Metabolic rate is widely regarded as an important component of aging processes, but variation of metabolic rate with age has not been well characterized. The purpose of the present study was to measure daily metabolic rate under usual living conditions over the lifespan of barrier-maintained Fischer 344 rats. In addition, effects of life-prolonging food restriction were assessed. Metabolic rate was measured indirectly by analysis of gas entering and leaving standard rodent cages over a 24-h period. Group A rats were fed ad libitum. Group B rats were fed 60% of ad libitum intake from 6 wk of age. Both group A and group B rats exhibited variation of metabolic rate per unit lean mass over the lifespan, with metabolic rate decreasing from 6 to 18 mo and then increasing from 18 to 24 mo of age. Results show estimates of lifetime energy expenditure in rats should take account of variability of metabolic rate and confirm the life-prolonging action of food restriction is not a consequence of reduced metabolic rate per unit metabolic mass. Rather, restricted rats are able to sustain appropriate fluxes of nutrients and appropriate metabolic rate under conditions of fuel utilization which promote maintenance of cellular homeostasis.