We are independent & ad-supported. We may earn a commission for purchases made through our links.
Advertiser Disclosure
Our website is an independent, advertising-supported platform. We provide our content free of charge to our readers, and to keep it that way, we rely on revenue generated through advertisements and affiliate partnerships. This means that when you click on certain links on our site and make a purchase, we may earn a commission. Learn more.
How We Make Money
We sustain our operations through affiliate commissions and advertising. If you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase, we may receive a commission from the merchant at no additional cost to you. We also display advertisements on our website, which help generate revenue to support our work and keep our content free for readers. Our editorial team operates independently of our advertising and affiliate partnerships to ensure that our content remains unbiased and focused on providing you with the best information and recommendations based on thorough research and honest evaluations. To remain transparent, we’ve provided a list of our current affiliate partners here.

What Is Anaerobic Metabolism?

By John Markley
Updated May 21, 2024
Our promise to you
All The Science is dedicated to creating trustworthy, high-quality content that always prioritizes transparency, integrity, and inclusivity above all else. Our ensure that our content creation and review process includes rigorous fact-checking, evidence-based, and continual updates to ensure accuracy and reliability.

Our Promise to you

Founded in 2002, our company has been a trusted resource for readers seeking informative and engaging content. Our dedication to quality remains unwavering—and will never change. We follow a strict editorial policy, ensuring that our content is authored by highly qualified professionals and edited by subject matter experts. This guarantees that everything we publish is objective, accurate, and trustworthy.

Over the years, we've refined our approach to cover a wide range of topics, providing readers with reliable and practical advice to enhance their knowledge and skills. That's why millions of readers turn to us each year. Join us in celebrating the joy of learning, guided by standards you can trust.

Editorial Standards

At All The Science, we are committed to creating content that you can trust. Our editorial process is designed to ensure that every piece of content we publish is accurate, reliable, and informative.

Our team of experienced writers and editors follows a strict set of guidelines to ensure the highest quality content. We conduct thorough research, fact-check all information, and rely on credible sources to back up our claims. Our content is reviewed by subject-matter experts to ensure accuracy and clarity.

We believe in transparency and maintain editorial independence from our advertisers. Our team does not receive direct compensation from advertisers, allowing us to create unbiased content that prioritizes your interests.

Anaerobic metabolism refers to biological processes that produce energy for an organism without using oxygen. It is based on chemical reactions within the body in which carbohydrates are broken down to release chemical energy. This process occurs primarily when an organism needs a sudden, short-term burst of energy or during periods of intense exertion.

The primary source of energy for cellular functions is a molecule called adenosine triphosphate (C10H16N5O13P3), or ATP, which releases energy when it is broken down. Under most circumstances, the body produces most of its ATP from fats and carbohydrates through chemical reactions involving oxygen, called aerobic metabolism. The oxygen is carried from the respiratory system to cells through the bloodstream, and when an organism's physical activity increases, its breathing and heartbeat become more rapid to increase the supply of oxygen for these reactions. This process takes time, however, and so is inadequate if the organism needs more energy on short notice, to make a sudden, rapid movement, for instance. In addition, during intense activity, aerobic metabolism alone may not provide enough energy even once oxygen supplies have been increased.

This is where anaerobic metabolism is important. When an organism needs to rapidly increase its energy supply, anaerobic metabolism allows it to do so immediately instead of waiting for enough oxygen to fuel increased aerobic metabolism. It can also be used in combination with aerobic metabolism when high energy levels are needed. For example, a human athlete running a short high-speed sprint uses this metabolism to supply himself or herself with a short-term increase in energy, while someone going for an extended, leisurely jog will rely on anaerobic metabolism when starting but eventually shift to primarily aerobic metabolism once his or her body has had had time to adjust to the increased activity. If the athlete engages in high-intensity activity for an extended period, both forms of metabolism can be heavily exploited.

Anaerobic metabolism is based on a metabolic pathway, or series of chemical reactions in the body, called glycolysis. Glycolysis begins with the sugar glucose (C6H12O6) and, through a series of chemical reactions and intermediate compounds, uses them to produce ATP. This process is considerably less energy efficient than aerobic metabolism of glucose and produces fewer molecules of ATP per molecule of glucose, which is why the body will try to rely on aerobic metabolism to the greatest extent possible and uses anaerobic metabolism primarily when aerobic metabolism alone is inadequate. Anaerobic glycolysis produces byproducts that, when accumulated in sufficient quantities, enter the bloodstream and cause fatigue. Thus, extended bursts of this metabolism are not sustainable over time.

All The Science is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Link to Sources
Discussion Comments
All The Science, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.

All The Science, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.