Hyperpolarized (HP) carbon 13 (13C) MRI is an emerging molecular imaging method that allows rapid, noninvasive, and pathway-specific investigation of dynamic metabolic and physiologic processes that were previously inaccessible to imaging. This technique has enabled real-time in vivo investigations of metabolism that are central to a variety of diseases, including cancer, cardiovascular disease, and metabolic diseases of the liver and kidney. This review provides an overview of the methods of hyperpolarization and 13C probes investigated to date in preclinical models of disease. The article then discusses the progress that has been made in translating this technology for clinical investigation. In particular, the potential roles and emerging clinical applications of HP [1-13C]pyruvate MRI will be highlighted. The future directions to enable the adoption of this technology to advance the basic understanding of metabolism, to improve disease diagnosis, and to accelerate treatment assessment are also detailed.