The mitochondria are the energy producing units within the cell producing nearly all of the body’s energy. Mitochondria are also involved in other processes, such as how the cell divides, ages and dies. There are several hundreds of mitochondria in most cells, but in the most active cells, such as in the brain, retina, liver and muscle tissue, there may be several thousands of mitochondria per cell.
Mitochondria have their own DNA, inherited from the mother. It is believed that this is evidence that mitochondria used to be free-living bacteria that have developed a symbiotic relationship with its more advanced cell hosts, such as the cells in the human body. Mitochondria can grow and multiply to meet increased energy needs.
Sufficient amounts of cellular energy results in optimal health including a sharp and alert brain. Brain cells are packed with mitochondria that produce the energy required for the brain to perform well.
If the mitochondria are unable to produce sufficient energy to meet the body’s energy demands, a number of chronic health issues ensue.
To optimise cellular function, the mitochondrial energy production needs to function properly. This requires the right nutrition but we also need to limit and/or mitigate the exposure to factors that damage the mitochondria (such as cigarettes, elevated blood sugar, environmental toxins and certain medications).
The mitochondrial DNA is less protected than DNA of the nucleus leaving it vulnerable to free radicals resulting in oxidative stress which damages our mitochondria and its DNA. Most diseases involve the loss of function or death of mitochondria. A poor diet and negative environmental factors lead to oxidative stress resulting in damage to the mitochondria.
Linking nutrition to the health of our mitochondria makes it much easier to focus on maintaining a healthy diet. Our cells depend on us eating a diet that supports the proper functioning of its mitochondria. When considered in this way, food becomes so much more than just fuel ensuring that we get through the day. In fact, it is a miracle that some of us are able to survive, based on the poor diets that some people are eating!
Exercise and the Mitochondria
Exercise is an important aspect of maintaining healthy mitochondria, slowing down the body’s ageing process. Mitochondrial biogenesis refers to the increase in the size and number of mitochondria within a cell, resulting in the maximum amount of energy that can be generated during intense exercise being increased. As exercise provides a demand for increased energy production, the muscle cells respond by overcompensating in their ability to produce energy for the next exercise session. This induces mitochondrial biogenesis when in the resting state.
The ability of muscles to overcompensate for the stress involved in exercise is why frequent exercise results in increased strength, endurance and energy.
Metabolic Circuit (MC) training involves repeated bursts of brief, but very intense, exercise followed with periods of recovery. This method has been shown to significantly increase muscle mitochondrial energy production and improve muscle endurance despite the duration of the session being much shorter when compared to traditional aerobic exercise.
15 minutes of MC training can activate mitochondrial biogenesis and increase endurance capacity with similar or better results than much lengthier aerobic or resistance exercise routines.
The powerful combination of 15-minute MC training and a personalised diet promote an optimised use of energy from your fat stores providing a cleaner cellular fuel consumption and and a leaner and healthier body composition.