Anaerobic respiratory system

The anaerobic respiratory system supplies energy very quickly for sports such as vaulting in gymnastics or throwing a javelin where the activity only lasts a few seconds.

An athlete about to throw a javelin

This system breaks down glucose into lactic acid. Glucose is derived from carbohydrates. It produces energy very quickly.

Glucose → energy + lactic acid

Athletes showing signs of fatigue and pain towards the end of a 400 m race
Athletes showing signs of fatigue and pain towards the end of a 400 m race

The lactic acid energy system produces the majority of the energy for moderate to high intensity activities such as running 400 metres. However, lactic acid is a fatiguing by-product of this energy pathway and causes pain and discomfort in the working muscles. It is for this reason that the winner of a 400 m race is typically the athlete who slows down the least.