Elevated levels of branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) have recently been implicated in the development of cardiovascular and metabolic diseases, but the molecular mechanisms are unknown. In a mouse model of impaired BCAA catabolism (knockout [KO]), we found that chronic accumulation of BCAAs suppressed glucose metabolism and sensitized the heart to ischemic injury. High levels of BCAAs selectively disrupted mitochondrial pyruvate utilization through inhibition of pyruvate dehydrogenase complex (PDH) activity. Furthermore, downregulation of the hexosamine biosynthetic pathway in KO hearts decreased protein O-linked N-acetylglucosamine (O-GlcNAc) modification and inactivated PDH, resulting in significant decreases in glucose oxidation. Although the metabolic remodeling in KO did not affect baseline cardiac energetics or function, it rendered the heart vulnerable to ischemia-reperfusion injury. Promoting BCAA catabolism or normalizing glucose utilization by overexpressing GLUT1 in the KO heart rescued the metabolic and functional outcome. These observations revealed a novel role of BCAA catabolism in regulating cardiac metabolism and stress response.