Previous studies after acute myocardial infarction (AMI) have reported conflicting results on the effects of angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibition on physical working capacity. In an effort to provide more insight into this subject, we examined the effects of captopril on working capacity of patients who had low ejection fractions but no congestive heart failure after AMI. One hundred sixty-six participants were recruited from 5 centers after randomization to either captopril or placebo for the Survival and Ventricular Enlargement study. Upright cycle ergometer tests were performed with continuous measurements of respiratory gases at 4, 12, and 24 months after AMI. Our study concurs with 2 of 3 previous post-AMI studies and supports the conclusion that working capacity is not affected by angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibition at 4 or 12 months after AMI in patients without congestive heart failure. In addition, no significant effect of captopril was noted at 24 months after AMI. Peak oxygen uptake tended to decrease between 12 and 24 months in the placebo group by an average (+/- SD) of -22 +/- 322 ml/min (n = 66), but to increase in the captopril group (+62 +/- 289, n = 57), a difference that was significant (Mann-Whitney chi-square, p = 0.02). This post-hoc observation suggests that a late beneficial effect may have been masked by inadequate study duration. Known benefits of captopril appear not to include an increase in working capacity within the first 24 months after AMI.