Since females have a greater prevalence of obesity compared with males, the question arises whether females have lower metabolic rate than males after adjusting for differences in body weight and composition. 24-h energy expenditure (24EE), basal metabolic rate (BMR), and sleeping metabolic rate (SMR) were measured in a respiratory chamber in 235 healthy, nondiabetic Caucasian subjects (114 males, 121 females). Body composition was determined by hydrodensitometry. 24EE was 124 +/- 38 kcal/d (P less than 0.002) higher in males than females after adjusting for differences in fat-free mass, fat mass, and age. Spontaneous physical activity was not significantly different between males and females. Since adjusted 24EE was 106 +/- 39 kcal/d (P less than 0.01) higher in females during the luteal phase of the menstrual cycle compared with females during the follicular phase, energy expenditure was analyzed in a subset (greater than 50 yr) to minimize the confounding effect of menstrual status. 24EE (160 +/- 66 kcal/d; P less than 0.03), BMR (116 +/- 45; P less than 0.02), and SMR (208 +/- 68 kcal/d; P less than 0.005) were higher in males compared with females of the older subset after adjusting for differences in body composition, age, and activity. In summary, sedentary 24EE is approximately 5-10% lower in females compared with males after adjusting for differences in body composition, age, and activity.