The first approach used to study the utilization of nitrogen in the body was based on the measurement of nitrogen balance. Limitations to this method reside in the difficulty of precisely determining nitrogen losses and, more specifically, miscellaneous N losses. These shortcomings are particularly restrictive when investigating adaptation of the organism to different levels of protein intake. The principal issue is to gain a better understanding of the adaptive processes that occur with high protein intakes and the possibility of producing a net protein accretion by nutritional means in different situations. The investigation of protein metabolism in relation to dietary proteins, with a focus on the postprandial phase of nitrogen diurnal cycling, enables a clearer determination of the metabolic pathways for dietary nitrogen as a function of different factors, which include the habitual protein level and intrinsic protein characteristics. We propose that this in vivo approach in humans should be used to validate simpler indices of the nutritional value of proteins.