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Every thing in life needs energy. Your muscles are no different, in fact they consume an enormous amount of energy when they are working actively. So where does this energy come from? In the human body, and in fact in life in general, the basic unit of energy comes from glucose. Some people call this sugar, but it is a little different from sugar, as we think of sugar, in a sugar bowl. Sugar, in a sugar bowl, has a lot of glucose in it, but for this type of glucose to be used in the body, the sugar has to be broken down into individual glucose molecules (the tiny bits that make up glucose). Interestingly, nearly everything that you eat ends up being digested down into glucose.

So how does this glucose get turned into energy, and how does this energy get used in your muscles? To make this happen, a fascinating and very complex biochemical process goes on in every living cell in your body. In fact, this process is happening in every living cell, thousands of times every second, and don't forget, you have over 70 trillion living cells in your body! This process was discovered by Hans Krebs over 70 years ago for which he was awarded the Nobel prize, and it is known as the Krebs cycle. Professor Krebs discovered the chemical process by which glucose is broken down into water and carbon dioxide, and the energy stored in the glucose is released into the body. This process requires oxygen. Of course we get oxygen when we breathe, and this oxygen travels around the body in the blood and feeds every living cell. The more energy that you need to release from the cells, the more oxygen you need.

So how are exercise and sore muscles connected? Well, efficient and fit muscles are used to this process, but if you put muscles under pressure by over working them, they struggle to get enough oxygen. Without enough oxygen, the chemical pathway changes, and the end result is that a substance called lactic acid is produced. If this builds up in the muscle fibres, it can cause inflammation and pain, which are the symptoms we experience when muscles get ‘tied-up’ due to over exercise. Warming up muscles and cooling down properly are important parts of the process of maintaining healthy muscles. Also, building up fitness slowly is very important. It gives the muscles time to build up the necessary blood vessels to make sure you can get enough oxygen in, and carbon dioxide out.

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