How Does My Body Create Energy to Sprint?
Trying to understand energy systems can be difficult, especially if you don’t have a background in science; maybe this will help you understand. There are three major energy systems (metabolic pathways) in your body: ATP-PC, Glycolytic and Aerobic. The purpose of these metabolic pathways is to provide your body with energy to move, the currency for energy within the body is known as adenosine tri-phosphate (ATP).
ATP-PC (Rocket Fuel)
Think of the ATP-PC system as your “rocket fuel”, it produces a high amount of energy (ATP) in a very short period of time however, it is quickly depleted. It is the main metabolic pathway for energy production in high-intensity, short duration events that last around 10 seconds, such as the 100 meter sprint. It is the primary contributor to energy production at the onset of exercise.
Glycolytic (Modern Day Car)
The glycolytic (anaerobic glycolysis) system produces ATP through the breakdown of glucose (sugar in your blood stream) and glycogen (sugar stored in muscles). Like a car’s gas tank, our bodies have a limit as to how much fuel (in this case sugar) we can store at one time. Furthermore, cars create pollution when they use gas for energy. When anaerobic glycolysis is used to create energy it also creates “pollution” in our bodies in the form of lactate and hydrogen ions, which contribute to fatigue and the feeling of “burning” muscles. Anaerobic glycolysis is the primary contributor to energy (ATP) production in high intensity events lasting from 10 seconds up until 2 minutes, like a 200 or 400 meter sprint.
Aerobic (Extension Cord)
Aerobic breakdown of lipids (fats) has the highest potential to create ATP within the body. The downside to aerobic metabolism is that it’s slow and predominantly supplies energy for events lasting much greater than 2 minutes. Thus it’s not nearly as important for sprinters as are ATP-PCr and Anaerobic Glycolysis. It’s contribution to ATP production increases exponentially as exercise duration increases and virtually will continue forever. Think of it as an extension cord, it takes while to plug in and set up but after that, endless energy is provided.
All in all, the energy used by our bodies comes from a contribution of the three different metabolic pathways, as seen below: