Long-term maintenance of weight loss requires sustained energy balance at the reduced body weight. This could be attained by coupling low total daily energy intake (TDEI) with low total daily energy expenditure (TDEE; low energy flux), or by pairing high TDEI with high TDEE (high energy flux). Within an environment characterized by high energy dense food and a lack of need for movement, it may be particularly difficult for weight-reduced individuals to maintain energy balance in a low flux state. Most of these individuals will increase body mass due to an inability to sustain the necessary level of food restriction. This increase in TDEI may lead to the re-establishment of high energy flux at or near the original body weight. We propose that following weight loss, increasing physical activity can effectively re-establish a state of high energy flux without significant weight regain. Although the effect of extremely high levels of physical activity on TDEE may be constrained by compensatory reductions in non-activity energy expenditure, moderate increases following weight loss may elevate energy flux and encourage physiological adaptations favorable to weight loss maintenance, including better appetite regulation. It may be time to recognize that few individuals are able to re-establish energy balance at a lower body weight without permanent increases in physical activity. Accordingly, there is an urgent need for more research to better understand the role of energy flux in long-term weight maintenance.
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