The recycling of elite inbreds (i.e., advanced cycle breeding) has led to significant genetic gains but also to a narrow gene pool in plant breeding programs. Sustained yield improvements in many crops have suggested that genetic variance is not depleted at a rate predicted by an additive genetic model. Unlike the additive model in classical quantitative genetic theory, metabolic control analysis relates the variation in a biochemical process with the genetic variation in a quantitative trait. Our objective was to determine whether metabolic control analysis is a mechanism that slows the decrease in genetic variance during advanced cycle breeding. Three cycles of advanced cycle breeding were simulated with 10, 50, or 100 quantitative trait loci (QTL) controlling a trait. In metabolic control analysis, these QTL coded for enzymes involved in a linear metabolic pathway that converted a substrate into a product. In the absence of selection, both the additive model and the metabolic control analysis model led to about a 50% reduction in genetic variance from cycle to cycle. With selection, the additive model led to a 50-58% reduction in genetic variance, but the metabolic control analysis model generally led to only a 12-54% reduction. We suggest selection in a metabolic control analysis model as a mechanism that slows the decrease in genetic variance during advanced cycle breeding. This conservation of genetic variance would allow breeders to achieve genetic gains for a longer period than expected under the additive model.