Coupling energy intake (EI) to increases in energy expenditure (EE) may be adaptively, compensatorily, or maladaptively leading to weight gain. This narrative review examines if functioning of the homeostatic responses depends on the type of physiological perturbations in EE (e.g., due to exercise, sleep, temperature, or growth), or if it is influenced by protein intake, or the extent, duration, timing, and frequency of EE. As different measures to increase EE could convey discrepant neuronal or humoral signals that help to control food intake, the coupling of EI to EE could be tight or loose, which implies that some ways to increase EE may have advantages for body weight regulation. Exercise, physical activity, heat exposure, and a high protein intake favor weight loss, whereas an increase in EE due to cold exposure or sleep loss likely contributes to an overcompensation of EI, especially in vulnerable thrifty phenotypes, as well as under obesogenic environmental conditions, such as energy dense high fat—high carbohydrate diets. Irrespective of the type of EE, transient elevations in the metabolic rate seem to be general risk factors for weight gain, because a subsequent decrease in energy requirement is not compensated by an adequate adaptation of appetite and EI.
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