Differences in body composition have often been examined in conjunction with measurements of energy expenditure in men and women. Numerous studies during the past decade examined the relationship between resting energy expenditure (REE) and the components of a two-compartment model of composition, namely the fat-free mass (FFM) and the fat mass (FM). A synthetic review of these studies confirms a primary correlation between REE and FFM in adults over a broad range of body weights. A generalized prediction equation is proposed as REE = 370 +/- 21.6 x FFM. This equation explains 65-90% of the variation in REE. Several studies suggest, further, that FFM predicts total daily energy expenditure (TDEE) equally well. An independent contribution by FM to the prediction of either REE or TDEE is not supported for the general population, perhaps reflecting the relative constancy of the absolute FM in nonobese individuals. In the subset of obese women, FM may be a significant predictor.