Energy compensation & adiposity

Executive summary

* A paper was published in August 2021, which generated the headline "Exercise reduces the number of calories burned at rest in obese people, study finds."

* The researchers used the world's largest database on human energy expenditure. Data for 1,754 adults were used in this study.

* Total energy expenditure comprises two main elements: basal energy expenditure and activity energy expenditure and two smaller elements: the thermic effect of feeding and non-exercise activity thermogenesis.

* Three energy expenditure models were hypothesised and then tested for validity. The researchers found that the energy compensation model was the valid one. Energy compensation was defined as “the concept that not all the energy spent when activity levels increase translates to additional energy spent that day.”

* The two key findings were that 1) approximately 72% of the extra calories spent on additional activity translated into extra calories burned that day and 2) energy compensation is particularly high in people with higher BMIs.

* The EarlyBird study (which dates back to the mid-1990s) also found that extra activity is compensated for by reduced activity elsewhere during the day.

* There are thus a number of ways in which do more (and also eat less) conspire against us so that the body does less rather than giving up body fat. The additional (cruel) finding of this study is that the compensation is larger in those with higher BMIs.


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