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Time-restricted eating effects on performance, immune function, and body composition in elite cyclists: a randomized controlled trial.

Moro T, Tinsley G, Longo G, Grigoletto D, Bianco A, Ferraris C, Guglielmetti M, Veneto A, Tagliabue A, Marcolin G, Paoli A

Dec 11, 2020

Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition. 2020;17(1):65. doi:10.1186/s12970-020-00396-z

Although there is substantial interest in intermittent fasting as a dietary approach in active individuals, information regarding its effects in elite endurance athletes is currently unavailable. The present parallel randomized trial investigated the effects of a particular intermittent fasting approach, called time-restricted eating (TRE), during 4 weeks of high-level endurance training.

Sixteen elite under-23 cyclists were randomly assigned either to a TRE group or a control group (ND). The TRE group consumed 100% of its estimated daily energy needs in an 8-h time window (from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.) whilst energy intake in the ND group was distributed in 3 meals consumed between 7:00 a.m. and 9:00 p.m. Fat and fat-free mass were estimated by bioelectrical impedance analysis and VO2max and basal metabolism by indirect gas analyzer. In addition, blood counts, anabolic hormones (i.e. free testosterone, IGF-1) and inflammatory markers (i.e. IL-6, TNF-α) were assessed.

TRE reduced body weight (− 2%; p = 0.04) and fat mass percentage (− 1.1%; p = 0.01) with no change in fat-free mass. Performance tests showed no significant differences between groups, however the peak power output/body weight ratio (PPO/BW) improved in TRE group due to weight loss (p = 0.02). Free testosterone and IGF-1 decreased significantly (p = 0.01 and p = 0.03 respectively) in TRE group. Leucocyte count decreased in ND group (p = 0.02) whilst the neutrophils-to-lymphocytes ratio (NLR) decreased significantly (p = 0.03) in TRE group.

Our results suggest that a TRE program with an 8-h feeding window elicits weight loss, improves body composition and increases PPO/BW in elite cyclists. TRE could also be beneficial for reducing inflammation and may have a protective effect on some components of the immune system. Overall, TRE could be considered as a component of a periodized nutrition plan in endurance athletes.

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Intermittent Fasting, Time-Restricted Eating, Body Composition, Athletes

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