We investigated the effect of acute, graded increases in plasma volume (PV) by use of dextran on substrate turnover and oxidation during exercise. Eight untrained males [peak aerobic power (VO2peak) = 45.2 +/- 2.2 (SE) ml.kg-1.min-1] performed 2 h of cycle ergometry at 46 +/- 4% of VO2peak on three occasions in a randomized order: 0% PV expansion (CON) and after 14% (LOW) and 21% (HIGH) PV expansion. Glucose and glycerol turnover were measured using primed continuous infusions of [6,6-2H2]glucose and [2H5]glycerol, respectively. Glycerol rate of appearance (Ra) was taken as a relative index of whole body lipolysis. Increases in PV had no effect on glucose Ra or disappearance (Rd) either at rest or during exercise. At the onset of exercise, both glucose Ra and Rd increased approximately 100% (P < 0.01). Glucose Ra and Rd continued to increase with exercise duration (P < 0.05) so that, at 120 min of exercise, they were > 330% higher than at rest (P < 0.01). Glycerol Ra also increased with exercise duration (P < 0.05). Total lipolysis during exercise, calculated as the area under the glycerol Ra vs. time curve, was reduced during LOW vs. CON (P < 0.01). Further expansion of PV (HIGH) had no additional effect on whole body lipolysis. No effect of hypervolemia was observed on whole body fat or carbohydrate oxidation. These results indicate that acute PV expansion can alter whole body lipolysis, possibly via a reduction in catecholamine secretion.