1. We have investigated the effects of moderate long-term exercise on protein turnover in fed man by measuring the extent of whole-body nitrogen production, the labelling of urinary ammonia from ingested [15N]glycine and plasma, muscle and urine free amino acid concentrations.
2. Judged both from nitrogen production, and from the extent of 13CO2 production from ingested l-[l-13C]leucine, exercise causes a substantial rise in amino acid catabolism.
3. Amino acids catabolized during exercise appear to become available through a fall in whole-body protein synthesis and a rise in whole-body protein breakdown. After exercise, protein balance becomes positive through a rise in the rate of whole-body synthesis in excess of breakdown.
4. Studies of free 3-methylhistidine in muscle, plasma and urine samples suggest that exercise decreases the fractional rate of myofibrillar protein breakdown, in contrast with the apparent rise in whole-body breakdown.