Women at altitude: Energy requirement at 4,300 m

Jacinda T. Mawson, Barry Braun, Paul B. Rock, Lorna G. Moore, Robert Mazzeo, Gail E. Butterfield

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To test the hypotheses that prolonged exposure to moderately high altitude increases the energy requirement of adequately fed women and that the sole cause of the increase is an elevation in basal metabolic rate (BMR), we studied 16 healthy women [21.7 ± 0.5 (SD) yr; 167.4 ± 1.1 cm; 62.2 ± 1.0 kg]. Studies were conducted over 12 days at sea level (SL) and at 4,300 m [high altitude (HA)]. To test that menstrual cycle phase has an effect on energetics at HA, we monitored menstrual cycle in all women, and most women (n = 11) were studied in the same phase at SL and HA. Daily energy intake at HA was increased to respond to increases in BMR and to maintain body weight and body composition. Mean BMR for the group rose 6.9% above SL by day 3 at HA and fell to SL values by day 6. Total energy requirement remained elevated 6% at HA [~670 kJ/day (160 kcal/day) above that at SL], but the small and transient increase in BMR could not explain all of this increase, giving rise to an apparent 'energy requirement excess.' The transient nature of the rise in BMR may have been due to the fitness level of the subjects. The response to altitude was not affected by menstrual cycle phase. The energy requirement excess is at present unexplained.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)272-281
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Applied Physiology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2000


  • Acclimatization
  • Basal metabolic rate
  • Controlled diet
  • Energy balance
  • Menstrual cycle
  • Nitrogen balance
  • Weight control


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