Circumstantial evidence suggests that substitution of glucose or sucrose by the low-glycaemic index sugar galactose in the diet may lead to greater thermogenesis and/or fat oxidation. Using ventilated hood indirect calorimetry, we investigated, in twelve overnight-fasted adults, the resting energy expenditure (REE) and respiratory quotient (RQ) for 30 min before and 150 min after ingestion of 500 ml of water containing 60 g of glucose, fructose or galactose in a randomised cross-over design. REE increased similarly with all three sugars, reaching peak values after 50–60 min, but its subsequent fall towards baseline values was faster with galactose and glucose than with fructose (P < 0·001). RQ increased with all three sugars, but to a much greater extent with galactose and fructose than with glucose, particularly after 1 h post-ingestion. When ingested as a sugary drink, postprandial thermogenesis and utilisation of fat after galactose are not higher than after glucose or fructose.