Essential Health Info

Exercise Physiology & How the Body Utilizes Carbohydrates I


Carbohydrates & Exercise Physiology

Exercise physiology describes how the body responds to physical activity and how it adapts to physical activity over time.  Physical activity refers to the body’s movement that results in expending calories (Blake, 2019, pp. 418).  On the other hand, exercise is the definition of structured activity that has a foundation in bodily movement.  Two aspects of bodily health satisfy this two sided coin.  Both physical activity and the consumption of a healthy diet will cause your body to be in overall health.  Likewise, carbohydrates is one side of the coin.   It is one the most important macronutrients that helps the body meet its nutrient requirements.

Physical Activity Benefits

More than half of the adults living in the United States do not meet regular physical activity requirements (pp. 419).  We have heard through several sources the reasons why our bodies need exercise.  The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services developed the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans to help guides us (pp. 419).  According to John Saige Blake, “this publication gives information and guidance on the types and amounts of physical activity that provided substantial health benefits for Americans age 6 and older (pp. 419).”  It is not hard to understand that this scholarly journal provides evidence based scientific research for physical activity and it’s long term effects such as (pp. 419):

  • Achieving or maintaining healthy body weight will reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes
  • reduce the risk of developing other chronic diseases like heart disease
  • reduces stress and induces restful sleep

Carbohydrates & Energy

Getting in adequate regular physical activity is a good start.  However, you need the right foods and fluids to help.  There are two ways to meet nutrient needs for physical activity.

  1. The ample supply of energy, especially from carbohydrates, to fuel physical activity
  2. The ample supply of nutrients, especially carbohydrates, that help your body recover optimally (pp. 425)

Most of our energy production comes from cardiovascular exercise where the body produces a great amount of oxygen.  However, our body uses oxygen under the first few seconds of exercise energy, but occurs under anaerobic conditions ().  Therefore, two chemical reactions must take place in those first few seconds:

  • Adenosine triphosphate (ATP)– a compound molecule where one of the phosphates is removed from ATP producing energy as a by-product (pp. 426).  Finally, ADP or two of the phosphates, is broken down even more to support just a few more seconds of intense exercise.
  • Creatine phosphate (CP)– a compound molecule that contains creatine that is attached to a single phosphate (pp. 426).  The liver and kidneys produce creatine.  According to Nutrition & You, energy is directly produced when the phosphate falls off from the creatine, and produces indirect energy to form ADP then to again regenerate ATP (pp. 426).  This chemical reaction of ATP-CP causes the body to expend 10-15 seconds more of energy during a high and intense activity.


Performing regular physical activity within a certain time frame will cause you to breathe more heavily.  As a result, you will breathe in more oxygen.  Therefore, your body relies heavily on carbohydrate intake.  Specifically, the type of exercise and the amount of energy used depends on four aspects.  They are intensity, duration, your nutritional status, and your body’s level of physical activity. Carbohydrates is always an important ingredient for our physical activity and nutrition.

ATP and Creatine Phosphate cycle diagram can be found here:


Jamie Moore Sam Houston State University Pre-Nursing 

Works Cited

Blake, J. S. (2019). Nutrition & You (5th Edition) (5th ed.). Pearson.

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