The modification of serine and threonine residues of nuclear and cytoplasmic proteins by O-linked β-N-acetylglucosamine (O-GlcNAc) has emerged as a highly dynamic post-translational modification that plays a critical role in regulating numerous biological processes. Much of our understanding of the mechanisms underlying the role of O-GlcNAc on cellular function has been in the context of its adverse effects in mediating a range of chronic disease processes, including diabetes, cancer and neurodegenerative diseases. However, at the cellular level it has been shown that O-GlcNAc levels are increased in response to stress; augmentation of this response improved cell survival while attenuation decreased cell viability. Thus, it has become apparent that strategies that augment O-GlcNAc levels are pro-survival, whereas those that reduce O-GlcNAc levels decrease cell survival. There is a long history demonstrating the effectiveness of acute glucose-insulin-potassium (GIK) treatment and to a lesser extent glutamine in protecting against a range of stresses, including myocardial ischemia. A common feature of these approaches for metabolic cardioprotection is that they both have the potential to stimulate O-GlcNAc synthesis. Consequently, here we examine the links between metabolic cardioprotection with the ischemic cardioprotection associated with acute increases in O-GlcNAc levels. Some of the protective mechanisms associated with activation of O-GlcNAcylation appear to be transcriptionally mediated; however, there is also strong evidence to suggest that transcriptionally independent mechanisms also play a critical role. In this context we discuss the potential link between O-GlcNAcylation and cardiomyocyte calcium homeostasis including the role of non-voltage gated, capacitative calcium entry as a potential mechanism contributing to this protection. © 2009 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.