ATP is also known as the energy carrier and that’s what it does, it essentially tells a cell how much energy to release and when to do it. Adenosine triphosphate (ATP) is essentially the biochemical way to store and use energy which is why it is not just important but essential for the human body for it to function seamlessly. Given how important it is, your body has three systems that help produce this energy carrier so that your cells can better store and regulate your energy.
Granted that the official description for ATP may sound a tad confusing and that’s an understatement but here is a brief summary which should enable you to get a good idea of what ATP is all about.
- ATP stands for Adenine Nucleotide which is chemically bound to three phosphates. The second and third phosphate bounds often store lots of energy which can be used to power chemical reactions in the human body.
- So when a cell needs energy, it disrupts this bond to form adenosine diphosphate (ADP) and along with it, a free phosphate molecule. And in some instances, the second phosphate group can also be disrupted to form adenosine monophosphate (AMP). For example, ATP is required for biochemical reactions, so when you flex your muscles or contract them, your body manufactures and releases ATP.
- And when your cell has excessive energy, it forms ATP from ADP and phosphate to store this excess energy which can later be reutilized.
ATP is essentially manufactured by three different biochemical systems in your muscle and they are –
- Phosphagen system
- Glycogen-lactic acid system
- Aerobic respiration
Let’s take a closer look at each one,
Phosphagen system: A muscle cell often has a certain amount of ATP floating inside it but it does not amount to much and can at most, provide about three seconds of energy. This is where the phosphagen system comes into play; in order to replenish the ATP levels in the body, the muscle contains a specific phosphate compound called creatine phosphate. This phosphate is removed from creatine with the help of an enzyme called creatine kinase, which then immediately transfers the same to ADP to help form ATP.
The cell then turns ATP back into ADP, and the phosphagen rapidly turns the ADP back into ATP. This process takes place instantly and in this way, your muscles provide you with the essential ATP that you require.
Glycogen lactic acid system: Your muscles also contain complex carbohydrates in the form of Glycogen. Glycogen is essentially a chain of glucose molecules where a cell splits up glycogen into glucose. The cell then uses anaerobic metabolism to help convert the glucose into essential ATP along with lactic compound which is released as a byproduct of this transformation. About 12 or so biochemical processes take place to make ATP in this way and as a result, this method is a tad slower than the phosphagen system. The other downside is that your muscles cannot operate indefinitely on this system due to the presence of lactic acid. Lactic acid can cause you to experience both fatigue and soreness which is why your body can depend on this system for essential energy only for short bursts of time.
Aerobic respiration: Aerobic respiration is the process by which your body essentially converts your fat and produces energy as a result. You would need to undertake a short exercise and the oxygen should help to break down the glucose completely into carbon dioxide and water through aerobic respiration. Remember, how you often panted after a heavy workout? That’s aerobic respiration at work; moving on, aerobic respiration first uses carbohydrates, then fat and after that, proteins. Aerobic respiration often breaks down proteins into amino acids which can be used to make ATP.
This process contains more chemical processes than either of the two listed above, and as a result, aerobic respiration takes longer to produce ATP. But it is also one of the few that can help provide ATP for several hours which is a lot more than either the phosphagen and the Glycogen lactic acid system combined.
These are some of the methods by which your body can manufacture essential ATP which is required by your body to function seamlessly. For example, most runners often produce ATP through the first two processes and as they continue pumping their muscles, they soon derive their energy by aerobic respiration which is why most runners often gulp oxygen as they ran so as to get their body to produce more ATP.