Boost Energy Levels How to Do It and What Does It Even Mean
Reading time: 7 min

Boost Energy Levels: How to Do It and What Does It Even Mean?

Reading time: 7 min
Discover how different supplements affect the energy systems in your body.
Boost Energy Levels How to Do It and What Does It Even Mean

Today, it seems that every other supplement supposedly boosts energy levels. This may create a lot of confusion among athletes.

Energy gelsisotonic sports drinks, caffeine, creatineadaptogens, L-carnitine, even minerals — all these supplements seem to boost energy levels, but what does it really mean?

In this blog, we will try to answer this question and explain more about the different energy systems in the body.

What Is ATP Energy?

Before we delve into the energy systems, we need to explain what ATP is.

In simple terms, ATP (adenosine triphosphate) is the final energy currency your body uses to fuel muscle movement and several other processes in the body.

Whatever source of energy we talk about, the body will transform it into ATP before using it as its actual source of energy.

And the important thing to know is that the body is not able to produce ATP by itself. This means it needs an external source of energy, namely carbohydrates, protein, and fat, to produce ATP.

ATP is the body's energy currency.

The Three Energy Systems

There are three energy systems in your body. We may divide them into anaerobic  (no oxygen required) and aerobic (require oxygen), but it's best to see them as an interconnected part of a whole.

Nevertheless, while codependent, they do work differently. Let's look at them in more detail.

The Phosphagen Energy System

Your body will always store a small amount of ATP in the muscles.

This phosphagen or ATP-PC energy system is anaerobic, meaning it doesn't require oxygen, and it is the fastest energy system in the body.

It is used for very short (about 10 seconds), high-intensity exercise, such as lifting weights or sprints, but it cannot sustain prolonged exercise, as your body needs to constantly refill its muscle ATP reserve.

The Phosphagen Energy System ATP-PCATP-PC energy system fuels sprints and other short, high-intensity exercise.

The phosphagen system requires the presence of creatine phosphate to create ATP from ADP (adenosine diphosphate), which is why creatine monohydrate has always been popular among weight-lifters, as it improves the efficiency of this energy system, leading to better performance.

The phosphagen (or ATP-PC) system is the fastest energy system in the body.

The Glycolytic Energy System

The glycolytic energy system, also known as the anaerobic lactic energy system, is another anaerobic system that doesn't require oxygen.

It is the second fastest energy system in the body, and it produces ATP from carbohydrates, namely glycogen or the glucose present in the blood.

It is used to fuel exercise ranging from 10 to 90 seconds, and after this period, oxygen becomes increasingly important, as once the demand for oxygen exceeds its supply, lactate levels start building up, leading you towards the so-called lactate threshold, resulting in the burning sensation in your muscles.

The Glycolytic Energy SystemWhen you do mid-length intervals, energy is provided by the glycolytic energy system.

Many supplements may affect this system differently — whether it's sodium bicarbonate, which reduces muscle acidity, or adaptogens, which boost oxygen flow and potentially delay the onset of the lactate threshold.

Once the ATP energy from this system is exhausted, the third and most productive energy system kicks in.

The glycolytic energy system creates ATP from glycogen and blood glucose.

The Oxidative Energy System

The oxidative energy system or Krebs System, also known as the aerobic energy system, is the slowest but also the most productive energy system in the body.

It is also the system that requires oxygen, but this may be misleading, as oxygen is not needed for the energy production itself but rather to manage the consequence of its production — namely the build up of lactate.

This energy system produces ATP from carbohydrates, fat, and even protein, but the exact amount of which is being used depends on many factors, such as exercise intensity and the individual traits of the athlete. In any case, carbohydrates are needed to support fat burn.

The Oxidative Energy SystemMost of the time, endurance athletes rely on the oxidative energy system.

This energy system is crucial to support prolonged endurance exercise. But, as pointed out above, this system depends heavily on oxygen supply. As the supply of oxygen drops below the demand, lactate build up will lead to the lactate threshold, at which point you won't be able to continue with the exercise.

Since this energy system is based on the availability of macronutrients, providing these nutrients is crucial to sustain it. Furthermore, increasing oxygen availability, one of the main benefits of adaptogens, will allow you to train longer before reaching the lactate threshold.

The oxidative energy system is the slowest but most productive energy system in the body.

The Energy Systems in Practice

The most important thing to remember is that all three energy systems work together and each one is used at all times to fuel not only your exercise but all other body functions.

We could complicate how to improve each of the specific energy systems, but to simplify, each one requires you to train at the specific intensity at which the system is used.

