The sports nutrition and supplements market is forecast to enjoy buoyant growth of 7% to reach $11.4 billion by 2025.1 Fuelled by interest from a deeper than ever pool of potential consumers and with innovative backed-by-science ingredients now coming to the fore, this is an exciting time for the category
No longer just the preserve of elite athletes and bodybuilders, nutritional supplements are attracting people from across the entire fitness spectrum.
The most in-demand products are those that are able to support performance and muscle power during exercise or sport, as well as recovery afterwards. Consumers are also looking to boost their energy levels before, during and after exercise. Beyond all this, they also want products that are natural, safe and supported by scientific proof of efficacy.
This is a tall order. But one that Japanese nutritional ingredient supplier Kaneka has been studying closely. As the world’s pioneer in the production of natural coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10), the company is now leading the way with a new generation of sports nutrition products that are centred around one key ingredient: ubiquinol.
Ubiquinol is the reduced and more bioavailable form of CoQ10, but it is a relative newcomer to the sports nutrition market because of its inherent instability.
The nutrient reacts very quickly with oxygen when exposed to air and turns back into CoQ10. However, having developed a proprietary method of extraction based on natural yeast fermentation, Kaneka now holds the patent for the world’s first stable, bioidentical ubiquinol, Kaneka Ubiquinol.
Kaneka Ubiquinol is already being successfully used in a variety of nutritional supplements favoured by “best agers” looking to maintain and improve their health, energy and fitness.
The potential benefits of ubiquinol to the sportsperson — whether amateur or elite — are many. Ubiquinol is essential for energy production. In fact, it plays a key role in mitochondrial bioenergetics and is responsible for generating more than 95% of the body’s energy.
Ubiquinol is also the only lipid-soluble antioxidant produced naturally in the body, and it not only protects the mitochondria, but also various lipid membranes from free radical damage. The body does produce the vitamin-like substance itself, although our capacity to do so diminishes with age. Blood plasma levels are also reduced by illness, unhealthy lifestyles and strenuous activity.
Ubiquinol is naturally present in certain foods — most notably in organ meat and some oily fish — but the amounts consumed from the average diet are not enough to compensate for what is expended during physical activity.
In Belgium, for instance, the average daily ubiquinol intake is just 3.5 mg.2 However, in his book about metabolic tuning in sports with the help of micronutrients, Uwe Gröber recommends daily supplementation of 60–100 mg a day for amateur sportspeople (or 200 mg a day if greater performance is required) and 100–300 mg a day for professional or intensive athletes (up to 500 mg if required).3
As a bioidentical, natural product, Kaneka Ubiquinol is classified as “non-doping” and, as such, is already popular with professional athletes. There is anecdotal as well as scientifically proven evidence of the nutrient’s effects across many fields, from endurance running and football to swimming and weightlifting.
For instance, Japanese opinion leader and chairman of the scientific committee of the Japan Association of Athletics Federations, Professor Masaaki Sugita, recommends boosting ubiquinol levels with a 300 mg daily supplement for 7 days before and 5 days after endurance activities such as marathons and triathlons.4
Numerous athletes have already followed this “ubiquinol loading” advice and noticed the benefits. Sports physician Dr Dominik Dörr, who supervised the German Olympic weightlifting team in 2016, has seen positive results with ubiquinol supplementation too: “With several athletes, we have documented good results and progress with biomechanical measurements. The number of stress-related injuries has dropped significantly.”
Australian middle distance runner Eloise Wellings relies on ubiquinol to reduce muscle inflammation and maintain energy levels after training, whereas Polish mountain runner Andrzej Dlugosz regards an adequate intake of ubiquinol as very important: “Overall, I feel less exhausted after a workout and ubiquinol ensures that training-related muscle tissue micro-injuries heal faster.”
In a clinical setting, ubiquinol has been well tested and demonstrated many positive results. In 2014, Sarmiento et al. showed the nutrient’s dual action in protection/recovery and cell-energy/endurance.5
In a placebo-controlled study conducted among 100 fire fighters, they proved that ubiquinol significantly reduces inflammation and helps to maintain the integrity of red blood cells, thus supporting the transport of oxygen to muscle tissues.
