High-performance physical activity and postexercise recovery lead to significant changes in amino acid and protein metabolism in skeletal muscle. Central to these changes is an increase in the metabolism of the BCAA leucine. During exercise, muscle protein synthesis decreases together with a net increase in protein degradation and stimulation of BCAA oxidation. The decrease in protein synthesis is associated with inhibition of translation initiation factors 4E and 4G and ribosomal protein S6 under regulatory controls of intracellular insulin signaling and leucine concentrations. BCAA oxidation increases through activation of the branched-chain alpha-keto acid dehydrogenase (BCKDH). BCKDH activity increases with exercise, reducing plasma and intracellular leucine concentrations. After exercise, recovery of muscle protein synthesis requires dietary protein or BCAA to increase tissue levels of leucine in order to release the inhibition of the initiation factor 4 complex through activation of the protein kinase mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR). Leucine's effect on mTOR is synergistic with insulin via the phosphoinositol 3-kinase signaling pathway. Together, insulin and leucine allow skeletal muscle to coordinate protein synthesis with physiological state and dietary intake.