Matter & Energy Changes During Cellular Respiration

Instructor: David Wood

David has taught Honors Physics, AP Physics, IB Physics and general science courses. He has a Masters in Education, and a Bachelors in Physics.

Cellular respiration is the most important process in the human body, and happens in every cell. Learn about that process and discover the matter and energy changes that happen inside our body.

What is Cellular Respiration?

There are certain things that humans need to survive: air to breathe, water to drink, and food to eat. We get these things by eating and breathing, and most of us give little thought to where those nutrients actually go.

Our body is made up of cells, and each of those cells also need food, water, and oxygen. Our bodies as a whole take each of those things in, and the nutrients are distributed among our cells. The process our cells use to take in food and oxygen is called cellular respiration.

Animal cell cross-section
Animal cell cross-section

Cellular respiration is a set of chemical reactions cells use to change the food we eat, the water we drink, and oxygen from the air we breathe into forms the cell can use as energy. In the process, matter is transformed from one type to another; that is, atoms from these materials are arranged into new forms. In this lesson, we're going to take a look at the matter and energy changes that happen during the process of cellular respiration.

Matter Changes during Cellular Respiration

Chemical reactions, like those involved in cellular respiration, involve changing matter from one form to another. This rearrangement of matter can be described using a chemical equation. The chemical equation for cellular respiration looks like this:


Cellular respiration equation
Cellular respiration equation


You can see sugar and oxygen at the beginning of the reaction; after the reaction, their elements have reacted to form carbon dioxide and water. The oxygen comes from the air we breathe. The sugar is actually a specific kind of sugar called glucose, and it's obtained by breaking down food through digestion.

Glucose molecule
Glucose molecule

Through respiration, the cell takes energy from oxygen and glucose, creating water and carbon dioxide in the process. Water is kept inside the body because it's highly useful to us. Carbon dioxide, on the other hand, is a waste product, and leaves the body through the lungs. When you breathe out, you're actually expelling carbon dioxide.

Energy Changes during Cellular Respiration

The chemical reaction described by the equation also involves energy changes that you can't see from the equation - one type of energy changes into another.

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