Measurement of ad libitum food intake, physical activity, and sedentary time in response to overfeeding

PLoS One. 2012;7(5):e36225. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0036225. Epub 2012 May 22.


Given the wide availability of highly palatable foods, overeating is common. Energy intake and metabolic responses to overfeeding may provide insights into weight gain prevention. We hypothesized a down-regulation in subsequent food intake and sedentary time, and up-regulation in non-exercise activity and core temperature in response to overfeeding in order to maintain body weight constant. In a monitored inpatient clinical research unit using a cross over study design, we investigated ad libitum energy intake (EI, using automated vending machines), core body temperature, and physical activity (using accelerometry) following a short term (3-day) weight maintaining (WM) vs overfeeding (OF) diet in healthy volunteers (n = 21, BMI, mean ± SD, 33.2±8.6 kg/m(2), 73.6% male). During the ad libitum periods following the WM vs. OF diets, there was no significant difference in mean 3-d EI (4061±1084 vs. 3926±1284 kcal/day, p = 0.41), and there were also no differences either in core body temperature (37.0±0.2°C vs. 37.1±0.2°C, p = 0.75) or sedentary time (70.9±12.9 vs. 72.0±7.4%, p = 0.88). However, during OF (but not WM), sedentary time was positively associated with weight gain (r = 0.49, p = 0.05, adjusted for age, sex, and initial weight). In conclusion, short term overfeeding did not result in a decrease in subsequent ad libitum food intake or overall change in sedentary time although in secondary analysis sedentary time was associated with weight gain during OF. Beyond possible changes in sedentary time, there is minimal attempt to restore energy balance during or following short term overfeeding.

Trial registration: NCT00342732.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Intramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Body Temperature / physiology
  • Body Weight / physiology
  • Cross-Over Studies
  • Eating / physiology*
  • Energy Intake / physiology
  • Energy Metabolism / physiology*
  • Exercise / physiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hyperphagia / physiopathology*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Motor Activity / physiology*

Associated data