Can you lose weight without cardio? Yes, and here is how

Can you lose weight without cardio?

Yes and no.

You lose weight with or without cardio the same way you would lose weight using any other form of exercise (lifting weights, Peloton, Orangetheory, Pilates, or Tonal). By being in a consistent calorie deficit over time.

Without a calorie deficit, you will not lose weight. 

Cardio can help you create a calorie deficit by using calories for energy. But cardio for weight loss should not be your focus. Use cardiovascular exercise to improve your cardiovascular system, heart health, and endurance. Let your diet and NEAT be the primary drivers for weight loss.

In today’s article I’ll go over why that is and answer some frequently asked questions about losing weight with or without cardio.

How can I lose fat without cardio?

You lose fat without cardio the same way you lose fat with or without other forms of exercise like Pelotonkettlebells, or if you’re over 40. By creating a consistent calorie deficit over time.

While it’s important to resistance train with progressive overload to maintain as much muscle mass while losing weight. Your form of exercise will have less of an impact on fat loss than your diet.

A calorie deficit is a state in which you consume fewer calories than you burn over a given period of time. This can occur through a reduction in calorie intake, an increase in physical activity, or a combination of both. When you maintain a calorie deficit over time, your body will begin to use stored energy (i.e. fat) to make up for the shortfall, leading to weight loss.

For example, if a person needs 2000 calories per day to maintain their weight, and they consume only 1500 calories per day, they are in a calorie deficit of 500 calories. If they maintain this deficit consistently, they can expect to lose weight over time. 

When focusing on losing fat with or without cardio there are a few things to prioritize outside of being in a calorie deficit:

  • Strength Training: Incorporate resistance training into your fitness routine. Building lean muscle mass helps increase your metabolism and burn more calories, even at rest. Aim for at least two to four strength training sessions per week, targeting all major muscle groups.
  • NEAT (Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis): NEAT refers to the calories burned through activities other than exercise. Increase your NEAT by being more active in your daily life. This can include household chores, gardening, playing with kids or pets, or taking regular short walks.
  • Nutrition: Focus on a balanced, nutrient-dense diet that includes lean proteins, fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and healthy fats. Monitor portion sizes and be mindful of your overall calorie intake.
  • Stress Management: Address stress and emotional eating, as they can hinder weight loss efforts. Practice stress reduction techniques such as meditation, deep breathing exercises, yoga, or engaging in activities you enjoy to help manage stress effectively.
  • Sleep: 

Get really good at these things and do them for a long time and you’ll have immediate and long-term success. 

Can I lose weight by lifting weights?

There is going to be a very annoying and recurring theme here. The answer will be yes if you create a consistent calorie deficit over time.

So yes, you can lose weight by lifting weights if you create a consistent calorie deficit over time. Weightlifting benefits the process in a few ways. 

Weightlifting requires energy and uses calories for this during your workouts. While it may not burn as many calories during the actual session compared to cardio exercises, weightlifting still contributes to overall calorie expenditure. The more intense your weightlifting session and the heavier the weights you lift, the more calories you will burn. But don’t make the workout about burning the most calories. Make it about building muscle and getting stronger. 

It also promotes the development of lean muscle mass. As you engage in regular weightlifting, you stimulate muscle growth and increase your muscle mass. Muscle is metabolically active tissue, meaning it burns calories even at rest. By increasing your muscle mass through weightlifting, you can raise your resting metabolic rate, resulting in more calories burned throughout the day.

Weight lifting also improves body composition (tones). While the scale might not show significant weight loss, weightlifting can lead to a reduction in body fat percentage and an increase in muscle mass. This can result in a more defined and leaner appearance. Remember that muscle is denser than fat, so even if the scale doesn’t move much, you may notice positive changes in your body composition.

It can also have a positive impact on fat burning. Intense weightlifting workouts can activate hormonal responses in the body that stimulate fat breakdown and utilization as a fuel source. Additionally, weightlifting can contribute to the preservation of lean muscle mass during weight loss, ensuring that the weight loss comes primarily from fat stores rather than muscle tissue.

An often overlooked benefit is that regular weightlifting can have positive effects on various aspects of metabolic health, including insulin sensitivity, blood glucose control, and lipid profiles. These improvements can support weight loss efforts and overall well-being.

Again, nutrition plays a crucial role, and creating a calorie deficit through a balanced diet is essential. Combining weightlifting with a well-rounded fitness routine that includes cardiovascular exercise, proper nutrition, and healthy lifestyle habits will yield the best results for weight loss.

