What Is The Difference Between Aerobic And Anaerobic Respiration?

How does your body work to produce energy during respiration? The answer lies in the distinct processes of aerobic and anaerobic respiration. 

What Is The Difference Between Aerobic And Anaerobic Respiration?

These terms are used to refer to how the body creates energy through respiration. 

But what exactly is the difference between aerobic and anaerobic respiration? And how do these processes differ during specific exercises? It can be tricky to know the difference and leaves many of us confused and unsure. 

Well, no more! Keep reading to find out the difference between aerobic and anaerobic respiration. 

The Difference Between Aerobic & Anaerobic Respiration

In aerobic respiration, glucose is broken down into carbon dioxide and water. This reaction releases energy in the form of adenosine triphosphate (ATP) molecules.

In anaerobic respiration, glucose is converted into lactic acid, ethanol, acetaldehyde, and CO2. 

Aerobic respiration is a process by which energy is produced when oxygen is used as an oxidizer. Anaerobic respiration is a type of metabolic activity that occurs without the presence of oxygen. 

This article explains what aerobic respiration is and how it works. It also describes anaerobic respiration and how it differs from aerobic respiration.

What Is Aerobic Respiration?

What Is The Difference Between Aerobic And Anaerobic Respiration?

Glucose is converted into pyruvate during glycolysis. Pyruvate then enters the citric acid cycle (also called Krebs cycle) where it is converted into acetyl-CoA and oxaloacetate. Oxaloacetate is then reduced to malate by NADH. 

Malate is then oxidized to pyruvate by NAD+. This process results in the production of 36 ATPs. Aerobic respiration is the process of breaking down sugars into energy.

This process begins with glycolysis, which converts glucose into pyruvate and generates two molecules of adenosine triphosphate (ATP) per glucose molecule. 

The pyruvates are then converted into acetyl-CoA, which is used to generate more ATP. The oxidation of acetyl-CoA produces four molecules of ATP and eight other products.

The final product of this process is carbon dioxide. Carbon dioxide is released into the atmosphere as waste. This process is known as aerobic respiration because oxygen is required for the conversion of carbohydrates into energy.

Anaerobic Respiration

What Is The Difference Between Aerobic And Anaerobic Respiration?

In anaerobic respiration, there is no oxygen present. Instead, the body uses other compounds such as lactate or hydrogen ions to break down sugar. When glucose is metabolized, it breaks down into pyruvic acid. 

During the breakdown of pyruvic acid, three molecules of H+ are generated. One of these molecules is transferred to another compound, resulting in the formation of one molecule of lactic acid. 

The remaining two molecules are combined with electrons to create two molecules of NAD+, which can be reoxidized to NADH. The latter is then reoxidized to NADP-.

The net result of this process is the generation of two molecules of ATP and six other products. The final product of anaerobic respiration is lactic acid.

Why Do We Need Both Types Of Respiration?

Both types of respiration are important for survival. For example, if you were stranded on a desert island and had only enough food to last you for a few days, your body would need to use both aerobic and anaerobic metabolism to survive. 

Aerobic respiration allows us to live longer than we could otherwise. If you did not have access to oxygen, your body would switch over to anaerobic metabolism.

However, anaerobic respiration cannot provide the same amount of energy as aerobic respiration. 

Facts About Aerobic & Anaerobic Respiration

Aerobic respiration is the process by which most living cells use oxygen as part of their metabolic energy source.

Anaerobic respiration is the opposite process by which some bacteria use other compounds such as sugar or alcohol as their source of energy.

  • All higher organisms use aerobic respiration. Microorganisms normally use anaerobic respiration.
  • Anaerobic means ‘without air.’ Aerobic means ‘with air.’
  • Aerobic respiration only occurs inside cells, whereas anaerobic respiration happens everywhere.
  • Aerobic respiration happens in the cytoplasm and mitochondria. Anaerobic respiration takes place only in the cytoplasm.
  • Aerobic respiration uses oxygen molecules as fuel while anaerobic respiration uses other substances such as glucose or lactose.
  • Anaerobic respiration produces less energy than aerobic respiration.
  • Aerobic respiration is non-toxic, but anaerobic respiration is toxic to higher organisms.
  • Anaerobic respiration is used by bacteria. The end products from bacteria are methane and hydrogen sulfide. The end products of yeast fermentation are ethanol and carbon dioxide. The end product in animals is lactic acid.

Aerobic & Anaerobic Exercise

Aerobic exercise is when you use oxygen to create energy during your workout. Steady-state exercise is continuous exercise over some time, such as if you were to go on a bike ride or run on a treadmill.

Anaerobic exercise is when you do short bursts of activity, such as sprints or weight lifting.

Anaerobic exercise is a form of exercise that uses large muscle groups to burn fat and build endurance. Anaerobic exercise burns up fast but builds up more muscle mass than aerobic exercise.

Aerobic training is used to improve endurance, while Anaerobic training is used to increase strength and power.

Aerobic training is usually around 60-80% of your maximum heart rate, while anaerobic training is usually around 80-90% of your maximum heart rate. Once you push too hard, you’ll switch back to aerobic energy production.

Aerobic training builds endurance and improves cardio-respiratory functions. Anaerobic training builds strength and improves speed. Aerobic training is done at lower intensities while anaerobic training is done at higher intensities. 

Final Thoughts

Aerobic and anaerobic respiration serve important functions in producing energy. For those who want to lose weight, tone up, or get fitter and healthier, it’s beneficial to combine both aerobic and anaerobic processes into one session.

An individual can perform these two exercises at different intensities depending on their fitness level. A gradual build-up will allow the person to progress in fitness levels without becoming overtrained.

It is also better to perform more aerobic activities instead of solely focusing on anaerobic workouts.

People will have greater cardiovascular benefits when they do aerobic activities, however, anaerobic exercises are important too if you want to build strength and muscle.

Megan Rinzel
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