Objectives: To describe issues related to energy requirements of free living adults and discuss the importance of basal metabolic rate (BMR) and their relationships to total energy expenditure (TEE ) and physical activity level (PAL, derived as TEE/BMR) and to determine the influence of body weight, height, age and sex.
Design: Based on a review of the literature, this paper examines the variability in BMR due to methodology, ethnicity, migration and adaptation (both metabolic and behavioural) due to changes in nutritional status. Collates and compiles data on measurements of TEE in free living healthy adults, to arrive at limits and to compare TEE of populations with different life-styles.
Results and conclusions: The constancy of BMR and its validity as a reliable predictor of TEE in adults as well as the validity of PAL as an index of TEE adjusted for BMR and thus its use to categorise the physical activity pattern and lifestyle of an individual was confirmed. The limits of human daily energy expenditure at around 1.2 x BMR and 4.5 x BMR based on measurements made in free living adults have been reported in the literature. A large and robust database now exists of energy expenditure measurements obtained by the doubly labelled water method in the scientific literature and the data shows that, in general, levels of energy expenditure are similar to the recommendations for energy requirements adopted by FAO/WHO/UNU (1985). The review also confirms that metabolic adaptation to energy restriction is not an important factor that needs to be considered when recommending energy requirements for adults in developing countries.