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Using Energy, Burning Fat Ė Pt. 2, Anaerobic Energy Systems

Of the three energy pathways in the body, one of them, the aerobic system uses oxygen to resynthesize ATP. The other two, the phosphagen system and the anaerobic glycolytic system, do not use oxygen. When you perform short, intense activities, the aerobic system is too slow to produce ATP; therefore, the body uses the two anaerobic systems to do so.

Phosphagen (ATP-PC) System
This system is what the body uses for short bursts of energy. Think in terms of sprinting, jumping, weight-lifting, throwing, etc, activities that require 15-20 second bursts. The phosphagen system is the primary energy source for these high-intensity exercises, because it produces energy very quickly. Itís actually rather simple. When the high-energy bond between the two parts of phosphocreatine (CP) is broken down, it releases enough energy to resynthesize the ATP which in turn creates more energy for the cell to do its work.

There is a limited amount of CP in the cells. Itís only good for about 15-20 seconds, about as long as it takes to run a 200 meter sprint. Therefore, you have another anaerobic system that can kick in to resynthesize ATP quickly.

Anaerobic Glycolytic (Lactic Acid) System
Instead of CP, this system uses glucose which the body gets from carbohydrates. The glucose comes from either of two sources: blood glucose or carbs stored as glycogen in the muscles. Through glycolysis (a series of nine or more reactions), the glucose or glycogen is broken down and forms pyruvic acid. If the intensity level is high that the body cannot supply enough oxygen, the pyruvic acid is transformed into lactic acid.

The Lactic Acid System is limited by the buildup of lactic acid evidenced by fatigue, being out of breath, burning sensation in muscles. The body gets too acidic to operate. The amount of time that this system can operate is determined by a bodyís ability to neutralize the lactic acid. In an untrained person, thatís about a minute. In an athlete, it can be 2-3 minutes for activities such as 400-800 meter running, 100-200 meter swimming, 1000-2000 meter cycling; essentially, any intense activity lasting up to 3 minutes.

To Summarize
The energy the body needs comes from the breakdown of ATP which produces ADP. The ADP needs to be resynthesized into ATP. The energy for the resynthesis comes from three energy systems: aerobic, ATP-PC, and Lactic Acid. Most of the time, the body gets its energy from the aerobic system. For very short, high intensity exercise, the body uses the ATP-PC system in which phosphocreatine (CP) is broken down to produce the energy to resynthesize the ATP. When the CP is used up after about 15-20 seconds, the body turns to the Lactic Acid system in which glucose and glycogen are broken down into pyruvic acid which is transformed into lactic acid when enough oxygen is not present. The breakdown of the glycogen and glucose produce the energy for the resynthesis of the ATP.

Using Energy, Burning Fat
Part 1: The Aerobic and Anaerobic States
Part 2: Anaerobic Energy Systems
Part 3: Aerobic Energy System

I'm not a doctor or trainer. I'm just another person like you who is trying to learn about the body and how it works in relation to health and exercise. The information from this blog entry comes from Personal Fitness Training: Theory & Practice. The information here is my understanding of what I read. As with anything related to health, be sure that you check with your physician or certified trainer to make sure it is accurate and appropriate for you.


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