We examined the association of the mRNA cap binding protein eIF4E with the translational inhibitor 4E-BP1 in the acute modulation of skeletal muscle protein synthesis during recovery from exercise. Fasting male rats were run on a treadmill for 2 h at 26 m/min and were realimented immediately after exercise with either saline, a carbohydrate-only meal, or a nutritionally complete meal (54.5% carbohydrate, 14% protein, and 31.5% fat). Exercised animals and nonexercised controls were studied 1 h postexercise. Muscle protein synthesis decreased 26% after exercise and was associated with a fourfold increase in the amount of eIF4E present in the inactive eIF4E.4E-BP1 complex and a concomitant 71% decrease in the association of eIF4E with eIF4G. Refeeding the complete meal, but not the carbohydrate meal, increased muscle protein synthesis equal to controls, despite similar plasma concentrations of insulin. Additionally, eIF4E.4E-BP1 association was inversely related and eIF4E.eIF4G association was positively correlated to muscle protein synthesis. This study demonstrates that recovery of muscle protein synthesis after exercise is related to the availability of eIF4E for 48S ribosomal complex formation, and postexercise meal composition influences recovery via modulation of translation initiation.