Aerobic Cellular Respiration: Stages, Equation & Products

Aerobic Cellular Respiration: Stages, Equation & Products
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  • 0:00 Cellular Respiration
  • 1:24 The Process
  • 3:51 Formula
  • 4:31 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Kelly Robson

Kelly has taught High School Science and Applied Communications. She holds an Education Specialist Degree in Ed. Leadership.

Aerobic cellular respiration is the process in which our cells break down food and turn it into energy that cells need to perform their life functions. This lesson goes through the process, formula, and end results of aerobic cellular respiration.

Cellular Respiration

Cellular respiration is the process through which our cells get the energy to perform their functions. Since all living things are made of cells, and all cells need energy to perform life's functions, cellular respiration is necessary for all living things. There are two types of cellular respiration: aerobic and anaerobic. This lesson is going to concentrate on aerobic cellular respiration.

During aerobic respiration, oxygen is present, and this results in a larger amount of energy. Even though anaerobic cellular respiration lacks the presence of oxygen, it is still able to produce energy, just smaller amounts of it. This process is called fermentation.

During cellular respiration, food molecules are broken down from sugar molecules to energy molecules known as ATP. ATP is also considered to be the 'energy currency' of cells. ATP stores energy in a strong bond, and cells can harness this energy by breaking that bond, thereby removing a phosphate group and resulting in ADP, which can then be reconverted to ATP. At the end of anaerobic respiration, there are only two molecules of ATP produced. During aerobic cellular respiration, there are a maximum of 38 molecules of ATP formed.

The Process

Aerobic cellular respiration occurs mainly in eukaryotic cells. These are cells that contain a nucleus (brain of the cell) and organelles (little organs that each have their own job inside the cell). The process of aerobic cellular respiration takes place mostly inside of the mitochondria, an organelle that is known as the powerhouse of the cell.

Cellular respiration is a multiple step process that breaks down food into usable cellular energy.
Cellular Respiration

There are three main stages to get from food molecules to ATP: glycolysis, the citric acid cycle, and the electron transport chain.


The glycolysis phase takes place in the cytoplasm, which is gel of the cell in which the organelles float. During glycolysis, the six-carbon sugar molecule, glucose, is broken down into two pyruvate molecules, which are three-carbon sugars. Pyruvate is the main product, but there are also two molecules of ATP and two very high-energy NADH molecules. But this is just the beginning! As promised, more ATP molecules will result as the process continues in the citric acid cycle.

Citric Acid Cycle

The citric acid cycle is also known as the Kreb's cycle and the tricarboxylic (TCA) acid cycle. As the molecules move into the mitochondria, the pyruvate formed in glycolysis will lose its CO2 and become acetyl-CoA. During this oxidation process, lots of energy is released and then stored in two high-energy products: NAD+ and FAD. The citric acid cycle takes place in the membrane of the mitochondria. Only a tiny bit of ATP is produced; however, it is the high-energy products NAD+ and FAD that move into the next and final stage where lots of ATP will finally be produced.

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