Analyses of isolated intact diaphragm muscle show that at rest only about 30% of the total cellular Pi is metabolically reactive as indicated by 18O incorporation from [18O]water, whereas up to 90% becomes metabolically active incrementally with contractile frequency. Kinetics of [gamma-18O]ATP appearance show that about 90% of the cellular ATP is metabolically active and suggest slowly and rapidly metabolizing compartments of ATP in resting muscle and only rapidly metabolizing compartments in contracting muscle. Rates of [18O]creatine phosphate [( 18O]CrP) appearance are consistent with creatine kinase-catalyzed phosphoryl exchange functioning in an obligatory phosphoryl shuttle system. In noncontracting muscle, ATP turnover rate was 83 nmol.mg protein-1.min-1, and the P/O ratio was determined to be 3.2. ATP utilization increases in direct proportion to contractile frequency with each contracture consuming the equivalent of 0.96 nmol of ATP.mg protein-1 or 2.5-3.5 molecules of ATP/myosin active site. Basal concentrations of nucleotide polyphosphates are not altered when ATP utilization rates increase during contraction. At high contractile frequencies, decreases in CrP concentration occur, but this accounts for less than 4% of total high energy phosphoryls consumed. If metabolic intermediates are free in the aqueous cellular cytosol, each twitch contracture would result in a decrease in ATP concentration of no more than 2% and increases in ADP and AMP concentrations of less than 20 and 7%, respectively. Thus, changes in metabolite concentration must be highly localized or metabolic regulation can be accomplished by a nonallosteric mechanism.