Adults with GH deficiency (GHD) suffer from muscle weakness, which can be caused by the frequently reported decrease in muscle mass. However, measurements of both muscle strength and mass of muscle tested are scarce in adults with GHD. The aim of the present study was, therefore, to investigate intrinsic muscle strength (strength expressed per muscle volume unit) in adults with GHD at baseline and after 52 weeks of recombinant human GH (rhGH) therapy given in low, more physiological doses. A second objective was to investigate the influence of GH on muscle bioenergetics in the resting muscle. Isometric and isokinetic quadriceps strengths were measured in 28 males with GHD and in healthy controls matched for age and height. Quadriceps mass, determined by magnetic resonance imaging, and muscle bioenergetics, determined by phosphorus nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy, were measured in 20 of 28 patients with GHD and in controls matched for age and height. All patients were treated with doses of rhGH ranging from 0.6-1.8 IU/day, given for 52 weeks. Measurements of muscle mass, strength, and bioenergetics were repeated after 52 weeks of treatment with rhGH. The mean GH dose at 52 weeks of rhGH treatment was 1.3 +/- 0.8 IU/day. The mean serum insulin-like growth factor I level at baseline was 9.4 +/- 0.7 nmol/L and significantly increased to 26.4 +/- 1.2 nmol/L after 52 weeks of rhGH treatment. Adults with GHD had significantly reduced quadriceps muscle mass (P = 0.034) and reduced isometric muscle strength (P = 0.002) and tended to have low isokinetic muscle strength (P = 0.06), which all improved after rhGH therapy. Intrinsic muscle strength was not significantly different in adults with GHD compared with that in healthy controls and did not change during rhGH therapy. No bioenergetic abnormalities at baseline or after rhGH therapy were found in males with GHD. In conclusion, quadriceps muscle mass is decreased in adults with GHD and increased with rhGH therapy. These changes in muscle mass account for the changes in muscle strength found in these patients, as no changes in intrinsic muscle strength were found.