Abstract Digestive enzyme responsiveness to feeding and associated adjustments of metabolism can be used to derive nutritionally effective diet formulations. Juvenile pintado ( Pseudoplatystoma corruscans) were fed different diets. After feeding, fish were killed and blood, liver and white muscle were collected to evaluate metabolites. Stomach along with anterior, middle and posterior intestine were sampled for enzyme analysis. Non-specific protease, trypsin, chymotrypsin, amylase and lipase were assayed. Crude protein (CP) did not induce proteolytic activity; highest protease activities were observed in the stomach. Amylase was higher in the stomach in fish feeding on diets containing 13–25% starch. Lipase activity was observed along the gastrointestinal tract, with the highest activities observed in the middle section. The metabolic profile of white muscle was not affected by CP. In contrast, some plasma and liver metabolites were altered concomitant with changes in the digestive enzymes. Amino acid catabolism was increased. Digestion in pintado was responsive to cornstarch, reflected in intermediary metabolism; proteolytic activities of the digestive tract seem to be sufficient to deal with large amounts of dietary protein. As a result, we are able to recommend a balance between protein and energetic compounds, such as lipids and carbohydrates, in the diet to optimize fish growth.