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ATP is the body's primary fuel during everyday activities and exercise.
Adenosine triphosphate is the fuel for working muscles. Your body makes ATP from glucose, protein and fat to fuel muscles for everyday activities and exercise. Running burns through the body's ATP stores at varying rates depending on the exercise intensity. Both short- and long-distance running have advantages and disadvantages related to your body's ATP production and usage.
ATP For Short Distances
ATP breaks down quickly to produce energy for short, high-intensity sprints and is the primary source of energy for sprinters. Your existing ATP stores can fuel about 30 seconds of strenuous activities such as sprinting. After that, those stores will be depleted, so you'll have to slow down. After your existing ATP is used up, your body starts to convert your body's stores of glycogen into energy. However, this conversion is less efficient and while you can continue exercising, your speed will slow down.
ATP in Long-Distance Running
When you run at a lower intensity for longer periods of time, your body continues to make ATP at a slower rate, meaning that your activity will have to slow down. Your body's slower conversion of glucose to ATP in prolonged exercise is aerobic metabolism. While this process is slower than anaerobic metabolism, the total amount of ATP produced is 10 times greater. Because of this efficiency, you can run for much longer periods of time at a decreased pace.
Fewer Resources Depleted
Running shorter distances depletes less of the body's resources. While your muscles still contract and burn energy, using up stores of ATP, your body does not start to break down fat or muscle tissue for fuel. As a result, sprinters have a greater amount of lean body mass. They also can produce and store more ATP to give them a quick burst of energy when needed.
Long-Distance Running Fuel
In contrast, long-distance runners burn through glucose stores, at which point the body starts to break down stored fat and muscle tissue to provide fuel. This is the primary reason why marathon runners have a very lean appearance. Their prolonged exercise causes their bodies to not store fat and also breaks down any excess muscle. Although they can run for long periods of time, long-distance runners don't have the same ATP stores available as sprinters.
While your body can produce and store ATP, different types of running make your body adapt. Short-distance runners tend to have greater stores of ATP, but may have trouble with prolonged exercise. Long-distance runners don't store as much ATP, but can produce it at a constant rate to fuel their activity. Both short- and long-distance runners have advantages and disadvantages, but their bodies adapt to the type of exercise performed regularly.