Measuring mitochondrial respiration in cultured cells is a valuable tool to investigate the influence of physiological and disease-related factors on cellular metabolism; however, the details of the experimental workflow greatly influence the informative value of the results. Working with primary cells and cell types capable of differentiation can be particularly challenging. We present a streamlined workflow optimised for investigation of primary human skeletal muscle cells. We applied the workflow to differentiated and undifferentiated cells and we investigated the effect of TGF beta 1 treatment. Differentiation of myoblasts to myotubes increased mitochondrial respiration and abundance of mitochondrial enzymes and mitochondrial marker proteins. Differentiation also induced qualitative changes in mitochondrial protein composition and respiration. TGF beta 1 reduced complex IV protein MTCO1 abundance in both myoblasts and myotubes. In myoblasts, spare electron transport system (ETS) capacity was reduced due to a reduction in maximal oxygen consumption. In TGF beta 1-treated myotubes, the reduction in spare ETS capacity is mainly a consequence of increased oxidative phosphorylation capacity and complex III protein UQCRC2. Taken together, our data shows that it is important to monitor muscle cell differentiation when mitochondrial function is studied. Our workflow is not only sensitive enough to detect physiological-sized differences, but also adequate to form mechanistic hypotheses.