Respiration is the release of energy in cells by the breakdown of food substances. The chemical reactions for respiration take place in the mitochondria of the cell. There are two types of respiration:
- Aerobic respiration: Respiration which takes place in the presence of oxygen-glucose is completely broken down with oxygen into carbon dioxide and water.
- Anaerobic respiration: Respiration which takes place in the absence of oxygen-glucose breaks down without oxygen. The chemical reaction transfers energy from glucose to the cell.
Glucose is an extremely important chemical involved in the process of respiration: So what is glucose?
- Glucose is a simple sugar with the molecular formula C6H12O6. – which means that it is a molecule that is made of six carbon atoms, twelve hydrogen atoms, and six oxygen atom.
- Glucose is the most abundant monosaccharide, it is the monomer of carbohydrates. In other words, Glucose is the compound that makes up most of our carbohydrates.
- It’s a type of sugar you get from foods you eat, and your body uses it for energy. As it travels through your bloodstream to your cells, it’s called blood glucose or blood sugar.
Respiration is important when we do exercise so that our muscles have enough energy to move.
In aerobic exercise, muscles draw on oxygen as well as the glucose and fatty acids carried in by the blood to produce adenosine triphosphate or ATP. ATP is the energy source that enables muscles to contract. The ability to keep exercising aerobically depends on the delivery of oxygen and fuel molecules (glucose and fatty acids) to your muscles. And that depends on circulation and respiration, provided by your heart and your lungs.
When exercising anaerobically, muscles are drawing on stores of glycogen (which is formed from glucose) and converting them to ATP. During this type of high-intensity exercise, the muscles are producing energy without oxygen–the cardiovascular system is unable to keep up the demand. There is a price to pay for exercising anaerobically, as a waste product called lactic acid builds up. This is what causes the burning sensation in muscles and causes them to fatigue more rapidly.
The Lance Armstrong Case
Long distance cycling focuses on aerobic respiration. Long distance cycling competitions, such as the Tour de France, are longer than 50 miles and hence, take several hours to complete so aerobic respiration would be needed to maintain energy levels and avoid the build-up of lactic acid – but this involves a compromise in speed and extent of muscle usage. But can sportsmen cheat the system and get both?
Lance Armstrong, the name on the lips of many fans during several Tour de Frances, but in 2012 on the lips of the judge. After winning 7 titles in the famous Tour de France, Lance Armstrong was convicted of blood doping and was banned from the race itself.
Blood Doping in its essence is injecting more oxygenated blood into the system in order to increase athletic performance rates. This can improve an athlete’s endurance and aerobic capacity.
Lance Armstrong was also found to have used other performance-enhancing drugs and steroids such as; human growth hormone, testosterone, and cortisone. The steroids have effects that include; muscle building, pain control, and speedy injury recovery.
EPO (Erythropoietin) is a hormone produced naturally by the kidneys. However, this hormone can also be artificially produced and injected to increase endurance.
Lance was able to get away with doping for a long period of time as EPO couldn’t meaningful be detected until 2001 which is when he switched to Blood Doping and HGH (Growth Hormone). Armstrong was a skillful user and was able to evade nearly 200 tests over the decade of his participation and usage of the method of doping. This is because of his switch to a method of EPOs and Blood Transfusions which was harder to detect through the Urine Tests. There still exists no method to determine evidence of blood doping solely from tests as long as an athlete uses their own blood.