An isolated perfused rat hindquarter preparation was used to examine the utilization of endogenous triacylglycerol (TG) during 20 min of electrical stimulation. The sciatic nerve was stimulated with maximal tetanic trains at 0.5 Hz. The isometric tension generated by the gastrocnemius-plantaris-soleus muscle group was recorded, and muscle samples were taken pre- and poststimulation. Twenty minutes of stimulation significantly reduced endogenous TG from 6.78 +/- 0.84 to 4.64 +/- 0.64 mumol X g dry wt-1 (32%) in the red gastrocnemius muscle and from 7.70 +/- 0.61 to 6.66 +/- 0.80 mumol X g dry wt-1 (13.5%) in the plantaris muscle. Although TG content decreased by 16% in the soleus (28.2 +/- 5.0 to 23.8 +/- 4.4 mumol X g-1), the change was not significant. Stimulation had no effect on white gastrocnemius TG concentration (6.84 +/- 1.22 to 6.25 +/- 1.41 mumol X g-1). Thus oxidation of TG occurred primarily in muscles with a large proportion of fast-twitch oxidative-glycolytic fibers. Calculations from measurements of muscle energy stores and fuel uptake indicated that up to 62% of the aerobic energy was provided by endogenous TG. Carbohydrate oxidation contributed up to 28% and the remaining 10% may be accounted for by the oxidation of exogenous free fatty acids originating in the perfusate or from hindquarter adipose tissue. The magnitude of the fall in TG concentration in a given muscle was inversely related to the fall in glycogen concentration.