A variety of physiological and behavioral parameters which relate to metabolism were continuously monitored in 18 month old female Fischer 344 rats which were maintained on either ad libitum or reduced calorie diets. Caloric restriction (CR) stimulated average motor activity per day, the duration of each feeding episode, food consumed per episode, and water consumed per gram lean body mass (LBM). However, CR limited total food consumption, feeding time, number of feeding episodes per day, total eating and drinking time, and the daily ratio of food consumed to water consumed, CR also decreased average body temperature per day, O2 consumption, CO2 production, and respiratory quotient. A variety of parameters concerning water consumption were not affected. CR rats ate their food immediately when food was presented during the light span, while ad libitum fed animals ate numerous small meals throughout the entire dark span. An anticipatory response to restricted feeding was also noted. Total motor activity, metabolism, and body temperature increased just prior to scheduled feeding and reached maximum values shortly after feeding, suggesting that these parameters were highly synchronized to feeding. Females and males were found to respond to caloric restriction in a similar fashion. Dramatic changes in respiratory quotient and body temperature suggest rapid shifts between metabolic pathways (glycolysis to gluconeogenesis) to obtain optimal efficiency. Lower body temperature and metabolism may provide protection against DNA damage, thereby increasing the survival potential of restricted rats. These responses may provide insight into the mechanisms by which caloric restriction acts to extend life span.