Normal weight men and women overestimate exercise energy expenditure

J Sports Med Phys Fitness. 2010 Dec;50(4):377-84.


Aim: The limited potential of exercise to induce weight loss could be partly due to the overestimation of the energy cost of exercise. The objectives of this study were twofold: 1) to investigate whether men and women are able to accurately estimate exercise energy expenditure (EE); and 2) to determine whether they have the ability to accurately compensate for the EE of exercise during a buffet-type meal.

Methods: Sixteen (8 men, 8 women) moderately active (VO2 peak=45.4±7.7, normal weight (BMI=22.8±3.3 kg/m2) individuals, aged 20-35 years, were studied. They were blinded to two randomly assigned experimental conditions: a 200 and a 300 kcal (measured by indirect calorimetry) exercise sessions that were performed on a treadmill at the same intensity (50% of VO2 peak). At the end of each exercise session individuals were asked to estimate EE of the exercise sessions and to then eat the caloric equivalent of their estimated exercise EE from a buffet-type meal.

Results: Estimated EE was higher than measured EE for both the 200 kcal (825.0±1061.8 vs. 200.1±0.7 kcal, P<0.05) and 300 kcal (896.9±952.4 vs. 300.2±0.7 kcal, P<0.05) sessions. Further, post-exercise energy intake was higher than measured EE for the 200 kcal (556.8±204.4 vs. 200.1±0.7 kcal, P<0.001) and the 300 kcal (607.2±166.5 vs. 300.2±0.7 kcal, P<0.001) sessions. Although post-exercise energy intake was lower than estimated EE, no significant differences were noted.

Conclusion: These results suggest that normal weight individuals overestimate EE during exercise by 3-4 folds. Further, when asked to precisely compensate for exercise EE with food intake, the resulting energy intake is still 2 to 3 folds greater than the measured EE of exercise.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Calorimetry, Indirect
  • Cross-Over Studies
  • Energy Intake
  • Energy Metabolism*
  • Exercise Test
  • Exercise*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Single-Blind Method
  • Young Adult