This study determined the effects of intraperitoneal sodium pyruvate (SP) treatment on the levels of circulating fuels and on cerebral microdialysis levels of glucose (MD(glc)), lactate (MD(lac)), and pyruvate (MD(pyr)), and the effects of SP treatment on neuropathology after left cortical contusion injury (CCI) in rats. SP injection (1000 mg/kg) 5 min after sham injury (Sham-SP) or CCI (CCI-SP) significantly increased arterial pyruvate (p < 0.005) and lactate (p < 0.001) compared to that of saline-treated rats with CCI (CCI-Sal). Serum glucose also increased significantly in CCI-SP compared to that in CCI-Sal rats (p < 0.05), but not in Sham-SP rats. MD(pyr) was not altered after CCI-Sal, whereas MD(lac) levels within the cerebral cortex significantly increased bilaterally (p < 0.05) and those for MD(glc) decreased bilaterally (p < 0.05). MD(pyr) levels increased significantly in both Sham-SP and CCI-SP rats (p < 0.05 vs. CCI-Sal) and were higher in left/injured cortex of the CCI-SP group (p < 0.05 vs. sham-SP). In CCI-SP rats the contralateral MD(lac) decreased below CCI-Sal levels (p < 0.05) and the ipsilateral MD(glc) levels exceeded those of CCI-Sal rats (p < 0.05). Rats with a single low (500 mg/kg) or high dose (1000 mg/kg) SP treatment had fewer damaged cortical cells 6 h post-CCI than did saline-treated rats (p < 0.05), but three hourly injections of SP (1000 mg/kg) were needed to significantly reduce contusion volume 2 weeks after CCI. Thus, a single intraperitoneal SP treatment increases circulating levels of three potential brain fuels, attenuates a CCI-induced reduction in extracellular glucose while increasing extracellular levels of pyruvate, but not lactate, and can attenuate cortical cell damage occurring within 6 h of injury. Enduring (2 week) neuronal protection was achieved only with multiple SP treatments within the first 2 h post-CCI, perhaps reflecting the need for additional fuel throughout the acute period of increased metabolic demands induced by CCI.