By Andrea Bartels CNP NNCP RNT
16 Jul 2019
To perform a physical challenge is one thing; to recover from it quickly so that you have the energy and ability to repeat the exercise again is another. No matter if you’re a hockey player, tennis player, sprinter, long-distance runner, swimmer, cyclist or dancer, somewhere along the way you have probably experienced the frustration of under-performing. Our results depend on a complex formula of inputs, including adequate stimulation, rest, nutrition and mental focus, but the balance is different for each individual. Yet, one thing remains the same: we all need ENERGY for our muscles to perform the work we aim to complete, and the ability to RECOVER from the physical stress on our bodies. Let’s look at how strenuous exercise increases our demands for two specific nutrients: co-enzyme Q10 and NADH.
Too much, or too little of a good thing?
If you’re looking to improve your exercise tolerance, endurance, stamina or speed, you need to be well-nourished. Exercise is supposed to be good for our health, but did you know that low antioxidant-status combined with exercise can actually accelerate aging process?
The reason for this unsettling fact is that aerobic exercise is oxidative; that is, it uses up oxygen at a rapid rate. The more oxygen our bodies consume during exertion, the more free radicals and reactive oxygen species (ROS) are generated---unstable molecules capable of cellular damage.(1) We feel the effects of this when we develop muscle fatigue, muscle pain and general fatigue after exercise. (2)
Wait! Before you toss your running shoes into the garbage truck: realize that we can buffer this process by supporting our bodies with adequate amounts of antioxidants---substances that actually neutralize those damaging free radicals.
There are many antioxidants found in our foods. For example, vitamins C is found in most raw fruits and vegetables, vitamin E in oily foods like nuts and avocados, carotenoids from yellow, orange, red and green produce, and proanthocyanins in blueberries, pomegranates and blue grapes. Even some of society’s favourite beverages---red wine, green tea, hot cocoa---contain some powerful antioxidants. However, antioxidants are so important to us that our bodies actually make some of their own.
One of the body’s multi-talented self-made nutrients is co-enzyme Q10. It’s so important to our heart, muscles and liver that our bodies make their own supply. Various factors increase our needs for the nutrient, including aging, cholesterol-lowering medications and strenuous/prolonged exercise. That’s why it’s smart to supplement this nutrient if any of these factors are part of your life.
Here’s one example of how ubiquinol—the most metabolically useful form of co-enzyme Q10—may benefit athletic performance. In a double-blind, placebo-controlled study of 100 German male and female elite athletes, those who took 300 milligrams of ubiquinol daily had a significantly higher peak power output than those taking the placebo. Smaller studies have shown similar results for a variety of athletic activities. (3)
Energize Your Muscles
Besides an increased need for free radical production, an athlete’s got higher-than-average energy requirements. While ubiquinol does support energy production, NADH is the nutrient most directly involved in cellular energy production. It`s particularly significant to the brain, heart and muscles—which use the majority of our energy. Although we can make this nutrient from dietary niacin, it doesn’t necessarily convert efficiently to its metabolically active form (NADH). That’s why NADH supplementation may be helpful to those wishing to increase their energy levels.
You may be wondering what exactly NADH does. It is not a stimulant or drug; in fact, it is a very safe supplement approved by the International Olympic Committee. Studies performed by Dr. G.D. Birkmayer and team have shown some impressive results with 20 milligrams of daily NADH supplementation in athletes. For one, participants found lactic acid-related muscle fatigue after prolonged activity. This means that athletes can perform longer, and the recovery period between training sessions can be shorter, with the same rejuvenating results obtained from a longer rest period. Second, participants found 7% more energy, which is likely due to the fact that NADH triggers ATP production---the basic energy source of all cells. (4)
A Powerful Combination
A positive study on Chronic Fatigue Syndrome patients suggests that a supplementary combination of ubiquinol and NADH could also have a beneficial effect on physical and mental energy in athletes. In an 8-week double-blind study of eighty CFS patients, maximum heart rate became lower and perceived energy higher in the group taking the combo compared to the placebo. (5) While the two groups are admittedly very different in health status we know that healthy individuals generally absorb, utilize and benefit from nutrients better than ill ones, suggesting even better results for healthy people.
Remember, strong athletic performance needs the support of extra antioxidants and raw energy sources. Making supplementation of NADH and ubiquinol a priority could make the difference between a win and a loss.
Andrea Bartels is a Registered Nutritional Therapist with a clinical practice in Ottawa area. She is an open-water long-distance swimming enthusiast.
1. Davies K.J, Quintanilha A.T, Brooks G.A, Packer L. Free radicals and tissue damage produced by exercise. Biochemical and Biophysical Research Communications. 1982;107:1198–205.
2. Aguiló A, Tauler P, Sureda A, Cases N, Tur J, Pons A. Antioxidant diet supplementation enhances aerobic performance in amateur sportsmen. Journal of Sports Sciences. 2007;25:1203–10.
3. Alf D1, Schmidt ME2, Siebrecht SC3. Ubiquinol supplementation enhances peak power production in trained athletes: a double-blind, placebo controlled study. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2013 Apr 29;10:24. doi: 10.1186/1550-2783-10-24.
4. Birkmayer GD. Stabilized NADH improves the physical and mental performance in highly conditioned athletes. Proceedings from the First International Conference on the Mechanism of Action of Nutraceuticals, Dubrovnik, Croatia, October 2001.
5. Jesus Castro-Marrero et al. Effect of coenzyme Q10 plus nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide supplementation on maximum heart rate after exercise testing in chronic fatigue syndrome – A randomized, controlled, double-blind trial. Clinical Nutrition 35:4;Aug.2016, 826-834.
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