Body weight and energy balance can be maintained by adapting energy intake to changes in energy expenditure and vice versa, whereas short-term changes in energy expenditure are mainly caused by physical activity. This review investigates whether physical activity is affected by over- and undereating, whether intake is affected by an increase or a decrease in physical activity, and whether being overweight affects physical activity. The available evidence is based largely on studies that quantified physical activity with doubly labeled water. Overeating does not affect physical activity, while undereating decreases habitual or voluntary physical activity. Thus, it is easier to gain weight than to lose weight. An exercise-induced increase in energy requirement is typically compensated by increased energy intake, while a change to a more sedentary routine does not induce an equivalent reduction of intake and generally results in weight gain. Overweight and obese subjects tend to have similar activity energy expenditures to lean people despite being more sedentary. There are two ways in which the general population trend towards increasing body weight can be reversed: reduce intake or increase physical activity. The results of the present literature review indicate that eating less is the most effective method for preventing weight gain, despite the potential for a negative effect on physical activity when a negative energy balance is reached.
Westerterp, K. R. (2010). Physical activity, food intake, and body weight regulation: insights from doubly labeled water studies. Nutrition Reviews, 68(3), 148-54. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1753-4887.2010.00270.x