  • To improve the phosphagen energy system, do short bursts of extreme intensity, such as lifting weights or sprinting. As said, this system will fuel you for up to 10 seconds.
  • To improve the glycolytic energy system, do intervals from 30 seconds to 3 minutes, such as boxing rounds or other interval training.
  • To improve the oxidative system, do cardio. For endurance athletes, this comes natural, but other athletes may need to adjust their training.

All energy systems in the body work together and constantly work to supply ATP energy.

Supplements that Boost Energy Levels

And finally we get to the elephant in the room — which supplements really boost energy levels and how do they do it?

Let's begin with the obvious.

Carbohydrates

The intake of carbohydrates during exercise is crucial for endurance athletes.

Carbohydrates are involved in two of the three energy systems, and they are absolutely vital for the oxidative system. At the end of the day, without nutrients, your body will not be able to produce any ATP energy.

During intense exercise, as your digestion slows down, it's important to consume fast carbohydrates, such as energy gels or isotonic sports drinks, as your body will only use glycogen or blood glucose to produce ATP energy.

Nrgy Unit Gel NduranzNrgy Unit Gel provides quick source of carbohydrates, so you don't run out of energy.

Caffeine

We often hear that caffeine boosts energy levels.

This is a misconception.

What caffeine really does is reduce the sensation of fatigue. Basically, it prevents your brain from feeling tired. This may make you feel like having more energy, but that's simply not true.

On the other hand, caffeine does boost metabolism, particularly fat metabolism, which may positively affect energy production in the body, thus, indirectly, boosting energy levels.

Caffeine Capsules NduranzCaffeine is often used to improve athletic performance. 

Adaptogens

Ah, adaptogens ... These amazing gifts of nature provide so many benefits, including boosting energy levels, and many athletes use them to great affect.

But anecdotal evidence aside, there simply isn't enough scientific research available to provide concrete facts on how exactly they affect athletic performance.

Nevertheless, adaptogens are primarily used to boost oxygen flow, which leads to an increase in VO2 max and, as discussed above, may prolong the time your oxidative energy system functions before hitting the lactate threshold.

Adaptogens also have many other benefits that may indirectly boost energy levels, such as reducing the sensation of fatigue (similar to caffeine), reducing stress levels (thus improving body functions), and even impacting energy production at a cellular level.

Unfortunately, a lot more research is needed before any of these claims can be substantialized.

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L-Carnitine

Another supplement that is often linked to increased energy levels is L-carnitine.

Since L-carnitine boosts fat metabolism at intensities in which only glycogen and blood glucose would be used, it makes sense to think of it as another energy-boosting supplement.

But keep in mind that L-carnitine may only improve the metabolism of energy (fat) already present in the body, which means that by itself, it will not boost energy levels.

 

Energy Gel with L-Carnitine 4Endurance ProEnergy Gel with L-Carnitine helps transform fat into energy, giving you extra energy when you need it the most. 

Creatine Monohydrate

Since the body needs creatine to store ATP in the muscles, creatine monohydrate may be another supplement that indirectly boosts energy levels.

It is also one of the most researched supplements and has been linked to greater explosiveness, strength, and overall performance in shorts bursts of extreme intensity.

But, like many other supplements on this list, by itself it cannot provide energy to the body.

Creatine Monohydrate 4EnergyCreatine monohydrate has an indirect effect on energy levels. 

Minerals

Let's wrap it up with minerals, such as magnesium, which has often been linked to increased energy levels (and even more so, wrongly, with preventing muscle cramps).

Since minerals are essential for all functions in the body, it makes sense they are also essential for energy production. In fact, magnesium is responsible for converting glucose into ATP.

So, there you have it, minerals, especially magnesium, are another supplement (or micronutrient) that indirectly boosts energy levels.

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Conclusion

Many supplements may boost energy levels, but the way they do it differs greatly.

Fundamentally, only macronutrients (carbohydrates, protein, fat) are sources of energy that your body uses to produce ATP energy. Other supplements may directly or indirectly support the energy systems in the body, leading to increased energy levels.

All the energy systems in the body work together in producing ATP, which is your body's energy currency.

To improve each of the energy systems, keep training at the intensity and at interval where this energy system is primarily used, ranging from short bursts of extreme intensity to prolonged cardio exercise.

Understanding each energy system may help you decide which supplement you want to use, but remember that the only supplement you really need to produce ATP during exercise are fast carbohydrates, such as energy gels and isotonic sports drinks.