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Metabolic Adaptations to Exercise

Your clients should always make progress in their training. That progress is often determined by the metabolic adaptations the body makes. Learn what adaptations to expect from different types of training by reading here.

Personal Training Metabolic AdaptationsMetabolic adaptations refer to the changes in the body which allow it to utilise energy more effectively and efficiently. 

Physiological adaptation to high intensity, short duration training types

Strength, power, speed and hypertrophy training utilise the anaerobic energy pathways predominantly so we see certain metabolic adaptations with these training types such as:


Physiological adaptation to high intensity, short duration training types

Ability to produce ATP without O2

  • The body becomes better at storing phosphocreatine and carbohydrate in the muscle for immediate generation of ATP for energy without oxygen.  Better storage = an improved ability of the ATP-PC system to work at a higher intensity.

Anaerobic enzyme activity

  • The activity of the enzymes that breakdown phosphocreatine (creatine kinase), synthesize and breakdown ATP (ATPase), and help breakdown glucose to form lactate are increased.  The improved breakdown of phosphocreatine especially helps extend the capacity of the ATP-PC energy system which helps during strength, power or speed performances.


Physiological adaptation to longer duration training types

Aerobic fitness, anaerobic fitness and muscular endurance are increasingly dependant on oxygen for energy as they tend to be longer duration with less rest.  Because of this different metabolic adaptations occur, such as:

Physiological adaptation to longer duration training (Aerobic endurance, anaerobic fitness, muscular endurance)

Temperature regulation

  • Longer duration training (especially higher intensity such as anaerobic fitness) creates more heat than other training types.  The body adapts by becoming more effective and efficient at shunting blood to the skin to cool through sweating.

Body acidity balance

  • The body becomes better at tolerating (buffering) the accumulation of hydrogen ions which increase muscle acidity and lead quickly to fatigue.  This improved tolerance improves the body’s ability to sustain exercise above anaerobic/lactate threshold.

Aerobic enzyme activity & production

  • The enzymes responsible for producing ATP aerobically increase their activity and help produce more ATP for use, thus improving the capacity and endurance of the aerobic energy system.  With these adaptations the body can go harder for longer without fatigue.

Lactate removal

  • The ability to remove accumulated lactate from working muscle cells for conversion back to energy is improved; this also helps to reduce acidosis in the muscle allowing training at higher intensities to continue for longer.


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