Energy availability describes the amount of dietary energy remaining for physiological functionality after the energy cost of exercise is deducted. The physiological and hormonal consequences of low energy availability (LEA) are well established, but the impact of LEA on physical activity behavior outside of exercise and, specifically, nonexercise activity thermogenesis (NEAT) has not been systematically examined. The authors conducted a secondary analysis of a repeated-measures crossover study in which recreationally trained young men (n = 6, 25 ± 1.0 years) underwent two 4-day conditions of LEA (15 kcal·kg fat-free mass-1 ·day-1) with and without endurance exercise (LEA + EX and LEA EX) and two energy-balanced control conditions (CON + EX and CON EX). The duration and intensity of physical activity outside of prescribed exercise were assessed using the SenseWear Pro3 armband. LEA did not alter NEAT (p = .41), nor time spent in moderate to vigorous (p = .20) and low-intensity physical activity (p = .17). However, time spent in low-intensity physical activity was lower in LEA + EX than LEA - EX (13.7 ± 0.3 vs. 15.2 ± 0.3 hr/day; p = .002). Short-term LEA does not seem to impact NEAT per se, but the way it is attained may impact physical activity behavior outside of exercise. As the participants expended similar amounts of energy during NEAT (900-1,300 kcal/day = 12.5-18.0 kcal·kg fat-free mass-1·day-1) and prescribed exercise bouts (15.0 kcal·kg fat-free mass-1·day-1), excluding it as a component of energy expenditure may skew the true energy available for physiological functionality in active populations.
Keywords: MVPA; behavioral compensation; low-intensity physical activity.