The Mitochondria: Powerhouse of the Cell

Meet the Mitochondria. Where our heat and energy keeps us going.                Courtesy @Womenwhocycle

Meet the Mitochondria. Where our heat and energy keeps us going.               Courtesy @Womenwhocycle

     Every cell in our body, (except mature red blood cells) all contain mitochondria. Considered to be the powerhouse of the cell, like a battery providing us with the necessary energy we need to thrive. We once believed there was only one mitochondria in each cell, however there are hundreds, even near the thousands in each cell with the new, up-to-date findings from scientists. So shouldn't we make sure our "batteries" are running smoothly in order for us to get what we need?

Making sure each one of our cells acquiring all of their, or most, of the nutrients for the mitochondrial organelle to run efficiently is the key to creating sufficient energy. The provisions of many cellular functions is dependent on these nutritional substances, otherwise negative consequences will occur with a sluggish operating system, not being able to turn these nutrients to energy at a desired pace. How can our cell's powerhouse be negatively effected? Let's take a closer look at the Krebs cycle.

Citric Acid Cycle, Tricarboxylic Acid Cycle, Krebs Cycle: All the Same Cycle

     The names are synonymous to the cycle, and this cycle provides you 90% of the energy produced from the calories that you've eaten. Whether it is from carbohydrates, fats, or proteins; they'll eventually be converted to what is known as Acetyl-CoA. That is if your body decides to use the calories as energy. Once the conversion occurs, it must then be met with a four-carbon intermediate to enter into the cycle within the matrix by the name of: Oxaloacetate. This combination is the driving force in making almost all of your energy.

Bio-Chemistry Jargon

     This four-carbon intermediate Oxaloacetate, picks up two additional carbons from Acetyl-CoA to ensure getting into the cycle through a condensation reaction to form Citrate, a six-carbon molecule. As this cycle turns, hydrogen acceptors starts to pick up hydrogen ions. The hydrogen acceptors will then release the hydrogen ions in the form of ATP energy when it becomes oxidized by oxygen in the Electron Transport Chain, the final stage to create energy.

No need to remember all of the steps folks!                                                                                                                                 Courtesy @Fastbleep

No need to remember all of the steps folks!                                                                                                                                Courtesy @Fastbleep

How does this process of energy production run smoothly? Carbohydrates!

There has to be an ample supply of Oxaloacetate to Acetyl-CoA ratio in order to meet the demands of the Krebs cycle. Where does Oxaloacetate readily come from? The oh-so dreaded carbs that a lot of low-carb/no-carb gurus are advising to eliminate, when they've failed to take a closer look at the human body from the biochemical and cellular level.

You can't derive Oxaloacetate from fat and when protein has to be forced to be made into this four-carbon intermediate, it is costly to your system just to activate a redundant pathway. With carbohydrates, producing this intermediate, it's like getting from A to B in the shortest amount of distance making it more efficient for the TCA cycle to make energy. However, making protein into Oxaloacetate, is serving itself outside of its functional elements just to inefficiently produce this intermediate. Thus not going from A to B, but making pit stops at C and D then later arriving to B late. 


Low-Carbohydrate Diets and Ketogenics

Ketosis, or the degree to the keto diet can influence the amount of the necessary intermediate, Oxaloacetate. A low-carbohydrate or carbohydrate restricted diet can reduce the amount of Oxaloacetate, thus slowing down the rate at which the Citric Acid cycle turns. A 1:1 ratio is needed otherwise an "overflow" of acetyl-CoA is just sitting outside, waiting to have their hands held by Oxaloacetate to jump into the TCA cycle as Citrate and begin energy production.

     Yes, fat has more calories, thus having the potential to give more energy. However, does it provide it at the right times? Efficiently and effectively? That is why it's not recommended for athletes to have a carb-restricted diet because it can impede explosive performance, agility, and safety.

Yes, there was a study conducted which showed bicyclist doing ok with ketogenics. Can the study be duplicated with other sports disciplines or other types of exercise? I guarantee you not; not at the level a person is trying to achieve with their performance. If the study cannot be replicated with other active sports, then it works only in isolation and not for the majority.

     Putting things into perspective, the same can be said for fad diets that are extreme. It may work for a selected group of people, even for the time being, but what about everyone else whom have been negatively effected by the philosophy? There is a procedure to ketogenics which can be beneficial.

It does take a little bit more detective work. The great thing is: our science isn't giving us crumbs of clues, but there are enough facts to draw sound conclusions to what will work best for the individual person. 

Find out more on the next Part 2: The Mitochondria and Ketogenics. 






Diet, NutritionDuy Tran