Extreme Events Reveal an Alimentary Limit on Sustained Maximal Human Energy Expenditure

Caitlin Thurber, Lara R. Dugas, Cara Ocobock, Bryce Carlson, John R Speakman (Corresponding Author), Herman Pontzer (Corresponding Author)

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Abstract

The limits on maximal sustained energy expenditure in humans and other animals are unclear, but are of extreme interest in multiple fields because they constrain maximal reproductive output, thermoregulation, and physical activity. Here, we show that sustained expenditure in humans, measured as maximum sustained metabolic scope (SusMS), is a function of event duration. We compiled published measurements of total energy expenditure (TEE) and basal metabolic rate (BMR) from human endurance events, and extended the range of these observations with new data from adults running ~250km/week for 20 weeks in a transcontinental race. For events lasting 0.5 to 250+ days, SusMS decreases curvilinearly with event duration, plateauing below 3×BMR. This relationship differs from that of shorter events (e.g., marathons). Incorporating data from overfeeding studies, we find evidence for an alimentary energy supply limit in humans of ~2.5×BMR; greater expenditure requires drawing down the body’s energy stores. Transcontinental race data suggests humans can partially reduce TEE during long events to extend endurance.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbereaaw0341
JournalScience Advances
Volume5
Issue number6
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 5 Jun 2019

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extreme event
expenditure
energy
thermoregulation
physical activity
animal

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General
  • Physics and Astronomy (miscellaneous)

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Extreme Events Reveal an Alimentary Limit on Sustained Maximal Human Energy Expenditure. / Thurber, Caitlin; Dugas, Lara R. ; Ocobock, Cara ; Carlson, Bryce ; Speakman, John R (Corresponding Author); Pontzer, Herman (Corresponding Author).

In: Science Advances, Vol. 5, No. 6, eaaw0341, 05.06.2019.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Thurber, Caitlin ; Dugas, Lara R. ; Ocobock, Cara ; Carlson, Bryce ; Speakman, John R ; Pontzer, Herman . / Extreme Events Reveal an Alimentary Limit on Sustained Maximal Human Energy Expenditure. In: Science Advances. 2019 ; Vol. 5, No. 6.
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note = "Acknowledgments: We thank the RASUA runners for their participation and the 100 Mile Club {\circledR} for developing and supporting RAUSA. Jenny Paltan assisted with isotope analyses. Funding: Hunter College, Loyola Medical School, Grand Valley State University, and Purdue University. J.R.S. was supported by the strategic priority research program of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (grant XDB13030100), the 1000 Talents organization, and a Wolfson merit award from the UK Royal society. Author contributions: All authors contributed to study design and writing the manuscript. H.P. designed DLW analyses for the RAUSA subjects. C.T. collected DLW and other RAUSA data in the field. L.D. collected RMR measures for RAUSA subjects. B.C. organized RAUSA data collection. H.P. and J.R.S. analyzed data on expenditure and weight change, and developed the alimentary constraint model. Competing interests: Authors declare no competing interests. Data and materials availability: All data is available in the main text or the supplementary materials.",
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