The composition and concentration of plasma lipoproteins were studied in five young men (mean BMI = 27.5 +/- 2.9 (s.d.] before, during (after 25 and 50 days of training), and after the completion of a 100 day exercise training program that induced daily 4.2 MJ calorie deficit. Along with reductions in body weight (from 86.7 +/- 20.0 to 78.7 +/- 17.1 kg, P less than 0.01) and in fat mass (from 17.0 +/- 9.7 to 10.4 +/- 7.4 kg, P less than 0.01), the exercise training program induced numerous changes in plasma lipoprotein levels. Plasma total cholesterol level fell significantly after 25 days of training (P less than 0.05) and remained significantly reduced at the end of the training experiment (P less than 0.05). This reduction in total plasma cholesterol was accompanied by reductions in plasma apoprotein (apo) B, LDL-cholesterol and LDL-apo B levels (P less than 0.05). There were trends for reductions in plasma triglyceride and VLDL components that were significant only for VLDL-triglycerides (P less than 0.05). Plasma HDL-cholesterol levels increased significantly only at the end of the training program (P less than 0.01). This increase in plasma HDL-cholesterol was not accompanied by an increase in plasma apo A-I levels suggesting that exercise training produced an increase in HDL cholesterol content rather than an increase in HDL particle number. Ratios of HDL-cholesterol/cholesterol (P less than 0.01) and apo A-I/apo B (P less than 0.05) were significantly increased by exercise training, suggesting a decreased risk of cardiovascular disease. These results indicate that a reduction in fat mass solely induced by aerobic exercise training has substantial beneficial effects on plasma lipoprotein levels.