Sometimes you will hear elite coaches talk about metabolic rate, mitochondria, and the acronym ATP. This is because those coaches are talking about how the body utilizes energy, and how it relates to high levels of physical activity. We all might remember that mitochondria are considered the power plants of the human cell. They churn out energy all the time. The mnemonic, “mighty mouse, the powerhouse” may also strike your memory. That fancy acronym, ATP, is made in the mitochondria. This is actually the chemical that breaks down in the muscle tissue that helps to create energy. Its scientific name is actually ‘adenosine triphosphate.’ Using energy from digested nutrients from food, the mitochondria makes lots of this for the body to use.
This is actually nearing the end of the physical activity process. Adenosine triphosphate is a specific type of molecule that the body uses for muscle contraction. Lactic acid is one of the by-products of using ATP, which builds up in the muscle fiber and only acts as a disruptor to muscle function, increasing the sensation of pain in addition to muscle soreness. Functional support for the metabolic process is important and complex. The body needs many different kinds of nutrients to sustain muscle contractions. Even insulin plays an important part in the delivery of glucose to the muscle tissue. B vitamins are collaborators in the energy making process. They assist in the transformation process of glucose to ATP. Vitamin B12 also assists in the creation of red blood cells, whose iron helps deliver oxygen to the entire body. Think of the B Vitamin as a helper that carries things to the cells to make energy.
Additionally, Ribose, CoQ10, and NADH all contribute to the production of ATP. Ribose is a naturally occurring sugar made in the body itself and is a critical component of ATP. CoQ10 is an important fat-soluble antioxidant that aids in the conversion of glucose into energy. As glucose is utilized within the mitochondria, this facilitates movement of electrons into other molecules and continually transports energy, thus eventually creating ATP. CoQ10 is necessary for most ATP production. NADH (nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide + hydrogen) is a naturally occurring chemical in our body that plays a major role in generating energy. It is responsible for carrying electrons into the chain of mitochondria, which then produces ATP.
Electrolytes are minerals that carry a particular electrical charge. They are important in the nerve systems that operate the contraction of muscles as an almost messaging system. The electrical energy charge that each electrolyte uses is a signal that reaches a neurotransmitter and tells the muscle to contract. Pretend that electrolytes are the text messages and phone calls of the body telling it to do something. Caffeine is a booster to this system. Often, athletes will take in some form of caffeine. Whether it is a pill, a gel, or a coffee, the route of exposure will dictate how fast the caffeine enters the bloodstream. One can often find an increased heart rate because more oxygen is being pumped through the body, increasing energy production and reducing the overall sensation of fatigue. Be aware, though, that too much caffeine can put a real strain on the heart, and too much caffeine can result in damage to the heart.
While the process is much more complicated, electrolytes, B vitamins, and caffeine all have an impact in it the production of energy. ATP is the desired end result for all food so that our muscles can move, but there are a lot of other nutrients, chemicals, and substances that play an important part in our everyday energy. Remember to eat healthy, getting plenty of fats, because there are even more chemicals out there that can act as disruptors!