MitoQ live: why athletes need antioxidants
Find out why athletes need antioxidants in this Q&A interview with MitoQ expert + endurance coach Paul Cadman.
If you missed our recent livestream Q&A with MitoQ expert and New Zealand-based endurance coach Paul Cadman, don’t stress! You can check out the full interview below. In it, MitoQ’s Head of Brand and Communications Liz Hancock asks Paul all about the importance of antioxidants for athletes, plus finds out what he and his athletes have experienced as a result of taking MitoQ as part of their training program. Our Research and Development Manager Nicole Barnett is also featured in the interview – helping us dive deeper into the science behind MitoQ and athletic performance.
Paul, for anyone who doesn’t know you, can you tell us a bit about what you do?
Paul: Sure. So, I’m an endurance sports coach – I have been for the best part of ten years. My journey into endurance sports has taken a while. To start, I played football competitively through to my mid-twenties. Then, like a lot of Kiwis, I shot overseas for a few years – did my OE (overseas experience) and drifted away from a lot of sport although I played a bit of football overseas as well. I came back to New Zealand and spent about 20 years in the corporate world. During that time, I watched a friend of mine race in Ironman New Zealand and thought it would be a pretty good idea to have a go myself. So, the first triathlon I did was an Ironman, which was a bit of an experience – you might as well jump in the deep end!
So, that was the start of my endurance career. I’ve been into sport now going on about 25 years. It’s a real passion of mine still which is great and it’s just such a fascinating world to live in. You’re always learning, you’re always trying to figure out problems and you’re always trying to help people achieve. For me, part of the real lure of what I do is continual learning and walking the talk as well.
What type of athletes do you tend to work with?
Paul: I’m pretty fortunate. I work with a really broad spectrum of athletes, which is great because it keeps things interesting for me. I work with athletes from first-timers through to elite multi-sporters which is great because they all have their individual goals and challenges. It’s a really diverse scope. There are some young guys in there and then at the other end of the spectrum, there are guys like me that are in their fifties: they’ve got their families, they’ve got their jobs – so there’s a lot of lifestyle balance there as well. That’s another interesting aspect: helping people achieve what they want with the time that they have.
Nicole, can you tell us a bit about yourself and what it means to be a Research and Development Manager at MitoQ?
Nicole: I’m a naturopathic doctor and functional medicine doctor as well – so I’m very heavy on nutrition when it comes to athletic performance. My role at MitoQ is quite broad: managing a whole abundance of clinical trials plus all the education behind how to use MitoQ, all the scientific elements behind it, etc.
Paul, were mitochondria something that you were aware of early in your career? Do you have a deep understanding of the mitochondria’s role in sports performance?
Paul: Like most of us, I learned the basics of biology at school, so I had a basic understanding of mitochondria and the role they play. Did I delve into the science at a granular level early on? No, absolutely not. At that point in time I was getting into endurance sport and didn’t have too much regard for my body. But, as time went by, I became quite fascinated with the human body and how it operates.
If you think about the mitochondria and you think about endurance athletes and sportspeople, the mitochondria is front and center in terms of performance. So my knowledge around mitochondria has developed over time and is now definitely part of my coaching practice.
Nicole, can you explain the interplay between mitochondria and antioxidants?
Nicole: When it comes to cell health, particularly with athletes, the average person will have maybe about 300 mitochondria in each cell – an athlete can have up to 3,000. Another really profound statistic is that we’re producing two billion mitochondria every single second within our human body.
The mitochondria is foundational to:
a) producing energy/ATP production
b) it’s largely involved with mitigating oxidative stress that, particularly with athletes, comes with excessive endurance training e.g. muscle fatigue, delayed onset muscle soreness
Mitochondria are absolutely critical in helping to improve our performance but also helping the recovery and repair process after exercise.
Paul: One of the really interesting things for me around mitochondria ATP production – your mitochondria are front and center in terms of ATP production and the by-product of that process are reactive oxygen species causing damage. So, it’s a bit of a balancing act in terms of how you manage that production of energy. From an athletic perspective, this is where we really start to talk about the role of antioxidants and how they can help support mitochondria function.
Nicole – for anyone who is completely unfamiliar with MitoQ, could you give a little bit of a summary?
Nicole: MitoQ is a compound very similar to coenzyme q10 (CoQ10) but it’s bound to a compound which allows the MitoQ compound to get inside the mitochondria where it takes effect. So, that’s the unique benefit. That’s not what any other antioxidant can basically do. Getting past those mitochondrial membranes is absolutely critical and that’s the key function behind MitoQ – both from an efficacy perspective and from a safety perspective as well.
I’m not just talking muscle tissue – I'm talking heart tissue, I’m talking liver tissue, I’m talking multiple organs in your body. It’s actually getting into the cells, it’s getting into the mitochondria where it has effects on, not just ATP production and antioxidant production, but on a whole range of modes of action. So, really, you want it for all-round cellular stress and cellular health.
