In the livestock husbandry compensatory growth may be explored as a means to improve nutrient utilization, to reduce gut health problems due to excess protein intake, to simplify feeding strategies and thus to improve production efficiencies. This study investigated the effects of early protein restriction (EPR) and early antibiotic intervention (EAI) on growth performance, intestinal morphology, colonic bacteria, metabolites and mucosal gene expressions during the restriction phase and re-alimentation phase. A total of 64 piglets (10.04 ± 0.73 kg) were randomly divided into four treatment groups according to a 2 × 2 factorial arrangement with two levels of proteins (14% v. 20%) and two levels of antibiotics (0 v. 50 mg/kg kitasamycin and 20 mg/kg colistin sulphate). After a 30-day restriction phase with four kinds of diets, all groups were fed the same diets for another 74 days. The results showed that EPR decreased BW, average daily gain (ADG), average daily feed intake in the restriction phase (P < 0.01) and increased ADG on days 66 to 104 of the late re-alimentation phase. Early protein restriction could decrease the villus height in the jejunum (P < 0.05), while shifting to the same diets restored the villus height. Meanwhile, during the re-alimentation phase, pigs in the protein restriction groups had increased concentrations of total short chain fatty acids (P < 0.05), and modified the abundances of Firmicutes and Bacteroidetes in the colon. Furthermore, the lower microbial diversity caused by EPR was improved, and gene expression analysis indicated a better barrier function in the colon. During the whole trial, EAI had no interaction with EPR and played a dispensable role in compensatory growth. Collectively, the retardation of growth caused by EPR can be compensated for in the later stages of pig raising, and accompanied by altered intestinal morphology, microbial composition.