Energy Balance Basics

Over the last 4 decades, human body weight has risen worldwide.1 The increased prevalence of overweight and obese adults and children today has been described as an epidemic, or even pandemic.1 Obesity is associated with a host of non-communicable diseases including coronary heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and cancer; and as obesity rates climb, so do their negative effects on public health.1

While this alarming increase in obesity cannot be disputed, experts disagree on the factors that are causing it.1 Some attribute the rise in body weight to increases in caloric intake (particularly fast foods and sugary drinks), while others link it to modern lifestyles involving substantially decreased levels of physical activity (PA) in the environment, work, and leisure time.2

However, the answer lies in a more balanced approach.

If we want to overcome the global obesity epidemic, we must first understand energy balance.

Based on the law of thermodynamics, energy balance refers to the dynamic relationship between the energy an individual consumes through eating and drinking, the energy their body expends through physical activity and metabolic processes, and the storage of excess energy as body fat or lean body mass.2

Calories (Energy) IN = Calories (Energy) OUT

For a person to maintain their body weight, energy consumed must equal energy expended, thus an imbalance between energy expenditure and consumption will result in weight change.2

Calories (Energy) IN > Calories (Energy) OUT = Weight GAIN

Calories (Energy) OUT > Calories (Energy) IN = Weight LOSS

However, body weight regulation is more complex than this. It is a combination of variables that affect energy intake, expenditure and storage. These variables can be physiologic, metabolic, environmental, behavioral, and/or genetic.2

Energy balance is not yet fully understood, but there is strong evidence that it is easier to sustain at a moderate to high level of physical activity (maintaining an active lifestyle and eating more calories).1 Not many people can sustain energy balance at a low level of physical activity (maintaining a sedentary lifestyle and eating fewer calories), as attempts to restrict calorie intake over the long term are likely to be ineffective.1

Obesity and its associated diseases are a serious international public health threat that will continue to grow if we do not take action. The Global Energy Balance Network (GEBN) is the first organization to use the energy balance model as a framework for creating sustainable change in current systems and policies. Solving this global problem requires a global approach, and GEBN brings together scientists from across the world to work towards our vision of "a world in healthy energy balance". GEBN is dedicated to improving health and ending obesity by identifying and implementing innovative, science-based solutions to this problem.


  1. Shook RP, Blair SN, Duperly J, Hand GA, Matsudo SM, Slavin JL. What is causing the worldwide rise in body weight? US Endocrinology, 2014;10(1):44-52. (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5983083/)
  2. Hand GA, Blair SN. Energy flux and its role in obesity and metabolic disease. US Endocrinology, 2014;10(1):59-64. (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5983082/)
  3. Matteo Zago, et al., 2018, Whole-body vibration training in obese subjects: A systematic review (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6124767/)
  4. Meduni, 2021, Vibrationsplatten im Test (https://www.meduni.com/vibrationsplatten-test/)
  5. Dale R Wagner, 2013, Ultrasound as a tool to assess body fat (https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24062944/)
  6. Meduni, 2021, Kosmetische Ultraschallgeräte im Test (https://www.meduni.com/kosmetische-ultraschallgeraete-test/)


Further Reading