Lactate is a potential energy source for the brain. The aim of this study was to establish whether systemic lactate is a brain energy source. We measured in vivo cerebral lactate kinetics and oxidation rates in 6 healthy individuals at rest with and without 90 mins of intravenous lactate infusion (36 mumol per kg bw per min), and during 30 mins of cycling exercise at 75% of maximal oxygen uptake while the lactate infusion continued to establish arterial lactate concentrations of 0.89+/-0.08, 3.9+/-0.3, and 6.9+/-1.3 mmol/L, respectively. At rest, cerebral lactate utilization changed from a net lactate release of 0.06+/-0.01 to an uptake of 0.16+/-0.07 mmol/min during lactate infusion, with a concomitant decrease in the net glucose uptake. During exercise, the net cerebral lactate uptake was further increased to 0.28+/-0.16 mmol/min. Most (13)C-label from cerebral [1-(13)C]lactate uptake was released as (13)CO(2) with 100%+/-24%, 86%+/-15%, and 87%+/-30% at rest with and without lactate infusion and during exercise, respectively. The contribution of systemic lactate to cerebral energy expenditure was 8%+/-2%, 19%+/-4%, and 27%+/-4% for the respective conditions. In conclusion, systemic lactate is taken up and oxidized by the human brain and is an important substrate for the brain both under basal and hyperlactatemic conditions.