What is Metabolism?

Metabolism refers to the procedure through which our bodies break down the food we consume to form compounds used by the body cells for energy.

Our body secretes enzymes meant to break down nutrients into proteins, sugar, or fats. These proteins can be then used by the cells anaerobically or aerobically to produce ATP (or adenosine triphosphate) needed to fuel the body cells.

Anaerobic Versus Aerobic Metabolism

Although the above two types of metabolism vary, they are interdependent and closely linked in many ways. The massive difference between them is that one happens in the presence of oxygen (aerobic metabolism); the former occurs in the absence of oxygen, while the latter occurs in the presence of oxygen (anaerobic respiration).

What is Anaerobic Metabolism?

This metabolism phenomenon refers to the process through which nutrients and other food substances are broken down in the body in oxygen to produce energy. The energy produced is used to fuel the cells, thus keeping your body’s energetic needs sustained, e.g. walking, jumping, jogging, etc.

Aerobic metabolism is vital as it helps to produce the energy you use daily for all your undertakings. For this reason, it’s the most prevalent form of metabolism, and it keeps regularly occurring in the body.

The process is also the only viable way through which your body can break down fats to avail energy to the cells.

Although the process is relatively slower, it’s more efficient as it can derive up to 34 molecules of adenosine triphosphates (ATP) from a molecule of glucose.

The process yields water and carbon dioxide as the byproducts.

What is Aerobic Metabolism?

As aforementioned, an anaerobic reaction differs from its counterpart (aerobic reaction). The former requires no oxygen when breaking down nutrients to avail energy to the cells.

Although the process is relatively faster, it’s not as efficient as aerobic metabolism is. This process is valid on the basis that it only avails only two molecules of adenosine triphosphate from a molecule of glucose (this doesn’t compare to the 34 molecules produced through aerobic metabolism).

Anaerobic metabolism occurs in the body only when a high amount of energy is needed within a concise duration. For instance, when lifting weights or sprinting, your energy needs will be intense for a short period.

Amid such a moment, the slower aerobic metabolism can’t offer the energy needed promptly. Your body will instead use the much faster anaerobic process to provide power within no time.

Note that the anaerobic metabolism process only breaks down carbohydrates but not proteins or fats.

The flipside of this process is the production of lactic acid as a byproduct. The acid can levels can build up in the body, thus causing fatigue. According to studies, it’s this acid that paves the way for cramps in athletes.

A Summary of Key Differences between Aerobic and Anaerobic Metabolism

Anaerobic RespirationAerobic Respiration
1It does not involve an exchange of gases.This metabolism involves an exchange of gases.
2In this metabolism, glucose is broken down into energy, carbon (iv) oxide, and ethyl alcohol.Glucose is broken down into water and carbon (iv) oxide.
3This process takes place without needing oxygen.There must be oxygen for this process to take place.
4The process only occurs in the cytoplasm.One can find the process to be either on the mitochondria and cytoplasm.
5This type of respiration is common in a tiny organism such as yeast and bacteria – in a higher organism, the process can only occur amid heavy activities.The process occurs in all higher organisms. An example is that of all mammals.
6It’s relatively inefficient – it has low energy productions compared to aerobic respiration.This type of respiration is more efficient in the sense that it produces more energy.
7The process occurs faster to meet the energy demand by cells whenever there is intense activity.Aerobic respiration is a relatively slow process.
Anaerobic metabolism vs Aerobic metabolism

Similarities between Anaerobic Respiration and Aerobic Respiration

Although aerobic and anaerobic metabolism process has significant differences, they are similar in one way or the other. For example

• Both anaerobic and aerobic metabolism processes produce adenosine triphosphate. The only difference is that anaerobic metabolism produces less energy (2 ATP molecules from 1 glucose molecule). On the other hand, aerobic metabolism produces more energy (up to 34 ATP molecules from 1 glucose molecule).

• Both anaerobic and aerobic metabolism processes use glucose as the substrate, i.e. the starting molecule.

Is Anaerobic Metabolism Important?

Although we said that anaerobic metabolism is less efficient compared to aerobic metabolism, it offers significant benefits. For instance,

  1. Speed

One of the critical benefits of anaerobic respiration is speed. The process occurs within no time to meet the energy demand of your body cells.

  1. Range of Habitat

Through anaerobic metabolism, the body can break down carbohydrates or other nutrients to generate energy. The energy is produced without oxygen and is used to sustain all the body process. This process, therefore, means microbes can inhibit oxygen-free or low oxygen environments.

  1. Anaerobic Metabolism as Fail-Safe Mechanism

Anaerobic metabolism can serve as a backup in cases where cellular oxygen is suddenly depleted. Oxygen may weaken due to muscle cells using it at a faster rate than its being replenished. Without oxygen, only anaerobic respiration can occur.

  1. Support PH regulation

Anaerobic respiration is characterized by partially oxidized carbon chains and a buildup of acidic groups. The acid group degrades to minimize the number of accumulated protons, thereby regulating PH in facultative anaerobes.

Dangers of Anaerobic Reaction

  1. Less Energy Efficient

When compared to aerobic respiration, anaerobic metabolism is less energy efficient. This is true considering that the process only derives two molecules of adenosine triphosphate from a molecule of glucose. On the other hand, aerobic metabolism produces up to 34 ATP molecules from an equal amount of glucose.

  1. Causes Buildup of Lactic Acid

Anaerobic respiration produces lactic acid in the muscle cells. When this acid accumulates, it causes burning sensations in your legs while running. However, the acid is taken to the liver by blood flow, where it’s removed quickly, thus easing the ‘burning effect.’

The Bottom Line

As you may have learned from this post, aerobic metabolism and anaerobic metabolism plays a very crucial role in your body. Although the two have some similarities, they are different in several other ways, as highlighted in this article.

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