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Human Energy Systems

By June 30, 2009 September 7th, 2019 No Comments

Over the next few blogs we will be having a look at energy systems, which are fundamental to how we work, move, generate and use energy. It also has a direct bearing on how we burn fat, get fitter and become more efficient, all pertinent questions if you are a personal trainer or someone who wants to be fitter and/or thinner.

The human body, although massively complex and still not fully understood is in essence a machine. Our bodies, like any other machine, require energy to function; we need it to create locomotion or movement, produce force against objects, generate heat and to grow or repair tissue. This energy comes from one place, a substance called adensonine triphosphate or ATP. The food we eat and certain drinks we drink is converted into ATP, and the more aerobic exercise we do the more efficient and faster we become at breaking down our food nutritients. During activity we use up this very limited store of ATP, and we then have 3 different energy systems that regenerate it for use in our cells. These energy systens are

  • The Creatine Phosphate System (anaerobic)
  • The Lactate System (anerobic)
  • The Aerobic or Oxygen System (oxidative)

It is important to realise that these systems work together at all times (there is not a point at which we switch from one to another), but one system is dominant deoending on the level of effort required physically. The systems trade off endurance for power, so one will be good at powerful movements but has a very limited endurance, the other will be good at doing something for a long time but only sat a lower level of exertion. A good example of these energy systems are the following sports:

  • A golf swing or shot putt would use predominantly the CP system
  • Squash or tenis would use predominantly the Lactate system
  • Long distance running would use predominantly the aerobic or oxygen system

This is easier to think about if you imagine us as a clever hybrid car. Instead of 2 energy systems (petrol and electricity) we have three, one for slower longer lasting exertion, the next one for middle effort but not lasting so long, the last one is like rocket fuel but lasts for a very limited period of time.

In the next blog we will look at the rocket fuel systen, the creatine phosphate system.

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