Introduction: The determination of energy expenditure, considering the physical activity level and health status, is very important to adjust the individuals' nutritional supply. Energy expenditure can be determined by using indirect calorimetry, bioelectrical impedance, doubly labeled water, predictive equations, among others. All these methods have been used in clinical and research areas. However, considering the inconsistence in several research results, there is no consensus yet about the applicability of many of these methods.
Objectives: The aim of this review is to describe the components of energy expenditure and the methods for its determination and estimation, summarizing their main advantages and limitations.
Results and discussion: Indirect calorimetry and doubly labeled water are considered more accurate methods, but expensive. On the other hand, even though other methods present limitations, they are convenient and less expensive, and can be used with some caution.