Intermittent fasting and continuous energy restriction result in similar changes in body composition and muscle strength when combined with a 12 week resistance training program

Eur J Nutr. 2022 Jun;61(4):2183-2199. doi: 10.1007/s00394-022-02804-3. Epub 2022 Jan 27.


Purpose: The objective of this study was to compare the effects of 12 weeks of resistance training combined with either 5:2 intermittent fasting or continuous energy restriction on body composition, muscle size and quality, and upper and lower body strength.

Methods: Untrained individuals undertook 12 weeks of resistance training plus either continuous energy restriction [20% daily energy restriction (CERT)] or 5:2 intermittent fasting [~ 70% energy restriction 2 days/week, euenergetic consumption 5 days/week (IFT)], with both groups prescribed a mean of ≥ 1.4 g of protein per kilogram of body weight per day. Participants completed 2 supervised resistance and 1 unsupervised aerobic/resistance training combination session per week. Changes in lean body mass (LBM), thigh muscle size and quality, strength and dietary intake were assessed.

Results: Thirty-four participants completed the study (CERT = 17, IFT = 17). LBM was significantly increased (+ 3.7%, p < 0.001) and body weight (- 4.6%, p < 0.001) and fat (- 24.1%, p < 0.001) were significantly reduced with no significant difference between groups, though results differed by sex. Both groups showed improvements in thigh muscle size and quality, and reduced intramuscular and subcutaneous fat assessed by ultrasonography and peripheral quantitative computed tomography (pQCT), respectively. The CERT group demonstrated a significant increase in muscle surface area assessed by pQCT compared to the IFT group. Similar gains in upper and lower body strength and muscular endurance were observed between groups.

Conclusion: When combined with resistance training and moderate protein intake, continuous energy restriction and 5:2 intermittent fasting resulted in similar improvements in body composition, muscle quality, and strength.

Actrn: ACTRN12620000920998, September 2020, retrospectively registered.

Keywords: Body composition; Continuous energy restriction; Intermittent fasting; Lean body mass; Resistance training; Weight loss.

MeSH terms

  • Body Composition / physiology
  • Body Weight
  • Fasting / physiology
  • Humans
  • Muscle Strength / physiology
  • Resistance Training*