Skeletal muscle metabolism during exercise was compared in 5 patients with end-stage renal disease (ESRD) and 8 healthy controls, using a noninvasive technique, <sup>31</sup>P magnetic resonance spectroscopy (MRS). After 3 months of anaemia correction with recombinant human erythropoietin (rHuEPO) these patients were re-evaluated. Maximal power achieved by the ESRD patients during a dynamic wrist flexion exercise test was 33% lower (p < 0.05) than the controls. Similarly in the ESRD group, the power at the onset of metabolic acidosis (the intracellular threshold) was 29% less than controls. The metabolic differences observed in the patients indicated a lower aerobic capacity. Three months of rHuEPO treatment resulted in a 55% increase in mean haematocrit but conferred no significant improvement in metabolic parameters at rest or during exercise. The lack of any significant changes in muscle metabolism following the correction of anaemia suggests that oxygen availability is not the exclusive limiting factor for aerobic metabolism in ESRD patients.