Energy surplus raises circulating concentrations of leptin and insulin while lowering plasma ghrelin. Exercise has the opposite effects. The purpose of this study was to determine whether exercise counters the hormonal effects of energy surplus independent of changes in energy balance. To do that, we assessed plasma concentrations of leptin, insulin, and ghrelin at baseline, after overfeeding, and after overfeeding plus exercise. Baseline (B) leptin and insulin concentrations and ghrelin area under the curve were measured during an oral glucose challenge in 9 healthy, active subjects (6 male, 3 female) after 2 days in energy balance without exercise. Measurements were repeated after subjects were overfed by +3213 ± 849 kJ/d for 3 more sedentary days (OF). In the third condition, the same net energy surplus (+3125 ± 933 kJ/d) was generated for 24 hours by doubling the overfeeding (+6284 ± 1669 kJ/d) and countering it with a bout of exercise (expenditure = 3063 ± 803 kJ); and measurements were made the next day (OF + EX). Compared with B, leptin went up (5.8 ± 8.2 to 7.6 ± 10.6 ng/mL) after OF, but was not significantly higher after OF + EX (7.1 ± 10.2 ng/mL). Compared with B, insulin was +36% and +43% higher after OF and OF + EX, respectively. In contrast, ghrelin area under the curve did not change after OF but was significantly lower (−14%) than B or OF after OF + EX (indicating greater suppression). These data suggest that the effect of short-term exercise on fasting leptin and insulin depends on energy balance but the ghrelin response may be partially mediated by effects of exercise independent of energy balance.



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