Visceral obesity is strongly associated with insulin resistance. One potential cause is increased availability of FFA. Alternatively, it has been proposed that there is impaired oxidation of lipid in individuals at risk for obesity. The extent to which either concept involves skeletal muscle is uncertain. To examine these opposing hypotheses, 17 healthy lean and obese premenopausal women, among whom cross-sectional area of visceral fat ranged from 18 to 180 cm2, participated in leg balance studies for measurement of FFA and glucose utilization during basal and insulin-stimulated conditions. A metabolic profile of skeletal muscle, based on enzyme activity, was determined in vastus lateralis muscle obtained by percutaneous biopsy. Visceral fat content was negatively correlated with insulin sensitivity (rates of leg glucose uptake and storage), but insulin resistance was not caused by glucose-FFA competition. During hyperinsulinemia, neither leg FFA uptake nor oxidation was increased in women with visceral obesity. During fasting conditions, however, rates of FFA uptake across the leg were negatively correlated with visceral adiposity as were activities of muscle carnitine palmitoyl transferase and citrate synthase. In summary, visceral adiposity is clearly associated with skeletal muscle insulin resistance but this is not due to glucose-FFA substrate competition. Instead, women with visceral obesity have reduced postabsorptive FFA utilization by muscle.