Following 4 h of general anesthesia with halothane [1.5 minimum alveolar concentration (MAC)]-nitrous oxide (50% in oxygen), whole body protein synthesis is decreased and the rate of leucine oxidation is increased in dogs. To evaluate the effects of general anesthesia with isoflurane on whole body fuel metabolism and the effects of duration of anesthesia on these processes, eight dogs were studied, once in the conscious state (over 9 h) and again prior to and during isoflurane anesthesia (1.5 MAC) for 3.5 h (n = 8). Three additional dogs were studied in the conscious state and over 5 h of anesthesia. Changes in protein, fatty acid, and glucose metabolism were estimated using isotope dilution techniques, employing simultaneous infusions of L-[1-14C]leucine, [6-3H]glucose and [9,10-3H]palmitate. Ten minutes after the beginning of the administration of isoflurane, total leucine carbon flux, leucine oxidation, and leucine incorporation into proteins decreased (P less than 0.05), resulting in a slight decrease in the ratio of leucine oxidation to nonoxidative leucine disappearance (LOX/NOLD, P less than 0.05), an indicator of leucine catabolism. Throughout the 5 h of anesthesia, whole body protein synthesis remained decreased (P less than 0.01), whereas leucine flux and oxidation increased progressively throughout the remainder of the study, resulting in a more than 80% increase in the ratio of LOX/NOLD. After 10 min of isoflurane anesthesia, both plasma free fatty acid concentrations and palmitate turnover had decreased by more than 70% (P less than 0.001) and remained suppressed (P less than 0.001) throughout the remainder of the anesthesia, consistent with decreased lipolysis. Glucose production was increased 10 min (P less than 0.05) following induction of anesthesia and peripheral glucose utilization was decreased following 3.5 h of isoflurane anesthesia (P less than 0.05). These data strongly suggest a widespread and immediate metabolic effect of isoflurane anesthesia, which includes peripheral insulin resistance to glucose disposal, decreased lipolysis, and a progressive increase in protein wasting with increasing duration of anesthesia.