Previous studies have suggested the recovery of phosphocreatine (PCr) after exercise is at least second-order in some conditions. Possible explanations for higher-order PCr recovery kinetics include heterogeneity of oxidative capacity among skeletal muscle fibers and ATP production via glycolysis contributing to PCr resynthesis. Ten human subjects (28 +/- 3 yr; mean +/- SE) performed gated plantar flexion exercise bouts consisting of one contraction every 3 s for 90 s (low-intensity) and three contractions every 3 s for 30 s (high-intensity). In a parallel gated study, the sciatic nerve of 15 adult male Sprague-Dawley rats was electrically stimulated at 0.75 Hz for 5.7 min (low intensity) or 5 Hz for 2.1 min (high intensity) to produce isometric contractions of the posterior hindlimb muscles. [(31)P]-MRS was used to measure relative [PCr] changes, and nonnegative least-squares analysis was utilized to resolve the number and magnitude of exponential components of PCr recovery. Following low-intensity exercise, PCr recovered in a monoexponential pattern in humans, but a higher-order pattern was typically observed in rats. Following high-intensity exercise, higher-order PCr recovery kinetics were observed in both humans and rats with an initial fast component (tau < 15 s) resolved in the majority of humans (6/10) and rats (5/8). These findings suggest that heterogeneity of oxidative capacity among skeletal muscle fibers contributes to a higher-order pattern of PCr recovery in rat hindlimb muscles but not in human triceps surae muscles. In addition, the observation of a fast component following high-intensity exercise is consistent with the notion that glycolytic ATP production contributes to PCr resynthesis during the initial stage of recovery.