like broccoli, spinach, and blueberries, as they are often high in antioxidants, or consider smart supplementation.
Risks of Oxidative Stress
In the first few decades of our lives, free radicals and antioxidants are usually produced by the body in equal amounts. The balance between free radicals and antioxidants keeps us healthy and diminishes the visible effects of aging. As we get older or begin making unhealthy lifestyle choices such as a poor diet, too little exercise, too little sleep or smoking, the scales can begin to tip in favor of free radicals, and this imbalance can cause a condition called oxidative stress. When the body is in a state of oxidative stress, antioxidants are outnumbered by free radicals and cannot adequately help to reduce the cellular and molecular damage they can potentially cause. More than 200 health conditions count oxidative stress as a precursor, and it can also contribute to premature signs of aging. While it is true that our bodies enter temporary states of oxidative stress from time to time, such as during exercise, the condition can become problematic when the imbalance between free radicals and antioxidants is especially high or continues for a long time. Oxidative stress is considered a sign of poor mitochondrial health.
Why Mitochondrial Health Matters
We talk a lot about our physical and mental health, but cellular health and mitochondrial health are often left out of the conversation. Although the mitochondria are a tiny part of our cells, their health is critical because they are responsible for providing us with the energy we need to live optimally. Good mitochondrial health happens when our mitochondria are working efficiently to produce the energy that we need to perform all of life’s basic functions, including digesting food, fighting infection, recovering from injury and illness, exercising, sleeping and more. A decline in mitochondrial health can be a precursor to declining physical health, and there are a number of reasons why changes in mitochondrial health can occur.
Mitochondrial Health Changes
Many different processes in the body begin to decline as we age, and mitochondrial health is no different. Although lifestyle factors can play a role in the decline of mitochondrial health, aging is often the primary contributor. During our youth, our bodies are capable of producing enough antioxidants, including CoQ10, to help defend against the molecular and cellular damage that can be caused by excess free radicals, but the production of CoQ10 can slow over time while free radical production remains the same. As CoQ10 levels drop, the risk of free radicals causing cellular and DNA damage in our tissues can increase.
Our bodies may then spend more time and energy repairing cellular damage and have less energy for other functions, such as digestion, immune system, support hormone regulation, organ health, physical performance and more. Aging is inevitable, but a decline in mitochondrial health doesn’t have to be. Eating a healthy diet, exercising regularly, and getting enough sleep can help support mitochondrial health, as can supplementation with antioxidants like CoQ10.
Signs of Sub-Optimal Mitochondrial Health
There are many different signs that your mitochondrial function may not be performing at its best and each person will experience this differently. Common signs of declining mitochondrial health include:
- Feeling tired or lacking energy
- Changes in mood
- Increased effects of aging
- Difficulty sleeping
- Diminished athletic performance and recovery
- Feeling stressed or anxious
- Mental clarity issues
How CoQ10 Can Help
Although aging is inevitable, declines in mitochondrial health don’t have to be. CoQ10 supplementation can support mitochondrial health, to help mitigate free radical damage and oxidative stress, but not all CoQ10 supplements are created equal. In fact, almost all CoQ10 supplements on the market today have a large molecule size that prevents them from effectively being absorbed through the tough mitochondrial outer membrane, making them largely ineffective. It wasn’t until our scientists in New Zealand made a breakthrough in discovering that mitochondria have a significant negative charge compared to the rest of the cell and that this could be used to make a more effective CoQ10. Our scientists attached a positively charged molecule to the active part of CoQ10 in order for it to be sufficiently absorbed. This is our world-first mitochondria-targeted antioxidant, MitoQ, which is up to a thousand times more effective at getting into mitochondria than general CoQ10 supplements. Once our advanced form of CoQ10 permeates the mitochondrial membrane, it can help to rebalance the levels of CoQ10 and free radicals inside the cell.
When to Take CoQ10
We all want to get the most out of our supplements, so it makes sense to look into when is the best time to take them. Most CoQ10 supplements are fat soluble and must be taken with a meal or snack that contains healthy fats. However, this is not necessary when taking MitoQ, as its molecule is water soluble. This means MitoQ does not need to be taken with a meal, and in fact the absorption of our unique molecule has been shown to be improved if taken 30 minutes before, or two hours after, eating.
Most of our customers keep their MitoQ by the bedside and take it as soon as they wake for the day, before eating breakfast.
MitoQ can be taken later in the day, however we recommend you don’t take it in the evening, especially if you suffer from insomnia, to avoid it interrupting your sleep. Because your body’s cells regenerate over time, we recommend that you give MitoQ up to three months to ensure the best benefits to your health and physical performance, as it gradually optimizes your cells at their core.