In healthy adult men adapted to a diet/exercise regimen for 6 days, the effects of small, frequent meals supplying daily protein intakes of 1 (n = 8) or 2.5 g . kg-1 . day-1 (n = 6) on leucine oxidation, urea production, and whole body protein synthesis (PS) and degradation (PD) have been compared with the use of a 24-h continuous intravenous [13C]leucine and [15N,15N]urea infusion protocol. Two 90-min periods of exercise (approximately 50% maximal O2 consumption) were included during the fasting and the fed periods of the 24-h day. Subjects were determined to be at approximate energy, nitrogen, and leucine balances on both diets. Increased protein intake raised the urea production rate; the absolute rate of urea hydrolysis was the same on both diets. When the first-pass splanchnic uptake of leucine was taken to be 25% of intake, PS was stimulated by feeding (after an overnight fast) at both protein intake levels (P < 0.05 and P < 0.01), whereas PD declined significantly (P < 0.01) at both protein levels. Protein gain at a high protein intake appears to be the result of both a stimulation of PS and a marked decline in PD, whereas at a less generous intake, the gain appears to be a result of a fall in PD with a less evident change in PS. Exercise moderately decreased PS during and/or immediately after exercise at each protein level, and there was a postexercise-induced increase (P < 0.01) in PD, which was more dramatic when feeding was at the higher protein intake level.