We’ve all sat there in biology class, wondering how knowing about mitochondria or the process of photosynthesis will help us in the real world. After all, we were planning on becoming police officers or lawyers or teachers – and maybe we did become those things one day, but the truth is, those lectures were still important. We might not have realized it then or even now, but knowing how the world works, how our bodies work, can help us to optimize our experience in our everyday lives.
Take, for example, how our bodies produce energy. Every day we take our ability to move for granted, without considering how it is even possible that we can move. How do our bodies perform everyday tasks like picking up our children, chasing after runaway shopping carts, or climbing the stairs to our second floor apartment? Our bodies perform amazing feats every day without us even realizing it!
Of course, we can do more than just appreciate how energy works – we can also use it! Knowing how our bodies produce energy can also help us to optimize our workouts.
So, where does energy come from?
Energy is a product of the food we eat interacting with the enzymes in our bodies. When we consume carbohydrates, fats, and proteins, our body quickly works to convert them into molecules of adenosine triphosphate (ATP). Think of ATP as a usable form of energy that is then released during the metabolic process and made available to our muscle cells for movement.
And how does that knowledge help us to efficiently burn fat and improve our conditioning?
It all depends on the intensity of the exercise. Depending on the intensity, you can target specific energy pathways, which will allow you to better plan for the appropriate work and rest intervals of the exercises you wish to perform. This then will allow for the most efficient fat loss!
There are three energy pathways. Each pathway utilizes a different process to create energy, and by understanding the characteristics of the three pathways, you can then begin to plan your workouts appropriately.
The three key energy pathways are: the ATP-CP pathway, the glycolytic pathway, and the oxidative pathway.
The ATP-CP pathway is the most immediate source of ATP for muscular contraction. In the absence of oxygen, it provides your muscles with about ten seconds’ worth of energy. Thus, this pathway is best used in high intensity exercises that have a short duration. For example, when sprinting, your body uses this energy pathway to produce ATP. You’ll then want to briefly rest after performing this exercise, allowing your muscles time to effectively replenish their ATP stores before sprinting again.
The glycolytic pathway supplies energy through the partial breakdown of glucose, and like the ATP-CP pathway, does this without the use of oxygen. This pathway produces a greater amount of energy for short, intense bursts of activity. Take, for example, metabolic resistance training (MRT)! MRT is the fastest way to burn fat while building muscle. And even better, it’s easily applicable to any type of strength training, be it bodyweight, barbell or kettlebell training.
Finally, the oxydative pathway is different from the other two pathways in that it uses oxygen to make ATP. It is a slow process, as it requires the circulatory system to transport oxygen to the working muscles before any ATP can be produced. This pathway is best used for less intense exercises over long periods of time. Think running, biking, hiking, and other traditional aerobic, low-intensity activities.
As you can see, knowing how your body works, how it produces energy, can dramatically improve your workout’s efficiency and your own ability to lose weight. In this case, it’s all about working smarter, not harder!
Maybe those biology classes weren’t so useless after all!