The effects of a high-fat diet supplying a constant energy/protein ratio, with and without overeating, on energy intake and expenditure was studied in mature male rats. A control group (LF) received ad libitum access to a low-fat diet. Body weight gain, efficiency of food utilization, and dietary-induced thermogenesis were increased relative to controls in a group with ad libitum access to the high-fat diet (HF-A), but not in a group which was pair fed the diet (HF-P) in amounts (kcal) equal to that of LF animals. However, the individual variability within the HF-A group was high for each measure. An arbitrary separation of that group into 2 subgroups (based on high vs low weight gain) produced one subgroup with increased efficiency, greater weight gain and no change in dietary-induced thermogenesis (HF-AH), and another with no difference in efficiency or in weight gain from the LF group but which had higher dietary-induced thermogenesis (HF-AL). Food intake was slightly, but not significantly, greater for the HF-AH subgroup than for the HF-AL subgroup. We conclude that rats can increase thermogenesis in response to overeating but that the increase is highly variable. The thermogenic response appears to be related to the overeating rather than to the fat content of the diet.