Predictors of Energy Compensation during Exercise Interventions: A Systematic Review

Nutrients. 2015 May 15;7(5):3677-704. doi: 10.3390/nu7053677.


Weight loss from exercise-induced energy deficits is usually less than expected. The objective of this systematic review was to investigate predictors of energy compensation, which is defined as body energy changes (fat mass and fat-free mass) over the total amount of exercise energy expenditure. A search was conducted in multiple databases without date limits. Of 4745 studies found, 61 were included in this systematic review with a total of 928 subjects. The overall mean energy compensation was 18% ± 93%. The analyses indicated that 48% of the variance of energy compensation is explained by the interaction between initial fat mass, age and duration of exercise interventions. Sex, frequency, intensity and dose of exercise energy expenditure were not significant predictors of energy compensation. The fitted model suggested that for a shorter study duration, lower energy compensation was observed in younger individuals with higher initial fat mass (FM). In contrast, higher energy compensation was noted for younger individuals with lower initial FM. From 25 weeks onward, energy compensation was no longer different for these predictors. For studies of longer duration (about 80 weeks), the energy compensation approached 84%. Lower energy compensation occurs with short-term exercise, and a much higher level of energy compensation accompanies long-term exercise interventions.

Keywords: body composition; energy compensation; exercise intervention.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Adipose Tissue / metabolism*
  • Body Composition*
  • Body Fluid Compartments / metabolism*
  • Energy Intake
  • Energy Metabolism*
  • Exercise / physiology*
  • Exercise Therapy
  • Humans
  • Obesity / metabolism*
  • Obesity / therapy
  • Weight Loss / physiology*