Paul – how did you discover MitoQ?
Paul: Like a lot of people, I discovered MitoQ through someone I knew. John Marshall from MitoQ is a good friend of mine from a long time back – he came into the business probably 4-5 years ago now. So, that was my initial introduction. I knew nothing about the product whatsoever. John came around one night and gave me a little bit to try and I did what you do: I experimented a little bit and tried different approaches over a period of time.
Paul, are you someone who is skeptical about supplements?
Paul: I’ll take anything – but am I a skeptic? I suppose. I’m the sort of person who would be skeptical until I try something and do a bit of research and have a better understanding around what a supplement is.
I took MitoQ and used it – not expecting anything, to be really honest. But seeing is believing. Feeling is believing. That’s sort of the way I operate. Until I can talk to something authentically and I’ve experienced the benefits, I will continue to be a skeptic. As coaches, we have a duty of care to our athletes to do the right thing by them so we can’t just be going out and providing advice without any real substance behind the advice.
What did you notice taking MitoQ, and what did your athletes notice taking MitoQ under your guidance?
Paul: The first thing that I really noticed was recovery time. Turnaround times from finishing training sessions to feeling recovered again just seemed to compress a bit. So that was anecdotally what I experienced, first and foremost. Generally speaking, when I speak to athletes that have used MitoQ – whether they’re ones I’ve coached or just speaking to athletes in general – that will be the first observation that they’ll call out, that they’ve used MitoQ and they feel that their recovery is a whole lot better and quicker from what it used to be.
I’ve used heart rate variability for quite some time now and I can pretty confidently say that when I’m on MitoQ, my heart rate variability does show me that my times are better than when I’m not using it. And that’s also the case with the athletes that I coach that use the product. The vast majority of the time when they’re using the product, their recovery time is usually shorter and they’ll anecdotally say they feel more recovered.
The second thing that I noticed – and it took a while, a couple of months – was that the numbers that I was pushing, especially on the bike, were increasing. Now, we’re not talking about 10 – 15 second increases here, we’re talking about single-digit – but that was really quite interesting for me in terms of that energy production and power output.
So, from an athlete perspective, the first benefit that most observe is recovery and then the second piece is around increased power production and energy availability. The vast majority of guys that I talk to that use the product will notice that discernable difference within the space of a few months – some are really quick in their turnaround, others take a little bit longer. So, it’s not a silver bullet: you’re not going to take it one night and be superman. It’ll take a period of time. Generally speaking, it will take a couple of months.
Nicole – can you talk a little bit about why it often takes 2-3 months for people to notice MitoQ’s benefits?
Nicole: Coenzyme q10 (CoQ10) naturally occurs in the human body. As we age, our levels decline. Everyone is going to be at a different status. We don’t know where you are, so what clinical trials demonstrate is that definitely at that 6-week point we are starting to see definitive improvements in athletic performance – whether it be speed, power, balance...you name it. But you’re definitely going to be getting those subtle benefits straight away such as mitigating oxidative stress. That will graduate as you continue to take it.
It’s accumulative in tissues, so it’s important that you keep at it, but my recommendation would be to wait until at least that 3 month mark to actually start optimizing. Also, look at the dose that you’re taking and the time that you’re taking it for to get the benefits of what you’re taking it for.
We recommend our customers take MitoQ first thing in the morning 30 minutes before food or two hours after food to get the best absorption but I’m curious to hear how elite athletes are taking it.
Paul: We’re still learning as well – Nicole and I were having a chat about half-life and process times just the other week. So, part of this process is learning as we grow. I think back 4-5 years and I would just take my MitoQ whenever because I didn’t know any different. As part of the learning process I now, and the guys who take MitoQ that I know, will wake up in the morning and it’ll be in our morning routine: have a glass of water, take MitoQ and whatever else they need to in the morning when they first get up.
Nicole and I spoke about half-lives: 6 hours, roughly. So, we’re tweaking the protocol now to try and get the best benefit. So, 5 hours after the initial dose they’ll have another dose. For most people, that’ll be it. Not many of the guys will take MitoQ later on in the evening in case they get no sleep. So, loosely, that’s the protocol.
What levels of MitoQ dosage are we talking for endurance athletes?
Paul: One of the real benefits of having access to the studies that have been done recently is that most of those doses are around the 40mg level. So that’s what most will operate to – they'll operate to a daily dose of 40mg. If they’re leading into a big race, they’ll generally dose with 60mg for the week leading up to. One of the interesting questions that we’re trying to figure out next is where the saturation point is. But, anecdotally, I think that the sweet spot for most people is somewhere between 20-40mg per day.
