In the present study, we evaluated the metabolic effects of green tea polyphenols (GTPs) in high-fat diet (HFD) fed Zucker fatty (ZF) rats, in particular the effects of GTP on skeletal muscle insulin sensitivity. Body weight, visceral fat, glucose tolerance, lipid profiles and whole-body insulin sensitivity were measured in HFD-fed ZF rats after 8-week-treatment with GTP (200 mg/kg of body weight) or saline (5 ml/kg of body weight). Zucker lean rats were studied as controls. Ex vivo insulin-mediated muscle glucose uptake was assessed. Immunoblotting was used to evaluate the expression of key insulin signalling proteins in skeletal muscle. GTP treatment attenuated weight gain (P<0.05) and visceral fat accumulation (27.6%, P<0.05), and significantly reduced fasting serum glucose (P<0.05) and insulin (P<0.01) levels. Homoeostasis model assessment of insulin resistance (HOMA-IR), a measure of insulin resistance, was lower (P<0.01) in GTP-treated animals compared with ZF controls. Moreover, insulin-stimulated glucose uptake by isolated soleus muscle was increased (P<0.05) in GTP-ZF rats compared with ZF-controls. GTP treatment attenuated the accumulation of ectopic lipids (triacyl- and diacyl-glycerols), enhanced the expression and translocation of glucose transporter-4, and decreased pSer612IRS-1 and increased pSer473Akt2 expression in skeletal muscle. These molecular changes were also associated with significantly decreased activation of the inhibitory (muscle-specific) protein kinase (PKC) isoform, PKC-θ. Taken together, the present study has shown that regular ingestion of GTP exerts a number of favourable metabolic and molecular effects in an established animal model of obesity and insulin resistance. The benefits of GTP are mediated in part by inhibiting PKC-θ and improving muscle insulin sensitivity.