BACKGROUND: The mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) pathway is the primary regulator of muscle protein synthesis. Metabolic syndrome (MetS) is characterized by central obesity and insulin resistance; little is known about how MetS affects the sensitivity of the mTOR pathway to feeding. METHODS: The responsiveness of mTOR pathway targets such as p706Sk to a high protein meal containing either dairy or soy foods was investigated in healthy insulin sensitive middle-aged men and those presenting with metabolic syndrome (MetS). Twenty male subjects (10 healthy controls, 10 MetS) participated in a single-blinded randomized cross-over study. In a random sequence, subjects ingested energy-matched breakfasts composed predominately of either dairy-protein or soy-protein foods. Skeletal muscle biopsies were collected in the fasted state and at 2 and 4 h post-meal ingestion for the analysis of mTOR- and insulin-signalling kinase activation. RESULTS: Phosphorylated Akt and Insulin receptor substrate 1 (IRS1) increased during the postabsorptive period with no difference between groups. mTOR (Ser448) and ribosomal protein S6 phosphorylation increased 2 h following dairy meal consumption only. p70S6K (Thr389) phosphorylation was increased after feeding only in the control subjects and not in the MetS group. CONCLUSIONS: These data demonstrate that the consumption of a dairy-protein rich but not a soy-protein rich breakfast activates the phosphorylation of mTOR and ribosomal protein S6, required for protein synthesis in human skeletal muscle. Unlike healthy controls, subjects with MetS did not increase muscle p70S6K(Thr389) phosphorylation in response to a mixed meal. TRIAL REGISTRATION: This trial was registered with the Australian New Zealand Clinical Trials Registry (ANZCTR) as ACTRN12610000562077.