Catalysts are agents that by binding reactant molecules lower the energy barriers to chemical reaction. After reaction the catalyst is regenerated, its unbinding energy recruited from the environment, which is associated with an inevitable loss of energy. We show that combining several catalytic sites to become energetically and temporally phase-shifted relative to each other provides a possibility to sustain the overall reaction by internal 'energy recycling', bypassing the need for thermal activation, and in principle allowing the system to work adiabatically. Using an analytical model for superimposed, phase-shifted potentials of F 1-ATP synthase provides a description integrating main characteristics of this rotary enzyme complex. © 2012 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.