What is ATP all about?

Adenosine triphosphate (ATP) production is one of the favourite conversations floating around the biohacking and fitness community of late. And fair enough! Its key to all processes of living, and will effect everyone in everything you do. So with this in mind, I reckon some real value could be found in having some understanding on what’s going on at the base level!
So read on to refine your BS-o-meter for scoping out new practices or supplements, and ignite your curiosity for your own body.

What is ATP?

ATP is a naturally occurring molecule in the cells of all living organisms. As the name reads, it is made up of one adenosine molecule and a chain of three phosphoryl groups. ATP is created by chemical processes that break down large molecules to smaller, these are known as catabolic pathways (or catabolism). This occurs at “the powerhouse of the cell” - the mitochondria!
It should be noted that ATP does not store very well, that’s why we store our energy more long term with sugars and fats.

What is ATP’s function?

One common phrase is that “ATP is the energy currency of the cell.
But what exactly does that mean? Essentially, ATP is used to deliver energy from energy storing processes in cells (catabolism) to energy demanding processes (anabolism).
The conversion of ATP to ADP (adenosine diphosphate) is what releases the energy. In your body, this energy can be used for everything from keeping you warm, generating forces for movement, supplying reactions to synthesise valuable chemicals, or build new cells. So if you want to do anything with your life other than degrade into a sludge...you’re gonna be depending on that sweet sweet ATP.

How is ATP regulated?

The ATP process is largely dictated by how the vital enzyme AMPK interacts with its environment. This is the tool for ATP manufacture (located within the mitochondria).
AMPK is known to be closely regulated activated by two key conditions. That being the ratio of AMP to ATP molecules present, and the amount of calcium present. Other significant environmental influences are the amount of oxygen available, and the temperature. But of course, being a biological process there are a bunch of other factors that can contribute. One mechanism of recent interest is how phosphorylcreatine and creatine in the regulate ATP synthesis. [3] However maintaining suitable mitochondrial health is vital for manufacture, given this is the host location.

What can I do to increase my ATP output?

There are a three main mitochondrial mechanisms to consider to increase ATP output.

  1. Increase the ATP output of individual mitochondria though stimulation and material availability.

  2. Stimulate new mitochondria growth (biogenisis) to provide more ATP processing sites.

  3. Restoration and protection of mitochondria from sources of damage, ensuring proper function.

Some inputs worth looking into include:

  • Exercise - Triggers increased mitochondrial biogenisis via increased cellular energy demand. [6]

  • Near Infrared Light - Increased ATP production via mitochondrial photo-stimulation. [4, 5]

  • Heat - Improving mitochondrial health with heat shock proteins and increasing mitochondrial growth. [6, 7]

  • Cold - Trigger for increased mitochondrial growth within fat tissue via “fight or flight” response systems. [8]

  • Supplementation - Creatine, L-Carnitine, ALCAR Cordyceps, CoQ10, Resveratrol, NAC, Riboflavin, Vitamin C, Vitamin E, Alpha-Lipoic Acid, and many others have been shown to benefit ATP production through various mechanisms. [2, 8, 10] [Jan 2020 Update: Through popular demand, we now have the Primal Herb botanical stack "ATP Ener-G" available in the VitaKea store.]

    In the future I’ll cover these more in depth, but if you are interested in applying any of these inputs to you life, be sure to get value from your time and energy do plenty of research before hand. Some good starting points could be the articles referenced below.

Take home message

ATP is what delivers the energy input to any energy demanding processes that your body, or any living thing uses. Really, it is the input to life.
There are a number of environmental influences that regulate ATP production. Primarily having the right balance of materials in the local area, and environmental temperature. As the process takes place in the mitochondria, the health of that area is key to efficient manufacture.
There are also many ways you can increase your ATP production, including supplementation, exercise and changes to your surroundings.

What now? I challenge you to do some of your own research to be sure that you get the best value for your energy!

Other valuable Learning

If you’re keen to learn more in depth about what ATP is and how it operates, Khan Academy does some great videos that are friendly to any audience. Check out their intro to the right.

(FYI, we are not sponsored by Khan, just love supporting free education and good content!)

VitaKea Founder & Caretaker

Key players in my current health regime include meditation, regular exercise (type depending on current fixation), early to bed, early to rise, packing in as many fungi & leafy greens as possible.
supplementation varies as I test out new protocols. That considered, I prioritise anything that can be utilised for long-term benefits. Of course, for special cases I can definitely appreciate a good stimulant, or perspective modifier.


- Kudos to the multiple pots of Primal Herb’s NeuroShroom tea, half a scoop of Myoblox Skywalk, and one cup of Wise Ape Chocolate Hustle tea that was consumed in the creation of this article!
- Loui the Cat for supplying well timed dopamine boosts.
- And of course, to the authors of the awesome articles referenced above.