The purpose of this study was to determine the effect of ingestion of 100 g of carbohydrates on net muscle protein balance (protein synthesis minus protein breakdown) after resistance exercise. Two groups of eight subjects performed a resistance exercise bout (10 sets of 8 repetitions of leg presses at 80% of 1-repetition maximum) before they rested in bed for 4 h. One group (CHO) received a drink consisting of 100 g of carbohydrates 1 h postexercise. The other group (Pla) received a noncaloric placebo drink. Leg amino acid metabolism was determined by infusion of 2H5- or 13C6-labeled phenylalanine, sampling from femoral artery and vein, and muscle biopsies from vastus lateralis. Drink intake did not affect arterial insulin concentration in Pla, whereas insulin increased several times after the drink in CHO (P < 0.05 vs. Pla). Arterial phenylalanine concentration fell slightly after the drink in CHO. Net muscle protein balance between synthesis and breakdown did not change in Pla, whereas it improved in CHO from -17 +/- 3 nmol.ml(-1).100 ml leg(-1) before drink to an average of -4 +/- 4 and 0 +/- 3 nmol.ml(-1).100 ml leg(-1) during the second and third hour after the drink, respectively (P < 0.05 vs. Pla during last hour). The improved net balance in CHO was due primarily to a progressive decrease in muscle protein breakdown. We conclude that ingestion of carbohydrates improved net leg protein balance after resistance exercise. However, the effect was minor and delayed compared with the previously reported effect of ingestion of amino acids.