Intrauterine growth retardation (IUGR) is associated with a central fat distribution and risk of developing type 2 diabetes in adults when exposed to a sedentary Western lifestyle. Increased lipolysis is an early defect of metabolism in IUGR subjects, but the sites and molecular mechanisms involved are unknown. Twenty IUGR and 20 control (CON) subjects, aged 20–30 years, were studied before and after 10 days of bed rest using the glucose clamp technique combined with measurements of in vivo metabolism by microdialysis technique and blood flow by 133Xe washout technique in subcutaneous abdominal (SCAAT) and femoral (SCFAT) adipose tissue. Additionally, mRNA expression of lipases was evaluated in biopsies from SCAAT. Lipolysis in SCAAT was substantially higher in IUGR than in CON subjects despite markedly lower mRNA expression of lipases. Blood flow was higher in IUGR compared with CON in both SCAAT and SCFAT. Whole body insulin sensitivity did not differ between groups and decreased after bed rest. After bed rest, SCAAT lipolysis remained higher in IUGR compared with CON, and SCFAT lipolysis decreased in CON but not in IUGR. Prior to the development of whole body insulin resistance, young men with IUGR are characterized by increased in vivo adipose tissue lipolysis and blood flow with a paradoxically decreased expression of lipases compared with CON, and 10 days of physical inactivity underlined the baseline findings. Subjects with IUGR exhibit primary defects in adipose tissue metabolism.