Understanding energy use is central to understanding an animal's physiological and behavioural ecology. However, directly measuring energy expenditure in free-ranging animals is inherently difficult. The doubly-labelled water (DLW) method is widely used to investigate energy expenditure in a range of taxa. Although reliable, DLW data collection and analysis is both financially costly and time consuming. Dynamic body acceleration (e.g. VeDBA) calculated from animal-borne accelerometers has been used to determine behavioural patterns, and is increasingly being used as a proxy for energy expenditure. Still its performance as a proxy for energy expenditure in free-ranging animals is not well established and requires validation against established methods. In the present study, the relationship between VeDBA and the at-sea metabolic rate calculated from DLW was investigated in little penguins (Eudyptula minor) using three approaches. Both in a simple correlation and activity-specific approaches were shown to be good predictors of at-sea metabolic rate. The third approach using activity-specific energy expenditure values obtained from literature did not accurately calculate the energy expended by individuals. However, all three approaches were significantly strengthened by the addition of mean horizontal travel speed. These results provide validation for the use of accelerometry as a proxy for energy expenditure and show how energy expenditure may be influenced by both individual behaviour and environmental conditions.