Impact of energy intake and exercise on resting metabolic rate

Sports Med. 1990 Aug;10(2):72-87. doi: 10.2165/00007256-199010020-00002.


Resting metabolic rate is modulated by the amount of calories consumed in the diet relative to energy expenditure. Excessive consumption of energy appears to increase resting metabolic rate while fasting and very low calorie dieting causes resting metabolic rate to decrease. Since the metabolic rate at rest is the primary component of daily energy expenditure, its reduction with caloric restriction makes it difficult for obese individuals to lose weight and to maintain weight that is lost. Whether exercise has a carry-over effect on resting metabolic rate remains controversial, even though this question has been studied extensively during the last 90 years. Reasons for contradictory results include variations in control of prior diet and exercise patterns, inadequate exercise frequency, intensity and duration, and the possibility of response to exercise varying between individuals. Several lines of evidence suggest exercise may modulate resting metabolic rate. Bed rest in sedentary individuals leads to a reduction in resting metabolic rate. Similarly, in highly trained runners, cessation of daily exercise training lowers resting metabolic rate by about 7 to 10%. Resting metabolic rate is depressed in previously sedentary obese individuals on a very low calorie diet, but it quickly returns to the predieting level when exercise of sufficient frequency, intensity and duration is undertaken while dieting. These findings suggest caloric intake and daily exercise can modulate resting metabolic rate. Exercise of adequate intensity and duration may also enhance resting metabolic rate.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Basal Metabolism / physiology*
  • Eating / physiology
  • Energy Intake / physiology*
  • Energy Metabolism / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Physical Exertion / physiology*