In the heart, augmented Ca(2+) fluxing drives contractility and ATP generation through mitochondrial Ca(2+) loading. Pathologic mitochondrial Ca(2+) overload with ischemic injury triggers mitochondrial permeability transition pore (MPTP) opening and cardiomyocyte death. Mitochondrial Ca(2+) uptake is primarily mediated by the mitochondrial Ca(2+) uniporter (MCU). Here, we generated mice with adult and cardiomyocyte-specific deletion of Mcu, which produced mitochondria refractory to acute Ca(2+) uptake, with impaired ATP production, and inhibited MPTP opening upon acute Ca(2+) challenge. Mice lacking Mcu in the adult heart were also protected from acute ischemia-reperfusion injury. However, resting/basal mitochondrial Ca(2+) levels were normal in hearts of Mcu-deleted mice, and mitochondria lacking MCU eventually loaded with Ca(2+) after stress stimulation. Indeed, Mcu-deleted mice were unable to immediately sprint on a treadmill unless warmed up for 30 min. Hence, MCU is a dedicated regulator of short-term mitochondrial Ca(2+) loading underlying a "fight-or-flight" response that acutely matches cardiac workload with ATP production.