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Understanding the Metabolic Processes might seem an awfully dry subject and as you read you might even be asking….Why is it important to understand Metabolism and its processes?  Metabolism is the way in which our bodies make energy… it is the Powerhouse of our bodies and any errors in this system can result in health problems…As a result, understanding our Metabolism is valuable for maintaining general health and understanding how our bodies convert the foods we eat into energy.

Anaerobic and Aerobic metabolic processes follow science: Basically, the body needs to break down the sugar that is present in your body, convert it to glycogen so that your body can use the glycogen as a form or fuel/energy.

Anaerobic metabolism does not use oxygen for this process but Aerobic Metabolism does and each of these processes has different effects on the body.

To be explained simply, aerobic and anaerobic processes are Kind of like a car burning fuel on a highway…if you rev the engine and go at high speeds you will burn more fuel (anaerobic) but if you slow down you will get better mileage as your fuel will last longer (Aerobic)…same concept applies to our bodies metabolic process.
What is aerobic respiration/metabolism and why is it important to some forms of training?

Aerobic respiration is simply a metabolic process that happens when the body uses oxygen to breakdown sugar (glycogen), which in turn is used as energy/fuel for the body.

The waste products of “aerobic metabolism or respiration” are C02 and H20 and the body very easily discards this every time you breathe. In other words every time you take a breath in, your body uses all the oxygen it needs to power your muscles and when you exhale your body is discarding what it doesn’t need.

How do you know if you are keeping yourself in an aerobic phase for the activity you are performing?

The easiest way to test whether you’re exercising aerobically is to try to speak to someone (or yourself if alone) out loud. If you can get out a short paragraph without too much trouble you’re running aerobically. If you can only get out one sentence before you start gasping for breath, you’re running too hard and you need to slow down as you have now entered the anaerobic phase which is not beneficial for endurance activity as your body will use all its energy stores before completion of the activity.

What is anaerobic training ?

Anaerobic respiration or the anaerobic metabolic process occurs when there is NOT enough oxygen present in the muscles to create the energy that your body needs for a certain activity. This usually happens when you start exercising harder than your body is able to sustain, like a sudden bursts of energy for sprints, explosive jumping (jump squats) or my favourite, High intensity interval training.

When you exercise anaerobically, the muscles begin to break down sugar (glycogen), but instead of producing just CO2 and water (sweat), they also produce excessive amounts of lactate and lactate is difficult to convert back in to energy (ATP – Adenosine Triphosphate –energy currency of our body).

Unfortunately, lactate is more difficult to reconvert back into energy and has a downside compared to exhaling out water and CO2. Without the oxygen present, your body can’t clean up the extra hydrogen ion created by lactate and this is what causes that burning feeling in your muscles.

Now I’m going to explain this in a super easy way which is how I learn best. When I’m training someone and they are doing lets say, sprints or jump squats, I ask them to imagine a blood thirsty Pit bull (not to pick on pit bulls) trying to take a gash out of their hamstring – Train like that. Or as a sign I recently read said, “Run or jump or “go hard” like you stole something.”That is what it means to exercise anaerobically. You can’t do it for long. Why? Because training anaerobically means training without oxygen. 

Anaerobic exercise is defined as short duration, high intensity exercise lasting anywhere from merely seconds up to around two minutes. After two minutes, the body’s aerobic system kicks in. Examples of anaerobic exercise are ones that use fast twitch muscle fibers such as jumping and sprinting. By using and developing those fibers we enhance that musculature.

What Anaerobic Training Does

The anaerobic effect happens in the body when we exert ourselves at 84% of our max heart rate and above. When we train in this level of intensity for short bursts of energy, we create what is called EPOC, or excess post-exercise oxygen consumption. In essence, EPOC is an after burn effect of calories burning at rest for up to 38 hours post exercise.1 This type of training can be incorporated into both our cardiovascular exercise as well as our strength routines. Anaerobic training is not efficient for long distance runs or activity requiring endurance, as your energy will be depleted long before the activity is completed.

So what kind of training is best? 

There have been so many studies showing that anaerobic activities are best for weigh loss so I ask, why isn’t this kind of exercise being used by more trainers. I’m thinking…. because anaerobic training is incredibly hard. This is not, typically, what people want to hear so a lot of personal trainers just don’t do it with their clients. Instead, programs are developed to be fun and “engaging” and anaerobic programs aren’t like that…they aren’t entirely fun and they take a lot of effort but they are effective and produce results.

When doing any kind of anaerobic training, it is critical to be safe. This means proper warm ups, proper maintenance (deep tissue massage, proper stretching and the use of heat and ice)

If you’re looking to become more athletic or toned, and I cannot frankly imagine someone who deep down wouldn’t want both, then in my opinion, go anaerobic and your body will thank you.

However, if your goals are long endurance activities, then Aerobic is definitely the process that will conserve energy and allow you to complete the activities without hitting a wall or burning out.

Aerobic and Anaerobic Metabolic processes – A conclusion

Both Metabolic Processes (aerobic and anaerobic) have advantages in different situations.  Aerobic metabolism (respiration)  is far more energy-efficient than anaerobic respiration in that it uses oxygen in the production of energy and is critical in activities requiring endurance. While Anaerobic metabolism produces less energy (ATP), it doesn’t use oxygen so it is definitely more efficient in habitats lacking in oxygen and in fitness activities requiring quick, fast bursts of energy such as sprinting and high intensity interval training. see the following video for a basic comparison between the two metabolic processes.

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pinit fg en rect red 28 - Understanding Metabolic Processes..A beginners guide