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Assessing Energy Expenditure in Male Endurance Athletes: Validity of the SenseWear Armband


Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise: July 2011 - Volume 43 - Issue 7 - p 1328-1333
doi: 10.1249/MSS.0b013e31820750f5
Applied Sciences

Purpose: The correct assessment of energy expenditure (EE) in athletes is important to ensure that dietary energy intake is sufficient. In general, athletes are individuals with especially high levels of total EE (TEE) and exercise-related EE (ExEE). The SenseWear Pro3 Armband (SWA) is a multisensor device for the individual assessment of EE, but data on the validity for higher exercise intensities are missing. The aim of the study was to validate the SWA for the assessment of TEE and ExEE in endurance athletes.

Methods: The SWA was worn by 14 male endurance athletes for 7 d during a regular training period, and TEE was measured in parallel with the doubly labeled water method. Two controlled exercise trials (treadmill running = 2.4-4.8 m·s−1, stationary bicycling = 140-380 W) were performed, during which indirect calorimetry was used to assess ExEE.

Results: TEE assessed with the SWA and TEE measured with the doubly labeled water method were significantly correlated (r = 0.73, P < 0.01), but there were a proportional bias and considerably wide limits of agreement (−1368 to 1238 kcal·d−1). The error of TEE assessed with the SWA was related to the athletes' individual lactate thresholds (P < 0.05). During running and bicycling, ExEE was significantly underestimated for most exercise intensities, and the underestimation increased with exercise intensity (P < 0.001).

Conclusions: According to our results, the SWA does not provide valid results of TEE and ExEE in endurance athletes because of the underestimation of EE at higher exercise intensities. It seems necessary to develop exercise-specific prediction equations to improve EE measurements in athletes.

1Institute of Biochemistry, German Sport University Cologne, Cologne, GERMANY; 2German Research Center of Elite Sport, German Sport University Cologne, Cologne, GERMANY; 3Institute of Training Science and Sport Informatics, German Sport University Cologne, Cologne, GERMANY; 4Department of Neonatology and Pediatric Intensive Care, University Children's Hospital, Greifswald, GERMANY; and 5Department of Pediatrics, McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario, CANADA

Address for correspondence: Karsten Koehler, Institute of Biochemistry, German Sport University Cologne, Am Sportpark Müngersdorf 6, 50933 Cologne, Germany; E-mail:

Submitted for publication July 2010.

Accepted for publication November 2010.

© 2011 American College of Sports Medicine