Caloric restriction induces anabolic resistance to resistance exercise

Eur J Appl Physiol. 2020 May;120(5):1155-1164. doi: 10.1007/s00421-020-04354-0. Epub 2020 Mar 31.


Purpose: Weight loss can result in the loss of muscle mass and bone mineral density. Resistance exercise is commonly prescribed to attenuate these effects. However, the anabolic endocrine response to resistance exercise during caloric restriction has not been characterized.

Methods: Participants underwent 3-day conditions of caloric restriction (15 kcal kg FFM-1) with post-exercise carbohydrate (CRC) and with post-exercise protein (CRP), and an energy balance control (40 kcal kg FFM-1) with post-exercise carbohydrate (CON). Serial blood draws were taken following five sets of five repetitions of the barbell back squat exercise on day 3 of each condition.

Results: In CRC and CRP, respectively, growth hormone peaked at 2.6 ± 0.4 and 2.5 ± 0.9 times the peak concentrations observed during CON. Despite this, insulin-like growth factor-1 concentrations declined 18.3 ± 3.4% in CRC and 27.2 ± 3.8% in CRP, which was greater than the 7.6 ± 3.6% decline in CON, over the subsequent 24 h. Sclerostin increased over the first 2 days of each intervention by 19.2 ± 5.6% in CRC, 21.8 ± 6.2% in CRP and 13.4 ± 5.9% in CON, but following the resistance exercise bout, these increases were attenuated and no longer significant.

Conclusion: During caloric restriction, there is considerable endocrine anabolic resistance to a single bout of resistance exercise which persists in the presence of post-exercise whey protein supplementation. Alternative strategies to restore the sensitivity of insulin-like growth factor-1 to growth hormone need to be explored.

Keywords: Energy availability; Energy deficit; Growth hormone; Sclerostin; Strength training; Weightlifting.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Bone Remodeling*
  • Caloric Restriction*
  • Cross-Over Studies
  • Dietary Supplements*
  • Energy Intake
  • Energy Metabolism*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Insulin-Like Growth Factor I / metabolism*
  • Male
  • Resistance Training*
  • Single-Blind Method
  • Young Adult


  • IGF1 protein, human
  • Insulin-Like Growth Factor I