Can You Lose Weight Without Cardio? (8 Tips From Experts)

Michael Garrico
Published by Michael Garrico | Co-Founder & Marketing Director
Last updated: December 28, 2023
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During my ten years in the fitness industry, I worked with clients who couldn't perform cardio due to various challenges like joint pain and the risk of muscle injury.

People in these situations often ask me how to lose weight, and I commonly recommend targeted weight lifting and diet changes.

However, for this article, I decided to explore the subject more thoroughly so I talked to my colleagues and dieticians at Total Shape, and we researched and examined all the ways to burn calories that didn't involve aerobic exercise.

We’ve compiled our research findings here and singled out the methods we deemed most effective, so read on.

Quick Summary

  •  It is possible to reduce body fat without cardio by adopting various strategies beyond traditional cardiovascular exercises.
  • The best ways of losing weight without cardio include watching your calorie intake, drinking plenty of water, eating complex carbs, and avoiding processed meals.
  • A 20219 study published by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) highlighted that a six-week period of caloric restriction resulted in significant fat mass reduction and increased levels of leptin, an appetite-regulating hormone.
  • While cardio is not essential for fat loss, a balanced approach including diet, strength training, and lifestyle changes can be more sustainable and beneficial for overall health.

Is It Possible to Reduce Body Fat Without Doing Cardio?

Exhausted woman resting on an inflatable purple ball

It is entirely possible to reduce body fat without doing cardio because it is not the only option to reduce excess fat.

Research conducted by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) suggests that while cardio can help burn calories while you work out, increasing lean muscle through strength training, like lifting weights, can be more effective at boosting the fat-burning process even when you're at rest [1].

Furthermore, it has been shown that consuming fewer calories with or without intense physical activity can help you reduce fat mass and overall weight.


8 Tips On How to Lose Weight Without Cardio

Cardiovascular training indeed has been shown to increase blood flow, resulting in the body burning more calories.

There are, however, other highly viable ways to lose weight if you lack the time or physical capability to do heart-pumping exercises.

Here are eight additional fat loss strategies that do not require cardio:

1. Keep a Caloric Deficit

A fork and an empty plate

Fat loss without cardio is possible by creating a negative energy balance, also known as a caloric deficit, in which you consume fewer calories than you burn for energy.

A 2019 study published by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) found that six weeks of caloric restriction resulted in a significant reduction in fat mass and cholesterol levels and an increase in levels of the appetite-regulating hormone leptin [2].

Maintaining a caloric deficit can be as simple as eating more fiber and water-rich foods, which make you feel full longer and prevent frequent snacking throughout the day.

However, keep in mind that you can keep the deficit forever as the body will adapt and adjust the basal metabolic rate accordingly, so you might end up feeling less energetic, so give your body regular breaks.

2. Drink More Water

A study published by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) backs up the idea that drinking water is good for weight loss because it helps increase body temperature, resulting in improved metabolism [3].

Obese women lost significant weight after increasing their water consumption by one liter per day while keeping a calorie deficit.

You can increase your hydration by drinking water with every meal, carrying a water bottle outside, and consuming fruit that is high in water, such as watermelon and cucumbers.

Increasing my water intake significantly reduced my cravings, and I noticed a boost in my metabolism.

Relateted articleDoes Lemon Water Help You Lose Weight?

3. Eat Complex Carbs

Top view of a brown rice

Contrary to common belief, carbs do not always lead to weight gain.

A pivotal study by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) indicates that this macronutrient aids in energy production and actually enhances the body's metabolism [4].

Furthermore, complex carbohydrates have been shown to provide a sustained energy boost to the body despite reducing hunger and calorie intake because they take longer to digest.

Eating unrefined whole grains, brown rice, lentils, and nuts is a simple way to include complex carbs in your diet.

"Skimping on carbs can throw the body out of balance because something it needs isn't showing up for work."

