The aerobic energy system is a low power output energy system that offers a sustainable flow of energy over longer durations that its anaerobic brothers. As we discussed in the last blog post, the aerobic energy system starts to take over as the dominant Adenosine Triphosphate (ATP) producer as soon as any physical activity begins to take longer than 60seconds, regardless of intensity. Athletes also become more and more aerobic dominant with each successive interval in interval training or interval based sports. The aerobic energy system is ALWAYS contributing to energy production at ALL levels. You are aerobic right now, while you are sitting and reading this blog post your body is using oxygen to produce energy (ATP). The aerobic energy system provides the ATP necessary to support life 24/7/365 thought your entire life.
The aerobic energy metabolism requires the presence of oxygen and glycogen (carbohydrates) or fatty acids. Although the aerobic system is the least powerful of the three, it can function all day literally and can alternate between stored fat, carbohydrate and protein to produce energy (ATP). The higher and athletes level of aerobic fitness the faster and more effectively they will recover between sets of heavy lifts or sprint intervals because the aerobic energy system drives the recovery of the anaerobic energy pathways.
When training the aerobic energy system, the primary goal is to increase blood flow and therefore the rate at which oxygen can be delivered, and CO2 extracted. The aerobic adaptation is achieved by:
- Delivering more blood to the muscles and tissues by increasing the functional capacity of the heart (hypertrophy, elasticity, contractibility, etc…). The heart is a muscle that can be trained to become more efficient and effective
- Deliver more blood and oxygen throughout the body by increasing the vascular networks (blood vessels and capillaries)
- Increasing the function and number of mitochondria, the cell power plants that create ATP. The health and volume of your mitochondria are essential to life and longevity.
- Developing proper breathing techniques, during exercise, the body’s demand for oxygen increases and our breathing volume must also rise. Respiratory muscles must contract more forcefully and more rapidly to keep pace with the body’s substantial increase in metabolism.