Mitochondria are cellular organelles that function as power plants within a cell. In the same way that a local power plant produces electricity for an entire city, mitochondria are responsible for the production of energy derived from the breakdown of carbohydrates and fatty acids. Mitochondria oxidize or “burn” carbohydrates, amino acids and fatty acids for energy, yielding ATP. ATP is the cellular form of energy utilized by cellular processes all throughout the body, providing the energy to pump your heart, power neurons in your brain, contract muscles, exchange gases in your lungs, extract nutrients from food and regulate body temperature, just to name a few.
Simply stated, mitochondria produce ATP, and ATP is 100 percent essential for survival. Without a sufficient generation of ATP, life would cease to exist.
Mitochondria are located in every cell type and tissue in the human body, from your brain to your thyroid gland to the tendons around your knees. In short, trillions of mitochondria are distributed throughout your body with the sole purpose of generating ATP. Red blood cells are the only cell type that does not contain mitochondria.
Muscles contain the highest mitochondrial content of any tissue in your body, in order to provide large amounts of ATP for movement. Muscle is generally divided into three types: white muscle, red muscle and mixed muscle. The terms “red” and “white” are derived from the way these muscles appear during surgery or autopsies but largely refer to the mitochondrial content of the muscle itself.
Red muscles contain a large quantity of mitochondria, white muscles contain fewer mitochondria, and mixed muscles contain both red and white muscle fibre types. Whereas a single cell (circle) contains one nucleus, muscle cells often contain hundreds or even thousands of mitochondria so that they can support the generation of large quantities of ATP during exercise.
It is no coincidence that mitochondria are located close to one another within the muscle cell. They do that to share the fuels of glucose, amino acids and fatty acids with the purpose of distributing the production of ATP across a well-coordinated, intricately linked network. Isn’t the body truly amazing?
A process known as mitochondrial biogenesis was first described in the field of exercise physiology. It was found that certain types of exercise could induce large increases in muscle mitochondrial content, and thereby increase the ability of muscles to take up glucose during and after exercise, a very positive and important process. The term “mitochondrial biogenesis” simply refers to the process of replicating mitochondria within a cell, with the sole purpose of increasing ATP production in response to an increased demand for energy.
The result of mitochondrial biogenesis is an expansion of the network of mitochondria within a cell, as well as an increase in the maximal amount of ATP that can be generated during intense exercise. In short, more mitochondria essentially mean more ATP production.
Can you sense the importance of maintaining or preferably building muscle mass for great energy? Remember muscle mass naturally declines from about the age of 30 onwards unless you do something to counteract this.
Excerpt from Exhausted to Energised