What happens if I lift weights and don’t do cardio?


You can still lose weight provided you are in a consistent calorie deficit over time. Cardio assists in this process by using calories for energy. Many people make the mistake of doing more cardio in hopes of faster results. The downside of this is that excessive cardio could increase appetite, lead to less movement during the day, and influence muscle building.

Prioritize getting steps as a low-impact cardio source. Use traditional cardio like running, biking, and rowing as a means to improve your cardiovascular and heart health and not burn more calories. 

It’s important to note that weightlifting primarily focuses on muscular strength and development. While it may not provide the same cardiovascular benefits as traditional cardio exercises like running or cycling, it can still contribute to improved heart health indirectly. Weightlifting increases your heart rate during the workout, and over time, it can help improve cardiovascular endurance.

Ultimately, the specific outcomes of focusing on weightlifting without cardio will depend on various factors such as the intensity and volume of your weightlifting sessions, your overall diet and nutrition, genetics, and individual response to exercise. However, by combining weightlifting with other forms of physical activity and adopting a well-rounded approach to fitness, you can achieve greater health benefits and work towards your desired body composition goals.

Can I get a flat stomach without cardio?

Yes, it is possible to achieve a flat stomach without relying solely on cardio exercises. While cardio can be beneficial for overall calorie burn and weight loss, a flat stomach primarily depends on reducing body fat by creating a consistent calorie deficit over time. 

Incorporating strength training that targets the core muscles, such as hanging knee raises, hanging leg raises, machine crunches, candlesticks, reach-ups, rope crunches, incline sit-ups, and v-ups will also help. Strengthening the abdominal muscles helps improve muscle tone and definition, contributing to a flatter appearance.

Proper posture also helps engage the core muscles, promotes proper alignment, and can create the illusion of a flatter stomach.

Remember, spot reduction (losing fat from a specific area) is not possible. To achieve a flat stomach, it’s important to focus on overall body fat reduction and strengthening the abdominal muscles. 

Do you have to do cardio to lose weight (belly fat)

No, you do not have to do traditional cardio exercises to lose weight, including belly fat. While cardio exercises can contribute to overall calorie burn and weight loss, they are not the sole requirement for losing belly fat. Here’s why:

Weight loss, including belly fat reduction, primarily depends on creating a caloric deficit. This means consuming fewer calories than your body needs for maintenance. You can achieve a caloric deficit through a combination of diet and exercise, including strength training and other forms of physical activity.

Incorporating strength training exercises into your routine is highly effective for losing belly fat. Strength training helps build muscle, which increases your resting metabolic rate and promotes overall fat burning. It also enhances muscle definition and improves body composition, contributing to a flatter stomach appearance.

Overall Physical Activity (NEAT), such as walking, swimming, dancing, or any form of movement that you enjoy, can help create a calorie deficit and aid in weight loss. Consistency and incorporating more movement throughout your day, such as taking the stairs or walking instead of driving, can contribute to overall fat loss, including belly fat.

Your diet plays a significant, and arguably the most important role in weight loss, including losing belly fat. Focus on a balanced, nutrient-dense diet that includes lean proteins, fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and healthy fats. Monitor portion sizes and be mindful of your overall calorie intake to create a caloric deficit necessary for fat loss.

Does cardio burn fat or calories?

Cardio primarily burns calories. However, the calorie burn achieved through cardio exercises can contribute to overall fat loss.

During cardio exercises, your body relies on oxygen to produce energy and fuel your muscles. This sustained aerobic activity elevates your heart rate and increases the rate at which you burn calories. The number of calories burned during cardio exercises depends on various factors such as exercise intensity, duration, body weight, and individual fitness level.

When you create a calorie deficit by using more calories than you consume, your body starts to tap into its stored energy reserves, including fat stores, to make up for the deficit. While cardio exercises do not specifically target fat in a particular area of the body (spot reduction is not possible), they can contribute to overall fat loss, including visceral fat (fat stored around the organs) and subcutaneous fat (fat stored just beneath the skin).

It’s important to note that while cardio exercises can aid in fat loss, other factors such as nutrition, overall caloric intake, and lifestyle habits also play a significant role. To achieve optimal fat loss and overall weight loss, it’s important to combine cardio exercises with a balanced diet, strength training, and a healthy lifestyle. This comprehensive approach will help you achieve your goals effectively.


Photo by Andrew Tanglao on Unsplash