Changes in myosin heavy chain (MHC) isoform expression and protein composition occur during cardiac disease and it has been suggested that even a minor shift in MHC composition may exert a considerable effect on myocardial energetics and performance. Here an overview is provided of the cellular basis of the energy utilisation in cardiac tissue and novel data are presented concerning the economy of myocardial contraction in diseased atrial and ventricular human myocardium. ATP utilisation and force development were measured at various Ca2+ concentrations during isometric contraction in chemically skinned atrial trabeculae from patients in sinus rhythm (SR) or with chronic atrial fibrillation (AF) and in ventricular muscle strips from non-failing donor or end-stage failing hearts. Contractile protein composition was analysed by one-dimensional gel electrophoresis. Atrial fibrillation was accompanied by a significant shift from the fast α-MHC isoform to the slow β-MHC isoform, whereas both donor and failing ventricular tissue contained almost exclusively the β-MHC isoform. Simultaneous measurements of force and ATP utilisation indicated that economy of contraction is preserved in atrial fibrillation and in end-stage human heart failure.