This paper uses fundamental principles of energy physiology to define minimum cut-off limits for energy intake below which a person of a given sex, age and body weight could not live a normal life-style. These have been derived from whole-body calorimeter and doubly-labelled water measurements in a wide range of healthy adults after due statistical allowance for intra- and interindividual variance. The tabulated cut-off limits, which depend on sample size and duration of measurements, identify minimum plausible levels of energy expenditure expressed as a multiple of basal metabolic rate (BMR). CUT-OFF 1 tests whether reported energy intake measurements can be representative of long-term habitual intake. It is set at 1.35 x BMR for cases where BMR has been measured rather than predicted. CUT-OFF 2 tests whether reported energy intakes are a plausible measure of the food consumed during the actual measurement period, and is always more liberal than CUT-OFF 1 since it has to allow for the known measurement imprecision arising from the high level of day-to-day variability in food intake. The cut-off limits can be used to evaluate energy intake data. Results falling below these limits must be recognized as being incompatible with long-term maintenance of energy balance and therefore with long-term survival.