A [13CO2] breath test was applied as a non-invasive method to study the catabolism of ingested amino acids shortly after a meal. This test requires the ingestion of a [1-13C]-labelled amino acid and the analysis of expired air for [13C] enrichment and CO2. The recovery of label as [13CO2] reflects the catabolism of the [1-13C]-labelled substrate. Such a non-steady state approach provides information that is complementary to the information obtained by steady-state methods using a primed continuous infusion of tracer amino acids during the fed state. In a model study with twenty adult male rats, two groups of animals were fed twice a day with one of two semi-synthetic iso-energetic diets. One diet contained egg white protein (EW) as the sole amino acid source. The second diet contained a mixture of free amino acids with a pattern similar to that of the EW diet. On day 5 of the dietary treatment, l-[1-13C]leucine, either bound in EW protein or in free form, was ingested as part of the morning meal. The expired air was sampled at 30 min intervals for 5 h. The rate of recovery ranged from 0 % to 6 % of the dose/h. Up to 120 min after the onset of the meal, the recovery values for the free amino acid diet were higher than those for the EW diet. Differences in recovery reflect differences in postprandial utilisation. The differences in label recovery were mainly determined by the [13C] enrichment of the expired air. As a consequence, CO2 measurements are not mandatory when CO2 production is comparable.