Postprandial glycaemia and insulinaemia are important risk factors for type 2 diabetes. The prevalence of insulin resistance in adolescents is increasing, but it is unknown how adolescent participant characteristics such as BMI, waist circumference, fitness and maturity offset may explain responses to a standard meal. The aim of the present study was to examine how such participant characteristics affect the postprandial glycaemic and insulinaemic responses to an ecologically valid mixed meal. Data from the control trials of three separate randomised, crossover experiments were pooled, resulting in a total of 108 participants (fifty-two boys, fifty-six girls; aged 12·5 (SD 0·6) years; BMI 19·05 (SD 2·66) kg/m2). A fasting blood sample was taken for the calculation of fasting insulin resistance, using the homoeostatic model assessment of insulin resistance (HOMA-IR). Further capillary blood samples were taken before and 30, 60 and 120 min after a standardised lunch, providing 1·5 g/kg body mass of carbohydrate, for the quantification of blood glucose and plasma insulin total AUC (tAUC). Hierarchical multiple linear regression demonstrated significant predictors for plasma insulin tAUC were waist circumference, physical fitness and HOMA-IR (F(3,98) = 36·78, P < 0·001, adjusted R2 = 0·515). The variance in blood glucose tAUC was not significantly explained by the predictors used (F(7,94) = 1·44, P = 0·198). Significant predictors for HOMA-IR were BMI and maturity offset (F(2,102) = 14·06, P < 0·001, adjusted R2 = 0·021). In summary, the key findings of the study are that waist circumference, followed by physical fitness, best explained the insulinaemic response to an ecologically valid standardised meal in adolescents. This has important behavioural consequences because these variables can be modified.