All movements require energy and, as we mentioned in earlier posts, food provides it. The amount of energy needed and how that energy is released from food depends on the intensity of the movement and its duration – in the simplest terms, what we do and how long we do it for. There are three energy systems and your body switches between them.
While this might sound quite technical, getting to the nitty gritty of what’s going on when your body exercises will help you make informed choices about weight management.
Aerobic Energy System
Marathon runners who are moving at a steady pace for several hours will use their aerobic system to produce large amounts of energy. They learn to breath efficiently, taking in plenty of oxygen which combines with glycogen and fatty acids to forge a long-term energy system that will last for ages. Once the glycogen stores in muscles are used up, the body will switch to burning fat. Marathon runners tend to be very lean.
Anaerobic Energy System
If the exercise is more intense, your body needs to produce energy quickly, so it turns to the anaerobic system which uses glycogen stored in your muscles and liver. Your body can’t wait for oxygen to arrive, so it cracks on without it, but in doing so creates a waste product called lactic acid. If you’ve ever felt an intense, burning sensation in your muscles during exercise, this is caused by lactic acid building up. Eventually, if you keep working as intensely, your muscles will tire.
Creatinine Phosphate Energy System
Unless you’ve studied sports science, you’ve probably not heard of this energy system. It also releases energy without oxygen and fuels our bodies in the moments when they start or make sudden, explosive movements. Sprinters call this energy into play when they drive off the blocks.
Although the creatinine phosphate energy system releases power that will only last a matter of seconds, that’s long enough to make sure you have an immediate source of energy.
Energy Systems in Yoga
In our style of hot yoga – which combines flowing and dynamic movements with intense poses held for what can feel like ages – you will naturally move through these energy systems. All three will be used in varying amounts, depending on the intensity level.
The fantastic news is you will quickly use up the glycogen stored in your muscles and move into burning fat for energy. You’ll spend the main part of the class in that fat burning zone.
This is where the idea of informed choices kicks in. If you’re trying to gain muscle mass, you’ll want to take in extra food afterwards to replace the stores lost.
If you’d like to lose some weight, the good news is that your hot yoga session has increased your body’s need for food during the day. Combined with a calorie restriction plan – whatever type works for you – this means you’ll start to see results more quickly.
We plan to write more about diet and nutrition in a future post. Please consult your doctor before embarking on a new diet or exercise regime. If you’re interested in finding out more about hot yoga, check out our post – How To Find The Perfect Hot Yoga Class.