To investigate reproductive function during fasting, six men 20-74% over ideal body weight completed an 18-day study consisting of a 3-day control period, a 10-day total fast, and a 5-day refeeding period. All men lost at least 4.1% of total weight and demonstrated ketonemia and ketonuria. The FSH response to LRH (0.2 microgram/min for 4 h) stimulation was significantly lower (P less than 0.05) during fasting and remained so during refeeding. Serum FSH concentrations were significantly lower (P less than 0.05) during the fast in five of six patients compared to those during the control period, whereas serum LH concentrations were unchanged. The effects of fasting on endogenous LH and FSH pulsations were studied by obtaining serum at 20-min intervals for 6 h on days 2, 11, and 16. Neither the amplitude nor the frequency of LH and FSH pulsations changed significantly during fasting or refeeding. Serum testosterone concentrations were significantly lower (P less than 0.025) by fasting day 9 compared to control values. The 24-h urinary excretion of both LH and FSH increased significantly (P less than 0.05) by fasting day 6 and reached a maximum by fasting day 8. Urinary LH excretion did not return to normal after 3 days of refeeding, whereas urinary FSH excretion returned to baseline by the first day of refeeding. We conclude that during short term fasting in obese men: 1) serum FSH concentrations decrease, 2) the pituitary responsiveness of FSH and LRH is blunted, 3) serum testosterone decreases, and 4) the urinary excretion of both LH and FSH increase.