We investigated the mechanisms of body weight regulation in young men of normal body weight leading unrestricted lives. Changes in total and resting energy expenditure, body composition, and subsequent voluntary nutrient intakes in response to overeating by 4,230 +/- 115 (SE) kJ/day (1,011 +/- 27 kcal/day) for 21 days were measured in seven subjects consuming a typical diet. On average, 85-90% of the excess energy intake was deposited (with 87% of this amount in fat and 13% in protein on average). There was no detectable difference between individuals in susceptibility to energy deposition. The resting metabolic rate, averaged for fasting and fed states, increased during overfeeding (mean +/- SE, 628 +/- 197 kJ/day, P less than 0.01), but at least some of this amount was obligatory expenditure associated with nutrient assimilation. No significant increase in energy expenditure for physical activity or thermoregulation resulted from overfeeding. Thus energy expenditure did not substantially adapt to increased energy intake. However, significant decreases in voluntary energy intake (1,991 +/- 824 kJ/day, P less than 0.05) and fat intake (48 +/- 11 g/day, P less than 0.01) followed overeating, indicating that adaptive changes in nutrient intakes can contribute significantly to body weight regulation after overeating.