In 2015, Navas et al. performed a study with the Athletic Bilbao football team and found that ubiquinol reduces muscle damage and thus speeds up recovery.6 Two years before this, Alf et al. showed in their study with 100 German Olympic athletes that ubiquinol significantly enhances physical performance.7
Kaneka’s expertise in this field means it is uniquely positioned to harness the powers of ubiquinol to other ingredients, including its Novel Food-approved liquorice root extract Glavonoid.
This particular nutrient is especially promising for sports applications as its unique dual action supports muscle building and activates fat metabolism. The company has also developed ways of delivering ubiquinol in a variety of formats, from powders to gels.
Kaneka’s five new Sports Prototypes are examples of final products that are already available in the same or similar formats outside of the EU. Processed in different and stable application forms, they illustrate just some of the ways in which Kaneka Ubiquinol can be utilised for better sporting performance.
Ubiquinol All Day Energy is a daily use supplement containing 100 mg of ubiquinol. The soft vegicaps supply the body with a firm foundation that ensures an adequate daily supply of ubiquinol for all round energy.
Repeated studies among professional sportspeople show that the higher the ubiquinol plasma level, the greater the performance capacity and the longer the time until fatigue. It has been proven that the first positive effects are noticeable after just 10 days of supplementation.8
For those taking part in extreme sports, such as triathletes, or people preparing for competition, Ubiquinol Flash offers extra support.
Presented in powder stick format, this prototype contains 150 mg of ubiquinol in a special stabilised form plus magnesium and vitamins, and can be taken without water during training for a quick boost as well as to promote recovery afterwards.
It has been shown that even a single 40-minute bout of intense physical exercise diminishes the amount of ubiquinol in the blood significantly. Ubiquinol Flash has been developed to boost ubiquinol plasma levels so that peak levels are achieved just one hour after supplementation, thus promoting a rapid return to top performance.
Magnesium is important for muscle contraction and relaxation, and a deficit may result in muscle cramps or weakness. A lack of magnesium may also impair the mitochondria’s ability to make energy.
Prolonged periods of exercise also reduce the body’s immunity, which is why sore throats and cold-like symptoms are more common among athletes than in the general population. To strengthen the body’s defence mechanisms, Ubiquinol Immunity combines 30 mg of ubiquinol with multivitamins (A, B1, B6, B12, C, D3 and folic acid).
Presented as a GelPell, a hard gelatin capsule filled with gelatin beadlets, this low excipient format also has the benefit of being clean label.
Besides speedy recovery and immune defence, the building of muscle mass is often of paramount importance to those taking part in sport. Targeting this, Ubiquinol Muscle soft gelatin capsules combine 60 mg of ubiquinol with 60 mg of Glavonoid.
Muscle protein breakdown and synthesis is a dynamic equilibrium. Strength training is essential, but it triggers inflammatory processes inside the muscle fibres that lead to pain and an imbalance in amino acids levels.9
It has been shown that antioxidants in combination with protein ameliorate these symptoms, whereas licorice flavonoids are able to suppress inflammatory mechanisms.10 Glavonoid contains licorice flavonoids and plays an important role in reducing inflammation and keeping muscle tissue healthy.
A scientific study has also confirmed that in combination with exercise, Glavonoid can contribute to the maintenance of skeletal muscle mass and even increase it.11
Designed to be taken after training, Ubiquinol Repair improves recovery and creates new energy. The gel, consisting of 100 mg of high-purity ubiquinol, 500 mg of carnitine, 1000 mg of branched chain amino acids (leucine, isoleucine and valine) plus vitamins, can also be taken pre-workout for an extra boost.
This format is quickly and easily absorbed by the body, has excellent bioavailability and is ideal for those looking for fast effects.
These prototypes are exciting, but they are just the beginning. “Backed by sound expertise, proof of safety and scientific evidence of efficacy, they give a taste of the potential of ubiquinol to become the next big thing in sports nutrition,” says Filip Van Hulle, Senior Manager at Kaneka’s Quality of Life Division. “Sportspeople across the board will soon wonder how they succeeded without it.”