Cardiac function depends on the ability to switch between fatty acid and glucose oxidation for energy production in response to changes in substrate availability and energetic stress. In obese and diabetic individuals, increased reliance on fatty acids and reduced metabolic flexibility are thought to contribute to the development of cardiovascular disease. Mechanisms by which cardiac mitochondria contribute to diet-induced metabolic inflexibility were investigated. Mice were fed a high fat or low fat diet for 1 d, 1 wk, and 20 wk. Cardiac mitochondria isolated from mice fed a high fat diet displayed a diminished ability to utilize the glycolytically derived substrate pyruvate. This response was rapid, occurring within the first day on the diet, and persisted for up to 20 wk. A selective increase in the expression of pyruvate dehydrogenase kinase 4 and inhibition of pyruvate dehydrogenase are responsible for the rapid suppression of pyruvate utilization. An important consequence is that pyruvate dehydrogenase is sensitized to inhibition when mitochondria respire in the presence of fatty acids. Additionally, increased expression of pyruvate dehydrogenase kinase 4 preceded any observed diet-induced reductions in the levels of glucose transporter type 4 and glycolytic enzymes and, as judged by Akt phosphorylation, insulin signaling. Importantly, diminished insulin signaling evident at 1 wk on the high fat diet did not occur in pyruvate dehydrogenase kinase 4 knockout mice. Dietary intervention leads to a rapid decline in pyruvate dehydrogenase kinase 4 levels and recovery of pyruvate dehydrogenase activity indicating an additional form of regulation. Finally, an overnight fast elicits a metabolic response similar to that induced by high dietary fat obscuring diet-induced metabolic changes. Thus, our data indicate that diet-induced inhibition of pyruvate dehydrogenase may be an initiating event in decreased oxidation of glucose and increased reliance of the heart on fatty acids for energy production.