Adenosine triphosphate (ATP)


Adenosine triphosphate (ATP) is an energy-yielding molecule found in every living cell.


Adenosine triphosphate (ATP) usage

Every work and every movement of your body requires energy.


The body uses ATP for the following processes, among others:


  • Muscle contraction
  • Production of DNA
  • Signal transmission through nerves


Muscle contraction is significant in training, as is signal transmission through nerves.


The ATP molecule consists of carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, and three phosphorus atoms, which form what are known as phosphates.


The energy is stored in the molecule’s chemical bonds and is released when a bond is broken and adenosine diphosphate (ADP) is formed.


The muscle cell uses ATP to generate tension.


40% of the stored energy is converted into mechanical energy (muscle tension, strength, movement, physical work), while 60% of the energy is lost in heat.


That’s why you get warm when you do sports.


Interestingly, our muscles are more efficient than most petrol engines.


When you contract a muscle, ATP is broken down in all muscle cells involved:


ATP = ADP + P + energy for muscle contraction (+ heat)



Adenosine triphosphate production

ATP – Adenosine triphosphate production

ATP is the only source of energy that the muscle can use to build tension.


You absorb the energy for the ATP molecule from your daily food, which your body either burns directly or stores in the fat depots and glycogen stores for later.


However, the muscle can use neither fats nor carbohydrates directly as energy suppliers.


Fats and carbohydrates always have to be broken down first to produce ATP.


If there is enough oxygen, it can.


  • 1 Fat molecule can be converted into about 129 ATP molecules in the muscle cell’s mitochondria.
  • 1 Glucose molecule (carbohydrate) can be converted into 38 ATP molecules.


ATP that has already been used up and is now in the form of ADP can – if there is enough creatine phosphate (CP) – be quickly regenerated back into ATP:


ADP + CP → ATP + C


Creatine phosphate is an energy-dense molecule stored in small amounts in muscle. 


The creatine stores in the muscles can be optimally filled by taking creatine.


When the creatine stores are full, the energy reserves in the muscle are sufficient for about 3-9 seconds of maximum muscle contraction.


In addition, if you keep the muscle under tension for longer, fats and carbohydrates are broken down to build more ATP molecules:


ADP + P + Energy → ATP


If there is enough oxygen (aerobic metabolism), the muscle cell breaks down fat and sugar molecules in the mitochondria.


If there is a lack of oxygen (anaerobic metabolism), the muscle can only convert sugar into ATP. 


This produces lactate and only 2 ATP molecules per molecule of glucose.


Adenosine triphosphate (ATP) metabolism overview

Adenosine triphosphate (ATP) metabolism overview

The following table illustrates the essential metabolic processes for ATP supply.

ATP production with:AdvantagesDisadvantages
Creatine phosphate• very fast energy supply• only lasts for 10-20 seconds
Glycogen (anaerobic)• no oxygen needed
• immediately runs at full speed
• muscle acidified by lactate
• very inefficient (only 2 ATP)
Glycogen and fat (aerobic)• no lactate formation
• very energy efficient (38-129 ATP)
• relatively slow energy supply (1-2 minutes)

The aerobic and anaerobic supply of energy always takes place SIMULTANEOUSLY, only in different proportions depending on the intensity of the exertion.


During maximum physical exertion, your body provides ATP in the following order:


  • The ATP and CP stores are emptied in the first 3-9 seconds. During this period you can develop the most strength.
  • At the same time, the cell begins to convert sugar into ATP anaerobically. This process reaches its maximum after about 40-60 seconds.
  • The aerobic generation of energy (aerobic breakdown of glycogen and fat metabolism) only begins after about 1-2 minutes of exertion (depending on the degree of exertion). 


In the long term, most energy can be provided this way, but this process is comparatively slow.


This also explains why heavy compound movements like squats or deadlifts require several minutes of rest between sets to regain strength.


Your body needs the set breaks to replenish the ATP depots.


There are two ways in which you can train the process of energy supply in the muscle – in addition to strength training:


  1.     Aerobic cardio training optimizes energy supply through fats and glycogen.
  2.    Creatine monohydrate as a dietary supplement ensures that your muscles always have enough creatine phosphate.


This reduces the problem of muscle acidification somewhat:


Above a specific lactate value, the enzymes in the cell stops working, and ATP can no longer be produced.


The muscle cell then stops working completely. We feel this as a “burn” in the muscle during training.


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