So, just to summarize:
- As it stands, we think the sweet spot is probably around 20-40mg per day for athletes
- Take half that dose in the morning, first thing. Don’t take it with your breakfast, take it maybe half an hour before, maybe go and do a session, and then get into your day
- Half-life of approximately six hours so. To get best use, have your next dose approximately five/five-and-half hours after your first dose – then that will do you for the day
- If you’ve got a big race coming up or if you’re going away for a training camp, then I anecdotally with the athletes that I work with have definitely seen the benefits with a 60mg dose* per day for 5-7 days leading up to the event or training camp through to the event and probably the day after as well, then peel it back after that
* MitoQ’s recommended dose for non-athletes is 10mg per day. If you are unsure what dose is right for you, please consult your healthcare provider.
We just passed the 700 mark for research papers published on MitoQ. Some of those studies look into MitoQ’s benefits for athletes – could you tell us a bit about those, Nicole?
Nicole: So, one of them basically demonstrated that within that 6 week period you’re definitely noticing the improvements within power – leg extension power, particularly: which is one of the key biomarkers of aging. That was a critical study that showed those benefits, not just in athletes but in the aging population.
Second to that is going back to those core functions of MitoQ and how it actually works from a mechanistic perspective, so:
- Being able to improve rest time, by being able to improve ATP production
- Being able to improve recovery time
- Mitigating the muscle soreness that you experience from the excess oxidative stress that can be brought on when you participate in an endurance event
- Studies have shown that MitoQ is able to stabilize our genome which is our DNA/our RNA. Not just the mitochondrial genome but also our nuclear genome – this is our blueprint for life. This is absolutely critical from a longevity and aging perspective. So, how MitoQ actually prevents that DNA damage or helps to repair that DNA damage that occurs when you’re excessively exercising is critical.
So, there are multiple functions there that MitoQ is working on and that’s why it’s so beneficial – it's just such a good all-rounder. We’ve got future studies that we’re planning as well for next year, so some good science coming out that will just keep on picking up and we’ll just keep building on that scientific platform.
Paul, you mentioned before – MitoQ is not a silver bullet. You can’t just sit on the couch eating potato chips, take MitoQ and then smash into an Ironman. So, what else do you advocate people do in conjunction with taking MitoQ?
Paul: You need a toolbox. MitoQ is part of a toolbox. It won’t be new to people but from an advice perspective on how you build your toolbox...
Sleep is always one that needs to be in there – good quality sleep. It’s one of the cornerstones of recovery and health in general. We talk about “healthy, fit, fast” and this toolbox that we want to build is really part of supporting a health piece underlying pillar to build on “healthy, fit fast”. So, sleep has to be in there, it has to be really dialed in for you to be able to operate optimally.
Really looking after your day-to-day nutrition and hydration. To your point, you can’t just sit on the couch eating chips all day and then expect to execute a half-decent Ironman or whatever it might be. So, taking a bit of time to understand how you respond best to nutrition is really important as well.
We’ve got MitoQ in there which, for me, is definitely in the toolbox along with a few other supplements as well. I do recommend that people take a full-spectrum multi, vitamin D is another one. So, there are a few supplements that people should definitely consider.
4. Know how to manage stress
A really big one for me is managing stress. Like most people that get into endurance sports, the pros are the minorities. So we’re talking about guys and girls who’ve got jobs and families and they go to work – so there’s a lot of lifestyle stress. So, really getting an understanding of how to best manage stress as best as you can – be in training, physical, mental, etc. - having your finger on the pulse while using something like heart rate variability to understand how you respond to stressors is really important.
You definitely don’t need to be an elite athlete to do something like heart rate variability because there’s real benefit just from a general health and wellbeing perspective as well.
5. Get some sun
I would add my favorite thing in the world: sunlight. Morning sunlight. It’s free. You only need five minutes of it. Getting up and getting your retina to see that sunlight activates your mitochondria, activates your cells, resets your circadian rhythm for the day, you’ll have better sleep patterns, it will stimulate a whole set of neurobiological functions within your brain – it just helps to get everything going for the day. So, first thing when you rise is sunlight. Just five minutes – that's all it takes.
6. Get outdoors and disconnect from technology
Technology is great for athletes these days – you know, we can spend hours indoors training on a treadmill or whatever – but I do encourage my guys to get outside. I think it’s really important to get out and disconnect a bit from technology to allow the brain to have a bit of a rest as well. For me, getting outside is one of the best ways to do that.
I could put in a whole lot more – but we want to try and keep things relatively simple. There are all sorts of conversations that you need to have with athletes around goal setting, communication and all of these types of things which really do make up the day-to-day toolbox we delve into to make sure you’re operating at your best.
We’ve got a pretty simple checklist that people can use. Tick off most of those and you’re a lot of the way there to building that toolbox.
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