This study reports on a comprehensive comparison of the effects of soy and meat proteins given at the recommended level on physiological markers of metabolic syndrome and the hepatic transcriptome. Male rats were fed semi-synthetic diets for 1 wk that differed only regarding protein source, with casein serving as reference. Body weight gain and adipose tissue mass were significantly reduced by soy but not meat proteins. The insulin resistance index was improved by soy, and to a lesser extent by meat proteins. Liver triacylglycerol contents were reduced by both protein sources, which coincided with increased plasma triacylglycerol concentrations. Both soy and meat proteins changed plasma amino acid patterns. The expression of 1571 and 1369 genes were altered by soy and meat proteins respectively. Functional classification revealed that lipid, energy and amino acid metabolic pathways, as well as insulin signaling pathways were regulated differently by soy and meat proteins. Several transcriptional regulators, including NFE2L2, ATF4, Srebf1 and Rictor were identified as potential key upstream regulators. These results suggest that soy and meat proteins induce distinct physiological and gene expression responses in rats and provide novel evidence and suggestions for the health effects of different protein sources in human diets.