Nutritional recovery with a soyabean diet decreases body and fat weights when compared with a casein diet. We investigated whether the reduced adiposity observed in rats recovering from early-life malnutrition with a soyabean diet results from alterations in lipid metabolism in white adipose tissue (WAT) and/or brown adipose tissue (BAT). Male rats from mothers fed either 17 or 6 % protein during pregnancy and lactation were maintained on 17 % casein (CC and LC groups), 17 % soyabean (CS and LS groups) or 6 % casein (LL group) diets over 60 d. The rats maintained on a soyabean diet had similar relative food intakes, but lower body and retroperitoneal WAT weights and a reduced lipid content in the retroperitoneal WAT. The insulin levels were lower in the recovered rats and were elevated in those fed a soyabean diet. Serum T3 concentration and uncoupling protein 1 content in the BAT were decreased in the recovered rats. The thermogenic capacity of the BAT was not affected by the soyabean diet. The lipogenesis rate in the retroperitoneal WAT was similar in all of the groups except for the LL group, which had exacerbated lipogenesis. The enhancement of the lipolysis rate by isoproterenol was decreased in white adipocytes from the soyabean-recovered rats and was elevated in adipocytes from the soyabean-control rats. Thus, in animals maintained on a soyabean diet, the proportions of fat deposits are determined by the lipolysis rate, which differs depending on the previous nutritional status.