Glossary | Linus Pauling Institute | Oregon State University
The aerobic system—which includes the Krebs cycle (also called the citric acid cycle or TCA cycle) and the electron transport chain—uses blood glucose, glycogen and fat as fuels to resynthesize ATP in the mitochondria of muscle cells (see the sidebar “Energy System Characteristics”). Given its location, the aerobic system is also called mitochondrial respiration. When using carbohydrate, glucose and glycogen are first metabolized through glycolysis, with the resulting pyruvate used to form acetyl-CoA, which enters the Krebs cycle. The electrons produced in the Krebs cycle are then transported through the electron transport chain, where ATP and water are produced (a process called oxidative phosphorylation) (Robergs & Roberts 1997). Complete oxidation of glucose via glycolysis, the Krebs cycle and the electron transport chain produces 36 molecules of ATP for every molecule of glucose broken down (Robergs & Roberts 1997). Thus, the aerobic system produces 18 times more ATP than does anaerobic glycolysis from each glucose molecule.
Quadrennial Energy Review: Second Installment
Glycolysis is the predominant energy system used for all-out exercise lasting from 30 seconds to about 2 minutes and is the second-fastest way to resynthesize ATP. During glycolysis, carbohydrate—in the form of either blood glucose (sugar) or muscle glycogen (the stored form of glucose)—is broken down through a series of chemical reactions to form pyruvate (glycogen is first broken down into glucose through a process called glycogenolysis). For every molecule of glucose broken down to pyruvate through glycolysis, two molecules of usable ATP are produced (Brooks et al. 2000). Thus, very little energy is produced through this pathway, but the trade-off is that you get the energy quickly. Once pyruvate is formed, it has two fates: conversion to lactate or conversion to a metabolic intermediary molecule called acetyl coenzyme A (acetyl-CoA), which enters the mitochondria for oxidation and the production of more ATP (Robergs & Roberts 1997). Conversion to lactate occurs when the demand for oxygen is greater than the supply (i.e., during anaerobic exercise). Conversely, when there is enough oxygen available to meet the muscles’ needs (i.e., during aerobic exercise), pyruvate (via acetyl-CoA) enters the mitochondria and goes through aerobic metabolism.
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