The effect of dietary intake level on in vivo plasma leucine and plasma palmitate flux rates and on the response to a bolus injection of bovine growth hormone (GH) was investigated in six young steers. Animals were fed on a pelleted diet of dried grass-barley (0.7:0.3, w/w) in quantities sufficient to supply 0.8, 1.2, 1.6, 2.0, 2.4 or 2.65 x maintenance energy requirement, offered in hourly portions. Continuous intravenous infusions of [1-13C]leucine or [1-13C]palmitate were used to determine the flux of amino acid and fatty acid through the plasma pool before, immediately (1-3 h) after and 22-24 h after a subcutaneous injection of bovine GH (0.55 mg/kg body weight). Hourly blood samples were taken for 27 h to monitor the temporal responses of circulating hormones and metabolites following GH administration. The animal on the lowest plane of nutrition had elevated plasma GH and reduced insulin-like growth factor-1 concentrations compared with those fed on higher intake levels. Plasma leucine flux and leucine concentration increased with intake while palmitate flux and plasma non-esterified fatty acid (NEFA) concentrations were inversely related to intake. Leucine flux rate decreased in the animals fed on the two highest intake levels in response to GH 22-24 h after administration, but plasma leucine concentrations were reduced in all animals at this time. Only the animal fed on the lowest intake level showed an immediate response to GH (within 3 h of administration) with increased palmitate flux and plasma NEFA concentrations but a lipolytic response was apparent in other animals 22-24 h post-administration although the magnitude of the response was markedly reduced at high intakes. We conclude that lipid and protein metabolism are differentially responsive to GH and nutritional status.