- Cynthia Sass MPH, MA, RD, Dietician, Florida

4. Consume High Protein Diet

A high-protein intake allows the body to burn more calories because digesting protein requires more time and causes a more significant increase in body temperature.

Also, clinical evidence suggests that protein foods help prevent muscle mass loss by preserving the necessary calories for normal daily body functions.

There are simple ways to consume a high protein diet, such as choosing leaner cuts of meat, eating poultry products, and taking natural protein shakes.

Eating more protein helped me feel fuller for longer and supported muscle maintenance, which was crucial for losing fat while preserving muscle mass.

5. Avoid Processed Foods

Processed food in cans inside a factory

By avoiding processed foods high in sugar, fat, and salt, you can prevent the excessive accumulation of fat that can lead to weight gain.

What's more, replacing processed foods with nutrient-dense foods can potentially help you stay physically and mentally active throughout the day.

Some healthy snacks that you can substitute for junk food are fresh fruit slices, Greek yogurt, and low-fat nut butter spreads.

6. Increase Daily Physical Activity

You can also lose weight without cardio by leading an active lifestyle that involves increased regular daily activities like walking, stair climbing, and cycling.

According to a 2016 study by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) on 35 overweight individuals, taking 10,000 steps per day reduced waist circumference and overall weight [5].

Simply parking your car near the edge of a mall parking lot so you may walk further or using the stairs instead of the elevator can improve the amount of physical exercise you engage in every day.

7. Frequent Lift of Moderate to Heavy Loads

Woman lifting green light dumbbells

While increasing physical activity increases calorie expenditure, research conducted by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) has shown that the benefits are minimal when the amount of energy consumed is considered [6].

On the other hand, strength training has been shown to help burn body fat over the long haul by increasing fat-free muscles that are highly metabolic and burn more calories than any other body tissue.

Adding strength training with moderate weights into my routine boosted my metabolism and enhanced fat loss, beyond what I achieved with diet alone.

There are numerous ways to perform weight training, including the use of barbells, dumbbells, or weight machines and the use of your body weight or resistance bands.

Related article10 Belly Fat-Burning Exercises You Can Do at Home Today

8. Take Natural Fat Burning Supplements

I often recommend natural weight loss supplements to my clients because they can help boost metabolism, suppress appetite, and maintain fat-free muscle mass.

Also, fat burners with additional stimulants and amino acids are safe and effective products you can consume before exercise to provide extra strength and endurance.

One of the popular fat burners for men and women that has been proven effective by our team is PhenQ, which contains enough caffeine and natural amino acids to help you burn fat while building muscle.

Does It Have Benefits?

Woman in fitness attire giving thumbs up

Losing weight without cardio has benefits because it can help the body to develop and grow more muscle tissue fibers, resulting in more calories spent and better body composition.

Overtraining or improper cardio practices can result in physical and mental fatigue, muscle mass loss, and injury.

In addition, excessive aerobic or endurance exercise has been shown to have negative effects on the heart, which can lead to arrhythmias or abnormal heart rhythms and inefficiency in working out over time.

Related Articles:

Are There Any Downsides?

There are some downsides to losing fat without cardio, such as reduced cardiovascular and respiratory functions and low aerobic capacity, ultimately resulting in decreased endurance.

This is because cardio workouts such as high-intensity interval training strengthen our lungs and heart muscles, which can aid in the development of stamina during long-term resistance training.

Cardio and strength training have different effects on weight loss, but when done together in proportion, they work as a great team in burning fat.


Can You Get To 10% Body Fat without Cardio?

You can get 10% body fat without cardio because eating fewer calories than you burn combined with high calorie-burning activities can accelerate fat loss more than solely engaging in cardio.

Also, having a balanced diet and plenty of sleep can help you with faster post-workout recovery, lean muscle building, and fat burning.

Does Strength Training Alone Help Me Maintain Muscle Mass?

Yes, strength training primarily helps you maintain muscle mass because it can enhance bone density and health and increase muscle strength and size. The result is that muscle mass can be preserved even when fat is being lost.


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