In vivo lipogenesis and thermogenesis were studied for 24 h after ingestion of 500 g of carbohydrate (CHO) in subjects who had consumed either a high-fat, a mixed, or a high-CHO diet during the 3-6 days preceding the test. CHO oxidation and conversion to fat was significantly less in the high-fat diet group (222 +/- 5 g) than in the mixed (300 +/- 13 g) or high-CHO diet (331 +/- 7 g) groups, resulting in a greater glycogen storage in the high-fat (278 +/- 6 g) than in the other two groups (197 +/- 11 and 170 +/- 2 g). Net lipogenesis occurred sooner and lasted longer in the high-CHO group, amounting to 0.8 +/- 0.5, 3.4 +/- 0.6, and 9 +/- 1 g of lipid synthesized in the high-fat, mixed, and high-CHO groups, respectively. The thermic effect of the CHO load was 5.2 +/- 0.5% on the high-fat, 6.5 +/- 0.4% on the mixed diet, and 8.6 +/- 0.4% on the high-CHO diet. Significant relationships were demonstrated between the postabsorptive nonprotein respiratory quotient and net lipogenesis after the CHO load (r = 0.82) and between net lipogenesis and the increase in energy expenditure (r = 0.71). It is concluded that the antecedent diet influences the amount of net lipogenesis and the magnitude of thermogenesis after a large CHO test meal. However, lipogenesis remains too limited even after such large CHO intakes to cause an increase in the body's fat content.