Culture in axenic medium causes two-fold increases in the length of development and adult life span in Caenorhabditis elegans. We asked whether axenic medium imposes dietary restriction (ADR), and causes changes in metabolic activity and stress resistance. Eat mutants, which have a reduced food intake, were studied in parallel with wild-type worms to assess potential synergistic actions of axenic culture and food restriction. We found that axenic culture enhances metabolic activity as assessed by mass-specific oxygen consumption rate and heat production. Axenic culture also caused higher activities of the antioxidant enzymes superoxide dismutase and catalase, and led to increased resistance to high temperature, which was further exacerbated by mutation in eat-2. These results show that axenic medium up-regulates a variety of somatic maintenance functions including oxidative and thermal stress resistance and that food restriction due to axenic growth and to mutation in eat-2 are very similar but not identical.