A well-functioning heart requires a constant supply of a balanced mixture of nutrients to be used for the production of adequate amounts of adenosine triphosphate, which is the main energy source for most cellular functions. Defects in cardiac energy metabolism are linked to several myocardial disorders. MRS can be used to study in vivo changes in cardiac metabolism noninvasively. MR techniques allow repeated measurements, so that disease progression and the response to treatment or to a lifestyle intervention can be monitored. It has also been shown that MRS can predict clinical heart failure and death. This article focuses on in vivo MRS to assess cardiac metabolism in humans and experimental animals, as experimental animals are often used to investigate the mechanisms underlying the development of metabolic diseases. Various MR techniques, such as cardiac 31 P-MRS, 1 H-MRS, hyperpolarized 13 C-MRS and Dixon MRI, are described. A short overview of current and emerging applications is given. Cardiac MRS is a promising technique for the investigation of the relationship between cardiac metabolism and cardiac disease. However, further optimization of scan time and signal-to-noise ratio is required before broad clinical application. In this respect, the ongoing development of advanced shimming algorithms, radiofrequency pulses, pulse sequences, (multichannel) detection coils, the use of hyperpolarized nuclei and scanning at higher magnetic field strengths offer future perspective for clinical applications of MRS. Copyright (c) 2015 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.