The hypothesis that pigs placed on diets with reduced indispensable amino acid (AA) content attempts to offset the reduction in the nutrient density with increased feed intake was tested. In the experiment, feeds with a high or a low AA content were administrated to pigs fed ad-libitum or restrictively according to a 2 × 2 factorial design. Ninety-six barrows were housed in 8 pens (12 pigs/pen) equipped with automatic feeders. Within pen, and from 47 body weight (BW) onwards, 6 pigs were fed ad libitum. The others pigs were allowed to consume, as a maximum, the feed amounts indicated by the breeding company feeding plane to optimize the feed efficiency. In early (86–118 kg BW) and late (118–145 kg BW) finishing, the pigs of 4 pens received feeds with high indispensable AA contents (8.1 and 7.5 g lysine/ kg in the two periods, respectively). The other pigs received feeds with reduced indispensable AA contents (lysine, methionine, threonine and tryptophan) by 9 and 18% in early and late finishing, respectively. Body lipid and protein (Pr) retentions were estimated from BW and back-fat depth measures recorded at the beginning and the end of each period. Nitrogen excretion was estimated as actual intake minus estimated N-retention (Pr/6.25). Pigs were slaughtered at 144 kg BW. Restricted feeding decreased feed intake (-7%), daily gain (-5%), carcass weight (-2.6%) and back-fat depth (-8.0%) but increased gain:feed ratio (+2%). The AA restriction increased feed intake (+5.9%), carcass weight (+4.9%) and intramuscular fat (+17.6%), and reduced carcass weight variation (-36%), with no effects on the feed efficiency and the estimated Pr (142 g/d). N excreted was reduced by feed (-9%) and dietary AA (-15%) restrictions. Irrespectively of the feeding level, the pigs responded to a reduction of the dietary essential AA content by increasing their feed intake.