ATP: Life’s Power Supply

What is energy?

Energy is a property of matter.  Matter roughly amounts to “stuff” that takes up space, such as atoms, chemical compounds and a whole lot more.  Energy is something that all matter has in some form or another.  Just as every person has a height and weight, all matter has energy.  And just as an individual’s height and weight can change, matter’s energy levels can change.  Energy is ultimately caused by the four fundamental forces of nature, electromagnetism, gravity, the strong nuclear force and the weak nuclear force.

There Are Many Types of Energy

Kinetic energy is the energy of action.  Any object in motion has kinetic energy, whether it is a vehicle driving down the highway, or a single molecule vibrating and jostling around.

 Potential energy is “stored energy”.  All matter possesses potential energy in the form of nuclear, gravitational, electromagnetic and chemical energy, at the same time.

 Low-Energy Versus High-Energy Molecules

The more energy that matter has, the more it vibrates, moves around and affects the matter around it.  This is thermal energy (heat), a very common form of kinetic energy which is measured via temperature.  The less energy that matter has, the more sluggish it becomes.  It doesn’t move around as much, and it interacts with its environment less.  Molecules don’t need to have a lot high temperature to be considered highly energetic, though.  Chemical energy is energy stored in the chemical bonds between atoms and molecules.  The word “stored” is our clue that this is potential energy.  When the bonds between the atoms break, energy is released, and potential is converted to action.

How Do We Store Energy

It is by breaking these chemical bonds and unleashing that kinetic energy that we obtain the energy of life.  Adenosine-5′-triphosphate (ATP) is the molecule that our bodies use to store and access chemical energy, by breaking it down into adenosine 5′-diphosphate (ADP).  This simple conversion of ATP to ADP releases enough energy to let us do all of the things that we do.  In fact, all of the food that you eat serves only two purposes: the acquisition of essential nutrients, and to fuel the conversion of ADP back into ATP.  ATP is considered a high-energy molecule not because it has a lot of kinetic energy, but because of its potential to release energy when it’s broken down.  This is similar to the energy that a water balloon has when held out of a third story window.  It may not appear to be a high energy water balloon, but its height from the ground gives it a high gravitational energy potential, and a great potential to ruin somebody’s hairdo.


Found within every cell, ATP provides the energy for all of the cell’s functions. Sugars delivered to the cell are oxidized, and the energy from the oxidation is used to convert ADP to ATP.  This ensures that the cell always has a supply of ATP.  It’s estimated 160+ kg of ATP is formed in the human body every day.

Strength, Flexibility, Balance & Clarity

 While plants and bacteria have their own ATP production methods, animals synthesize ATP in tiny organelles within each cell called mitochondria through a process called glycolysis.  Called “the powerhouse of the cell,” mitochondria are involved in many processes, but ATP synthesis is their biggest claim to fame.  The number of mitochondria varies depending on the organism, tissue, and cell type. Mitochondria are interesting in that their DNA is different than the DNA found in the cell’s nucleus (the DNA in the nucleus being the blueprint that gives you all of your physical traits).  Because of this, many scientists believe that mitochondria were once a type of bacteria or bacteria like organism that lived symbiotically within animal cells.  At some point, the lines between symbiotic and intrinsic blurred, giving us the powerhouses we have today.

 The most important part of ATP is the ‘TP’ portion.  Adenosine provides the framework for the phosphorous groups to attach onto, but it’s the phosphorous groups that do the real work.  They are connected by oxygens to each other, and there are additional oxygens attached to the phosphorous atoms.  Oxygen ions commonly have a negative charge, and under normal body conditions, this is the case for the oxygens in ATP.  Just as opposite charges attract, like charges repel each other.  In this way, what we call chemical energy can be traced back to one of those four fundamental forces, electromagnetism.  The high potential energy within ATP stems from electromagnetism causing these oxygens to repel each other.  This is a molecule that wants to break apart.  Just like the gravity tugging at that water balloon you hung out the window, there is a lot of potential energy here.

 If one phosphate group is removed, converting it to ADP, the negative charge pushing the molecule apart is reduced, making it much happier.  Just cutting one group releases about 7.3 kilocalories per mole (30.6 kJ/mol).  This is roughly the amount of energy contained in a peanut.

 Just as a rechargeable lithium ion battery stores energy for your electronics, ATP stores energy for you.  The ATP powers you by losing a phosphorous group, then you “recharge” it with food oxidized in the mitochondria. The oxidation of glucose operates what’s called TCA cycle or Krebs cycle to provide energy for the conversion of ADP to ATP.

 Low-Energy versus High-Energy People

The difference between low energy and high energy people is in how efficiently they’re converting ADP into ATP.  When we are less active, our metabolisms slow, causing us to store more calories as fat and reducing our body’s efficiency in converting ADP back into ATP.  This inefficiency, gives us less useable energy, making us less active and setting us upon a vicious downward spiral.  High-energy people perform this ATP cycle more efficiently, burning glucose and other food sources at a higher rate, thereby giving them more available energy at any given moment.  These high energy people are the ones that always seem to be three coffees deep, are always on the move and are affecting the world around them.

People Are Full of Energy

If all matter has energy, and we are massive collections of matter, then common sense dictates that we’re full of energy.  Even the most unhealthy, overweight and sluggish people are filled to the brim with energy.  Our bodies maintain an average temperature of 98.6-degrees.  Imagine sitting outside on a 98.6-degree day and you’ll start to realize just how much power we have inside of us.  This thermal energy is a byproduct of chemical reactions, but rather than just being “wasted energy”, many of our bodily processes require that we maintain this temperature.

On top of all the thermal energy already present, there is considerably more chemical energy waiting to be unleashed.  Fat cells are essentially our body’s way of storing energy.  When you think about it, some of us have way too much energy that we’re just not putting to use! Those fat cells around our midsections are patiently awaiting the day we burn them to produce more ATP.  They are a long-term fuel storage solution.  Without a spark to ignite that fuel, they’ll just keep clinging uselessly to our bellies.

 Become a High-Energy Person

Over two out of every three adults is overweight.  That means more than 66% of us have too much fuel, and not enough fire.  So how do we ignite those fuel stores, jumpstart our metabolisms and become the high-energy people we want to be?  Let us introduce you to D-ribose.  A sugar (like sucrose, fructose, glucose, and lactose), D-ribose is a powerful precursor for ATP.  Unlike most sugars, however, D-ribose does it without the downsides of lactic acid production or the toll common sugars take on our livers, eyes, capillaries and bodies as a whole.  D-ribose works with magnesium and L-carnitine within your cells’ mitochondria to convert ADP to ATP rapidly and efficiently.  Just like in high-energy people.

  Why Not Take a Pure ATP Supplement?

Unfortunately, it’s not as simple as taking an “ATP supplement.”  ATP is not stable enough to last in supplement form.  Remember, those oxygen atoms are trying to tear the phosphate groups from the adenosine backbone.  ATP is not the long term storage solution that fat cells are.  It’s not even as stable as carbohydrates.  This is why we eat fats, carbs and proteins for energy, rather than living off of adenosine triphosphate.  Anybody who tries to sell you ‘pure ATP’ is either sorely misinformed or attempting to con you out of your money.  After all, we now know that it is ATP’s instability that makes it such an excellent energy source!  It’s for this reason that our bodies can’t store ATP long-term, and it is also why we cannot supplement with ATP directly.  Indirect supplementing through ATP precursors is the surest way to boost those energy stores!

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