Bioenergetics 101: Why Does it Matter?

bioenergetics Jun 17, 2022

Photo Credit: Karolina Grabowska

How do our bodies even work??

We, humans, are a carbon-based form of life. We digest food (Carbs, Fat, and Protein) which all contain carbon chains. Our body breaks the carbon bonds (via cellular respiration) to give us energy through a series of steps. 



First, the body converts food to energy (ATP) through a process called glycolysis, which breaks a 6-carbon chain (glucose) into two 3-carbon chains (pyruvate). 

Kreb's Cycle

With adequate oxygen, pyruvate goes through the Kreb’s cycle and then through oxidative phosphorylation to produce a boat load of ATP (energy).

When you sprint, pyruvate doesn’t have enough oxygen to go through the Kreb’s cycle or oxidative phosphorylation, so it has two options:

1. Chill there and hang tight waiting for some more oxygen 

2. Ferment into lactate and produce 2 ATP molecules (energy which can be used to sprint faster)

The body always chooses number 2. 


So why, then do people say producing less lactic acid is better?!

Because with training, you are able to oxidize a larger % of energy and use lactate fermentation less. Decreasing lactate production alone would limit energy production and slow you down, but training to replace lactate production with oxidative metabolism results in better performance!

This is not just semantics!

This is the basis in designing a conditioning program with an appropriate amount of aerobic base, alactic training, alactic conditioning, threshold training, etc. 

Practical Application

Football players will benefit from alactic power development and conditioning training with very short work intervals (10-50m sprints, jumps, shuttle runs, etc). 

This conditioning works because that’s the metabolic state the body is in during competition. 

Spending considerable amounts of time conditioning long intervals at lactate threshold intensity makes sense for a rower because they perform at the lactate threshold.

The goal here is to complete sport-specific training to achieve the best results!

Fun fact

Ohio State University women’s rowers were one of the first teams to use lactate steady-state testing around 2012 and went on to win 3 consecutive NCAA championships.

Science is so cool!

Support & Courses Available

Ready for more support about nutrition to help you prep for the CSCS exam? Join our Facebook Group “Strength and Conditioning Study Group” here.

Ready for even more? Our 24 module CSCS Prep Course has bioenergics completely laid out for you with even more content than what we’ve provided here, plus chapter quizzes to help you pass the NSCA exam, click the link here to check it out.


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