The purpose of the present study was to determine the influence of the glycaemic index (GI) and glycaemic load (GL) on the ratio of tryptophan (TRP) relative to other large neutral amino acids (LNAA). Ten healthy men (age 22·9 (sd 3·4) years; BMI 23·5 (sd 1·6) kg/m2) underwent standard GI testing, and later consumed each of a mixed-macronutrient (1915 kJ; 66·5 % carbohydrate (CHO), 17 % protein and 16·5 % fat) high-GI (MHGI), an isoenergetic, mixed-macronutrient low-GI (MLGI) and a CHO-only (3212 kJ; 90 % CHO, 8 % protein, 2 % fat) high-GI (CHGI) meal on separate days. The GI, GL and insulin index values (e.g. area under the curve) were largest after the CHGI meal (117, 200, 158), followed by the MHGI (79, 59, 82) and MLGI (51, 38, 56) meals, respectively (all values were significantly different, P < 0·05). After the MHGI and MLGI meals but not after the CHGI meal, TRP was elevated at 120 and 180 min (P < 0·05). After the CHGI, LNAA was lower compared with the MLGI (P < 0·05); also the rate of decline in LNAA was higher after CHGI compared with MHGI and MLGI (both comparisons P < 0·05). The percentage increase from baseline in TRP:LNAA after CHGI (23 %) was only marginally higher than after the MHGI meal (17 %; P = 0·38), but it was threefold and nearly significantly greater than MLGI (8 %; P = 0·05). The present study demonstrates that the postprandial rise in TRP:LNAA was increased by additional CHO ingestion and higher GI. Therefore, the meal GL appears to be an important factor influencing the postprandial TRP:LNAA concentration.