It has been well established that, in addition to the pulmonary involvement, COPD has systemic consequences that can lead to peripheral muscle dysfunction, with greater muscle fatigue, lower exercise tolerance and lower survival in these patients. In view of the negative repercussions of early muscle fatigue in COPD, the objective of this review was to discuss the principal findings in the literature on the metabolic and bioenergy determinants of muscle fatigue, its functional repercussions, as well as the methods for its identification and quantification. The anatomical and functional substrate of higher muscle fatigue in COPD appears to include lower levels of high-energy phosphates, lower mitochondrial density, early lactacidemia, higher serum ammonia and reduced muscle perfusion. These alterations can be revealed by contraction failure, decreased firing rates of motor units and increased recruitment of motor units in a given activity, which can be functionally detected by a reduction in muscle strength, power and endurance. This review article also shows that various types of muscle contraction regimens and protocols have been used in order to detect muscle fatigue in this population. With this understanding, rehabilitation strategies can be developed in order to improve the resistance to muscle fatigue in this population.