The effects of synchronizing dietary energy and nitrogen supply in diets with a similar carbohydrate composition on microbial protein synthesis and rumen fermentation were examined in sheep. Two diets were formulated to be either synchronous (diet S) or asynchronous (diet A) for the hourly release of nitrogen (N) and energy to the rumen. Diet S contained (g/kg) 425 g wheat straw, 400 g winter barley, 150 g rapeseed meal and 25 g minerals/vitamins and diet A contained 505 g wheat straw, 458.5 g winter barley, 11 15 g urea and 25 g minerals/vitamins. Both diets were fed at the rate of 1 kg/day in four equal portions, to four cannulated sheep, in two periods in a change-over design. Rumen ammonia concentrations followed the predicted hourly trend in N degradation with a peak 1 h after feeding of 10 mm for diet S and 16 mM for diet A before falling within 3 h of feeding to 4 mM in animals fed either diet. Rumen volatile fatty acid (VFA) concentrations followed the cyclical trend predicted by stoichiometric equations, whilst rumen VFA ratios were more stable than predicted in animals fed either diet. The observed content of rumen degradable protein and organic matter truly degraded in the rumen was similar for both diets. The increase in total CHO digested in the rumen observed with diet A (427 g/kg DM) compared with diet S (364 g/kg DM) can be attributed to the greater content of starch in the asynchronous diet, which had a high degradability. The efficiency of microbial protein synthesis (g N/kg OM truly degraded in the rumen) was 11-20% greater in animals fed the synchronous diet (S) than the asynchronous diet (A). It is concluded that microbial N production was more efficient when dietary energy and N supply were synchronized.