Whole-body leucine and alpha-ketoisocaproate (KIC) metabolism were estimated in mature dogs fed a complete meal, a meal devoid of branched-chain amino acids, and a meal devoid of all amino acids. Using a constant infusion of [4,5-3H]leucine and alpha-[1-14C]ketoisocaproate (KIC), combined with dietary [5,5,5-2H3]leucine, the rate of whole-body proteolysis, protein synthesis, leucine oxidation, and interconversion of leucine and KIC were estimated along with the rate of leucine absorption. Ingestion of the complete meal resulted in a decrease in the rate of endogenous proteolysis, a small increase in the estimated rate of leucine entering protein, and a twofold increase in the rate of leucine oxidation. Ingestion of either the meal devoid of branched-chain amino acids or devoid of all amino acids resulted in a decrease in estimates of whole-body rates of proteolysis and protein synthesis, decreased leucine oxidation, and a decrease in the interconversion of leucine and KIC. The decrease in whole-body proteolysis was closely associated with the rise in plasma insulin concentrations following meal ingestion. Together these data suggest that the transition from tissue catabolism to anabolism is the result, at least in part, of decreased whole-body proteolysis. This meal-related decrease in proteolysis is independent of the dietary amino acid composition or content. In contrast, the rate of protein synthesis was sustained only when the meal complete in all amino acids was provided, indicating an overriding control of protein synthesis by amino acid availability.