In the dairy cow, negative energy balance affects milk yield and composition as well as animal health. Studying the effects of negative energy balance on dairy cow milk production is thus essential. Feed restriction (FR) experiments attempting to reproduce negative energy balance by reducing the quantity or quality of the diet were conducted in order to better describe the animal physiology changes. The study of FR is also of interest since with climate change issues, cows may be increasingly faced with periods of drought leading to a shortage of forages. The aim of this article is to review the effects of FR during lactation in dairy cows to obtain a better understanding of metabolism changes and how it affects mammary gland activity and milk production and composition. A total of 41 papers studying FR in lactating cows were used to investigate physiological changes induced by these protocols. FR protocols affect the entire animal metabolism as indicated by changes in blood metabolites such as a decrease in glucose concentration and an increase in non-esterified fatty acid or β-hydroxybutyrate concentrations; hormonal regulations such as a decrease in insulin and insulin-like growth factor I or an increase in growth hormone concentrations. These variations indicated a mobilization of body reserve in most studies. FR also affects mammary gland activity through changes in gene expression and could affect mammary cell turnover through cell apoptosis, cell proliferation, and exfoliation of mammary epithelial cells into milk. Because of modifications of the mammary gland and general metabolism, FR decreases milk production and can affect milk composition with decreased lactose and protein concentrations and increased fat concentration. These effects, however, can vary widely depending on the type of restriction, its duration and intensity, or the stage of lactation in which it takes place. Finally, to avoid yield loss and metabolic disorders, it is important to identify reliable biomarkers to monitor energy balance.