Oxidative metabolism of blood-borne fuels provides myocardium the energy required to sustain its contractile performance. Recent research has revealed that, in addition to supplying energy, certain fuels are able to detoxify harmful oxidants and bolster the myocardium's endogenous antioxidant defenses. These antioxidant capabilities could potentially protect the myocardium from the ravages of reactive oxygen and nitrogen intermediates generated upon reperfusion of ischemic myocardium. This article reviews experimental evidence that two fuels, pyruvate and acetoacetate, provide such antioxidant protection. Pyruvate's antioxidant properties stem in part from its alpha-keto carboxylate structure, which enables it to directly, non-enzymatically neutralize peroxides and peroxynitrite. Also, citrate, which accumulates in pyruvate-perfused myocardium following anaplerotic pyruvate carboxylation, supports NADPH production to maintain glutathione:glutathione disulfide (GSH/GSSG) redox potential, the central component of the myocardial antioxidant system. Like pyruvate, acetoacetate restores GSH/GSSG and increases contractile function of post-ischemic stunned myocardium, although some of its antioxidant mechanisms may differ from pyruvate's. Both compounds restore beta-adrenergic signaling and inotropism, which are compromised in stunned myocardium. N-acetylcysteine, a pharmacological antioxidant that does not provide energy, duplicated the salutary effects of pyruvate and acetoacetate on post-ischemic gamma-adrenergic signaling and GSH/GSSG. These findings reveal novel, energy-independent mechanisms for enhancement of post-ischemic cardiac performance by metabolic fuels.