We have examined the effect of testosterone enanthate injections (3 mg/kg.week, im) on the basal metabolic rate (BMR) estimated by indirect calorimetry and on lean body mass (LBM) estimated by 40K counting in four normal men and nine men with muscular dystrophy. Testosterone treatment increased plasma testosterone levels in all subjects (3-fold mean elevation). BMR increased significantly after 3 months of testosterone treatment (mean, 10%; P less than 0.01; 13% mean increase in the men with muscular dystrophy and 7% mean increase in the normal subjects). BMR remained elevated (mean increase, 9%) after 12 months of testosterone treatment in four men with muscular dystrophy. LBM also was significantly higher after 3 months of treatment (mean, 10%; P less than 0.01) and remained elevated at 12 months. The percent increase in LBM was similar in men with muscular dystrophy (+10%) and normal men (+11%). When BMR was adjusted for the increase in LBM by linear regression, the men with muscular dystrophy had an increase in adjusted BMR after 3 months of testosterone treatment (mean increase, 7%), but not after 12 months. The normal men did not have an increase in adjusted BMR. Testosterone treatment for 12 months slightly reduced body fat, whereas there was an increase in body fat in subjects with muscular dystrophy who were treated with placebo for 12 months. We conclude that there is a significant increase in BMR associated with pharmacological testosterone treatment, which for the most part is explained by the increase in LBM. However, in men with muscular dystrophy, there is a small hypermetabolic effect of testosterone beyond that explained by increased LBM.