Research Review: Intermittent vs. Continuous Calorie Restriction for Fat Loss

Are intermittent calorie deficits better for fat loss than continuous deficits?  The MATADOR study suggested this to be the case, but there's more to this study than meets the eye.  Learn all the details in this video research review.

Key Takeaways

  • Alternating 2 weeks of 33% calorie restriction with 2 weeks of maintenance resulted in superior fat loss to continuous restriction for 16 straight weeks.
  • While the researchers suggested attenuation of adaptive thermogenesis may have been the mechanism, this is likely not the case.  This conclusion is not consistent with the data in the study, and is also not consistent with data from other studies.
  • The most probable mechanism was superior dietary adherence, as nearly a 1000 calorie per day deficit is easier to stick to for only 2 weeks at a time, compared to 16 straight weeks.

Practical Application

  • Intermittent calorie restriction, with frequent diet breaks where an individual consumes at maintenance calories, can be a good strategy for fat loss for some individuals if it helps maintain long-term compliance.  However, it will likely not mitigate the adaptive thermogenesis that occurs with weight loss.
  • The best dietary strategy for fat loss is the one that results in the best adherence.

Continuous or Intermittent Calorie Deficits Which is Better for Fat Loss

Continuous or Intermittent Calorie Deficits Which is Better for Fat Loss

Click here to download a PDF of the slides (contains hyperlinks to all mentioned studies)

Click here to download an MP4 of the video

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Nahuel Picchi
Nahuel Picchi
3 years ago

Hi again James!

I was wondering if the method used in this trial to measure REE and adjust caloric deficit was the same for groups, how intermittent group energy intake was more “heavy” for them at least during the first weeks. (this is the reason why you think intermittent group results were more favorable, don’t you?).

Thank you!

Nahuel Picchi
Nahuel Picchi
3 years ago

Hi James! i have a few questions 🙂

what would be the gold standard to measure REE?

How accurate are REE equations?

I read some papers that state Adaptive thermogenesis is very difficult to measure and that is a term with a lot of controversy. What do you think?

Really interesting webinar.

thank you,


Florencia Jung
Florencia Jung
5 years ago

Hello, thanks so much for this video. Do you think intermittent calorie reduction would lessen the impact of NEAT lowering vs adaptive thermogenesis?

Axel Junaeus
Axel Junaeus
6 years ago

Fascinating video, James! Great work!

What’s your opinion about applying this method, but for even shorter periods of time? for example, during a microcycle? Like they did in the other study, by restricting calories for 2 days/week instead of an entire week. And how would you apply this for bodybuilders? For example, keeping the calories high on traning days, and restrict them on rest days?


Christopher Jaros
Christopher Jaros
6 years ago

Thanks James – I really enjoyed this review. It seems that ultimately the only issue is gross calories. In this case the adherence to the diet made the difference in fat loss. Thanks for illuminating.

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