The present study was conducted to determine the effects of feeding clenbuterol on adipose tissue and longissimus muscle growth in heifers. For 50 d, 14 heifers were fed either a sucrose-based, clenbuterol supplement or a placebo in which the clenbuterol had been omitted. The heifers were slaughtered in two groups, based on initial weight. Adipose tissue from several anatomical sites and longissimus muscle (depending on slaughter group) were obtained fresh at slaughter. Changes in carcass characteristics elicited by clenbuterol were similar to those reported by others for steers and sheep. Subcutaneous (sc) and intramuscular (im), but not perirenal, adipocytes were smaller and there were more cells per g tissue in the adipose tissue depots of the clenbuterol-fed heifers. Clenbuterol decreased lipogenic enzyme activities, fatty acid-binding protein activity, basal lipolysis and acetate incorporation into glyceride-fatty acids (P less than .05) in sc adipose tissue, but had no effect (P greater than .05) on lipogenesis or lipolysis in im adipose tissue. Clenbuterol elicited a 20% increase in type II myofiber diameters (P less than .05) but had no effect on type I myofiber diameters. In vitro growth hormone release by perifused anterior pituitaries was not affected significantly by long-term in vivo exposure to clenbuterol. These data indicate that a depression in lipogenesis is the mechanism by which clenbuterol decreases subcutaneous fat accretion in cattle.