Effects of Intermittent Fasting on Specific Exercise Performance Outcomes: A Systematic Review Including Meta-Analysis

Nutrients. 2020 May 12;12(5):1390. doi: 10.3390/nu12051390.


Intermittent fasting (IF) has been studied in athletes during Ramadan and in those willing to decrease adiposity while maintaining or increasing lean body mass. The purpose of this systematic review was to summarize the effects of IF on performance outcomes. We searched peer-reviewed articles in the following databases: PubMed, Web of Science and Sport Discus (up to December 2019). Studies were selected if they included samples of adults (≥18 years), had an experimental or observational design, investigated IF (Ramadan and time-restricted feeding (TRF)), and included performance outcomes. Meta-analytical procedures were conducted when feasible. Twenty-eight articles met the eligibility criteria. Findings indicated that maximum oxygen uptake is significantly enhanced with TRF protocols (SMD = 1.32, p = 0.001), but reduced with Ramadan intermittent fasting (Ramadan IF; SMD = -2.20, p < 0.001). Additional effects of IF may be observed in body composition (body mass and fat mass). Non-significant effects were observed for muscle strength and anaerobic capacity. While Ramadan IF may lead to impairments in aerobic capacity, TRF may be effective for improving it. As there are few studies per performance outcome, more research is needed to move the field forward.

Keywords: aerobic capacity; anaerobic capacity; muscle strength; nutrition; performance; training.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Athletes
  • Athletic Performance / physiology*
  • Body Composition / physiology
  • Exercise Tolerance / physiology*
  • Fasting / adverse effects*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Islam
  • Male
  • Oxygen Consumption / physiology
  • Young Adult