This study was undertaken to determine whether a pulse protein feeding pattern was more efficient than a spread pattern to improve protein anabolism in young women as was already shown in elderly women. After a 15-d adaptive period [1.2 g protein/(kg fat-free mass. d)], 16 young women (age 26 +/- 1 y) were given a 14-d diet providing 1.7 g protein/(kg fat-free mass. d), using either a pulse pattern (protein consumed mainly in one meal, n = 8), or a spread pattern (spreading daily protein intake over four meals, n = 8). Nitrogen balance was determined at the end of both the 15-d adaptive and the 14-d experimental periods. Whole-body protein turnover was determined at the end of the 14-d experimental period using [(15)N]glycine as an oral tracer. Nitrogen balance was 17 +/- 5 mg N/(kg fat-free mass. d) during the adaptive period. It was higher during the experimental period, but not significantly different in the women fed the spread or the pulse patterns [59 +/- 12 and 36 +/- 8 mg N/(kg fat-free mass. d) respectively]. No significant effects of the protein feeding pattern were detected on either whole-body protein turnover [5.5 +/- 0.2 vs. 6.1 +/- 0.3 g protein/(kg fat-free mass. d) for spread and pulse pattern, respectively] or whole-body protein synthesis and protein breakdown. Thus, in young women, these protein feeding patterns did not have significantly different effects on protein retention.