The doubly labeled water method provides an objective and accurate measure of total energy expenditure in free-living subjects and is considered the gold-standard method for this measurement. Its use, however, is limited by the need to employ isotope ratio mass spectrometry (IRMS) to obtain the high-precision isotopic abundance analyses needed to optimize the dose of expensive 18O-labeled water. Recently, cavity-ring down spectroscopy (CRDS) instruments have become commercially available and may serve as a less expensive alternative to IRMS. We compared the precision and accuracy of CRDS with those of IRMS for the measurement of total energy expenditure from urine specimens in 14 human subjects. The relative accuracy and precision (SD) for total body water was 0.5 ± 1% and for total energy expenditure was 0.5 ± 6%. The CRDS instrument displayed a memory between successive specimens of 5% for 18O and 9% for 2H. The memory necessitated carefully ordering of specimens to reduce isotopic disparity, performance of several injections of each specimen to condition the analyzer, and use of a mathematical memory correction on subsequent injections. These limited the specimen throughput to about one urine specimen per hour. CRDS provided accuracy and precision for isotope abundance measurements of urine that were comparable with those of IRMS. The memory problems were easily recognized by our experienced laboratory staff, but future efforts should be aimed at reducing the memory of the CRDS so that it would be less likely to result in poor reproducibility in laboratories using doubly labeled water for the first time. Copyright © 2010 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.