Short answer: The second law of thermodynamics means that concentrations of specific chemicals or positive or negative charges will always “want” to disperse and randomly mix in their environment, making concentrations of ions such as sodium or potassium a form of potential energy. While the pump normally uses energy from ATP to invest into creating those concentrations, if ATP levels are low and sodium and potassium are already highly concentrated on opposite sides of the cell membrane, their potential energy can be released by mixing across the membrane, and can be used to synthesize ATP.

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DISCLAIMER: I have a PhD in Nutritional Sciences and my expertise is in performing and evaluating nutritional research. I am not a medical doctor and nothing herein is medical advice.

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