What Is the Formula for Cellular Respiration?

By Michael Keenan; Updated April 24, 2017
Plants use a combination of photosynthesis and cellular respiration to produce energy.

Cellular respiration is the process of using oxygen to break down sugar to release energy in the form of Adenosine triphosphate (ATP). ATP is then used for muscle movement, building cells and other cell functions.


The formula for cellular respiration is glucose plus oxygen yields carbon dioxide, water and ATP, written as C6H12O6 + 6O2 --> 6H2O + 6CO2 + ATP.


Cellular respiration generates a net of approximately 38 ATP that can be used by the body.


Cellular respiration is how humans and other animals generate energy for basic functions. It takes place in cells with sugar and oxygen transported by blood.


There are four stages of cellular respiration: glycolysis, the transition reaction, the Krebs Cycle (also known as the Citric Acid Cycle) and the electron transport chain. The most energy is generated during the electron transport chain.


If the body does not have enough sugar, it can use fat and protein instead. If oxygen is limited, the body can use anaerobic respiration for a short period of time.

About the Author

Mark Kennan is a writer based in the Kansas City area, specializing in personal finance and business topics. He has been writing since 2009 and has been published by "Quicken," "TurboTax," and "The Motley Fool."