Extreme endurance and the metabolic range of sustained activity is uniquely available for every human not just the elite few

B. C. Ruby, J. S. Cuddy, W. S. Hailes, C. L. Dumke, D. R. Slivka, T. C. Shriver, D. A. Schoeller

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    12 Scopus citations


    It is unclear whether the capabilities of recreationally active modern humans are unique due to present training practices or linked to the selection resulting from migration, escape, scavenging, and hunting and/or endurance running in early Homo. The purpose of this study was to determine upper values for total energy expenditure (TEE) and water turnover during sustained work for periods of 12-24 and 12-48 h, respectively and compare them with other species and proposed activities of early Homo. Stable isotopic water (2H2 18O) was used during competitions in hot environments to establish energy expenditure rates of approaching 10 times resting metabolism (RM) for 12.7 and 26.8 h, respectively. These events demonstrate pronounced hydration demands, with water output rates ranging from 25-95% of initial total body water for events lasting 12-48 h, respectively. These results provide new evidence for a high, sustained work (0.5-2 days) output and hydration demand in humans compared to other species in hot environments. Although the span for sustained metabolic activity in humans is large, it does not require elite level training status so long as adequate exogenous fuel and water are accessible. Because these values far exceed reported expectations/needs for foraging and persistence hunting in early Homo, it remains unclear if the phenomenon of the metabolic range is a modern human characteristic. While modern recreational endurance participants can demonstrate a TEE approaching 10 times RM, the rationale and need for such a high human metabolic ceiling is unclear when considering the energy demands of early Homo.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)1-7
    Number of pages7
    JournalComparative Exercise Physiology
    Issue number1
    StatePublished - 2015


    • Endurance running
    • Total energy expenditure
    • Water turnover

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Biophysics
    • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
    • Biochemistry
    • Physiology
    • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine
    • veterinary (miscalleneous)
    • Physiology (medical)


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