Twenty-four-hour energy expenditure and substrate use were measured by indirect calorimetry in respiration chambers on a fixed physical program and related to body composition and plasma concentrations of various substrates and thermogenic hormones. Fifty premenopausal women with a wide range of body weight were examined in the follicular menstrual phase under weight stable conditions. Most of the variance in the sleeping energy expenditure (82%) was accounted for by two covariates, lean body mass (75%, P less than 0.0001), and fat mass (7%, P less than 0.0001). An additional 6% of the variance in sleeping energy expenditure was accounted for by plasma androstenedione concentration (4%, P = 0.0005) and by free T3 index (2%, P = 0.03). Thus physiological variation among individuals in plasma androstenedione concentration may result in a difference in energy expenditure of 908 kJ/day and the corresponding variation in free T3 index may result in a difference between individuals of 594 kJ/day. Fifty four percent of the variation in carbohydrate oxidation rates was accounted for by 24-h energy balance, and by plasma concentrations of insulin, nonesterified fatty acids, and estradiol. Waist circumference, plasma nonesterified fatty acids, and estradiol concentrations explained 49% of the variance in 24-h lipid oxidation. An obese subgroup of women (n = 27) had significantly higher 24-h energy expenditure, lipid, and carbohydrate oxidation rates than an age-matched normal weight group (n = 16), but the entire group difference in energy expenditure was explained by differences in body composition. We conclude that physiological variations in plasma androstenedione and T3 concentrations contribute to the interindividual variance in energy expenditure of women, and their role is not different in obese women. A positive energy balance and increased insulin action may be mediators of the higher carbohydrate oxidation in obesity, whereas an increased substrate availability seems to bring about the increased lipid oxidation.