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Laboratory and field methods for measuring human energy expenditure


  • William R. Leonard

    Corresponding author
    1. Laboratory for Human Biology Research, Department of Anthropology, Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois
    • Department of Anthropology, Northwestern University, 1810 Hinman Avenue, Evanston, IL 60208, USA
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Energetics research is central to the field of human biology. Energy is an important currency for measuring adaptation, because both its acquisition and allocation for biological processes have important implications for survival and reproduction. Recent technological and methodological advances are now allowing human biologists to study variation in energy dynamics with much greater accuracy in a wide variety of ecological contexts. This article provides an overview of the methods used for measuring human energy expenditure (EE) and considers some of the important ecological and evolutionary questions that can be explored from an energetics perspective. Basic principles of calorimetry are first presented, followed by an overview of the equipment used for measuring human EE and work capacity. Methods for measuring three important dimensions of human EE—resting metabolic rate, working/exercising EE, and total EE—are then presented, highlighting key areas of ongoing research. Am. J. Hum. Biol. 2012. © 2012 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.