Our bodies are made up to withstand different kinds of demands put on them, which requires different energy systems working together at different times. When we train our body, we always train different energy systems at different times as they necessarily work together to be available to you at different times.
The three different energy systems in the body
Anaerobic a-lactic system – high intensity, short bursts. This system kicks in immediately and works for up to 10 seconds. It burns lots of stored Adenosine triphosphate (ATP) and Phosphate Creatine (CP) stored in your muscles and runs out quickly. Think 100m sprint.
Anaerobic lactic system – high or medium intensity, increasing speed, keeping going for a short while. This burns lactic acid as energy, which builds up in your muscles to cause the “burn” and will give you sore legs the next day. Think of going on the attack in a race.
Aerobic energy system – low intensity, endurance, long duration, aerobic fitness. The aerobic energy system burns oxygen and uses ATP as fuel. Here, the muscles can keep going for a long time, as the ATP burned can be produced and replenished in good time to keep you going while you work out. Think of a steady run or even a marathon run. This is the fat-burning zone, where your metabolism will access stored body fat to produce ATP.
How can I train for best performance?
The fact that these different energy systems work together shows that we need to mix them up during training to train all of these systems optimally. Hence your gym routine will always involve a mix of aerobic, medium-intensity and high-intensity or muscle-building exercises. If you are looking for general fitness and muscle building for your body, a decent gym routine will work it out for you.
How does the athlete train to build peak performance?
In order to train all the energy systems for peak performance, you need to train your body to cope with higher workloads and more intense times than you will face in the actual event. You are training your body to increase its capacity to store more oxygen and glycogen by increasing its aerobic fitness. This in turn will decrease the pressure on the lactic system, as even during times of increased workload during the event, your body will be trained to keep going longer. This puts less pressure on the anaerobic systems to come into play too soon, giving you greater flexibility to respond during an event and win.
Train your Energy Systems for a Healthy Life
Quite apart from training your three energy systems optimally for success as an athlete or for fun, you are also reducing your risk of being injured in an event, or at home. If you train your body slightly beyond what is required of it on a daily basis, you will improve your chances of staying well and responding well in cases of sickness, injury or stress. That’s why it’s so important for all of us to train weekly, not just by going for a walk/run but also by including weight-lifting exercises. All parts of the body must be worked. And the older you get, the more you should focus on muscle-building and balancing exercises.