The impact of regular exercise on energy balance, fuel utilization, and nutrient availability, during weight regain was studied in obese rats, which had lost 17% of their weight by a calorie-restricted, low-fat diet. Weight reduced rats were maintained for 6 wk with and without regular treadmill exercise (1 h/day, 6 days/wk, 15 m/min). In vivo tracers and indirect calorimetry were then used in combination to examine nutrient metabolism during weight maintenance (in energy balance) and during the first day of relapse when allowed to eat ad libitum (relapse). An additional group of relapsing, sedentary rats were provided just enough calories to create the same positive energy imbalance as the relapsing, exercised rats. Exercise attenuated the energy imbalance by 50%, reducing appetite and increasing energy requirements. Expenditure increased beyond the energetic cost of the exercise bout, as exercised rats expended more energy to store the same nutrient excess in sedentary rats with the matched energy imbalance. Compared with sedentary rats with the same energy imbalance, exercised rats exhibited the trafficking of dietary fat toward oxidation and away from storage in adipose tissue, as well as a higher net retention of fuel via de novo lipogenesis in adipose tissue. These metabolic changes in relapse were preceded by an increase in the skeletal muscle expression of genes involved in lipid uptake, mobilization, and oxidation. Our observations reveal a favorable shift in fuel utilization with regular exercise that increases the energetic cost of storing excess nutrients during relapse and alterations in circulating nutrients that may affect appetite. The attenuation of the biological drive to regain weight, involving both central and peripheral aspects of energy homeostasis, may explain, in part, the utility of regular exercise in preventing weight regain after weight loss. © 2011 the American Physiological Society.