Train Your Body’s Energy Systems to Win

One of the courses I present a while back at a CanFitPro conference was related to managing lactic acid levels during exercise. Lactic acid is a biproduct of a certain energy system in your body and is believed to be a protection mechanism against overuse and injury. The energy system that produces lactic acid is known as the Anaerobic Lactic energy system. It is one of three systems in your body that can be activated based on the type, intensity and duration of your training.

Just like you can make a muscle stronger, through specific training, nutrition and supplementation you can also improve each of the three energy system in your body, which can in turn means you can perform at a higher level. Each energy system has unique characteristics that can be improved by specific training of intensity level, duration and specific movement (for example weight training over 90% of your maximum strength for low repetition will help improve the Anaerobic ALACTIC energy system).

The chart below briefly illustrates each of the energy systems and what length of time they can operate at before seeing a drop in performance. Knowing how these systems work is the basis of how to set up a conditioning program to maximize performance.


Energy System
AEROBIC Energy System
TIME TO PEAK POWER < 1 second 15-20 seconds 1-3 minutes
TIME OF PEAK POWER MAINTENANCE (A) 6-10 seconds 20-40 seconds 3-5 minutes
CAPACITY (ENDURANCE) (B) 6-30 seconds 1-2 minutes At or below Lactic threshold (C): several hours At V02max.:  3-8 minutes (D)
FULL RECOVERY TIME 3 minutes 1-2 hours 24-48 hours See Anaerobic Lactic.
TIME NEEDED TO RECOVER 50% 20-30 seconds 15-20 minutes   See Anaerobic Lactic.

(A)  Time that peak power, once achieved, can be maintained.
(B)  Total time of exercise at an intensity which is significantly supported by this energy system.
(C)  Based on glycogen depletion and repletion stores.
(D)  If intensity is high enough to result in a significant rate of accumulation of lactic acid, this time is variable and considerably reduced compared to sub Lactic Threshold.  Supra maximal intensities may or may not be continued long enough to attain VO2 max. 

At ACTIONETIX, we have significant data related to how to train to increase the efficiency of each energy system. Below are basic tips and principals for each energy system. 

  1. Anaerobic Alactic: Focus on explosive movement and sprints as well as heavy weight training where each set is under 5 repetitions. The supplement Creatine also supports the recovery of this energy system, and depending on your sport or activity can be beneficial or detrimental.
  2. Anaerobic Lactic: Believe it or not, doing specific types cardio (two of them known as Red Lining and Over Under training) helps increase your lactic acid threshold, ultimately allowing you to compete at a higher level without hitting the lactic acid wall.
  3. Aerobic: Improving aerobic capacity in done in a number of ways, but the base training that we start with is low intensity, long duration. Over time, this increases the size and number of mitochondria in existing slow twitch muscle fiber and can actually convert some fast twitch muscle fiber to slow twitch. This training also strengthens the left ventricle in your heart so you can pump more blood per heart beat, ultimately lowering your resting heart rate.