OBJECTIVES: To assess the accuracy of the Schofield, Schofield & James (1985) equations and those of Hayter & Henry (1994) for the prediction of the basal metabolic rate (BMR), of young Australians. DESIGN: BMR was measured by indirect calorimetry, while fat free mass (FFM) and fat mass (FM) were measured by bioelectric impendence analysis (BIA) in 128 volunteers (39 men and 89 women), aged between 18 and 30 y. SETTING: Deakin Institute of Human Nutrition, Deakin University, Melbourne, Australia. RESULTS: The measured BMR of Australian men and women were significantly lower (P < or = 0.001) than the predicted BMR using the Schofield et al (1985) equation, with a mean (s.d.) bias (bias = measured - predicted BMR) of -406(513) kj/d in men and -124(348) kj/d in women. The measured BMR of Australian men and women were similar to the predicted BMR using the equations of Hayter & Henry (1994) and bias was unrelated to body weight. BMR adjusted for FFM and FM was significantly higher by three percent in women on oral contraceptive agents (OCA) as compared to those not on OCA. CONCLUSIONS: The Schofield et al (1985) equations are not valid for the prediction of BMR of young Australian men and women. The equations of Hayter & Henry (1994) for North Europeans and Americans, provide an accurate estimate of the BMR of Australian men and women at the group level. However, in young women not using OCA a correction factor of 0.97 applied to the predicted BMR provides a better estimate.