Can Women Lose Weight Without Exercise?

Can you lose weight without exercise? Yes. Will you look your best? No. Find out how to maximize your calorie intake and weekly exercise to get the body you want.

At My Garage Gym I occasionally get these types of question:  “Do I need to do all this exercise to lose weight?” and “I am exercising my butt off, why don’t I lose weight?”

In layman’s terms, the answers are:

No you don’t have to exercise to lose weight.


You are doing all that exercise and not losing weight because you continue to eat too many calories!

In reality it boils down to calories in and calories out.  To lose weight in a healthy way we need the combination of calorie reduction and exercise.

Some of my clients think that exercise only is the answer.  They believe that a couple of hours of vigorous exercise and lifting weights will be the answer to all their problems.  They believe that the weight will just fall off.  Wrong!

In reality, if you did three “butt kicking” workouts per week that burned 1,000 calories each, you would still have only burned enough calories to lose less then one pound.  You can easily offset that calorie deficit by eating an extra serving per day or one big cheat meal per week.

So you can see that even though the exercise is helping you become healthier it may not be leading to the weight loss you desire.  You may become disgusted with the process because you are working so hard and not seeing visible results.

Weight loss, exercise, and looking your best

The truth is this: if you have a significant amount of weight to lose you can reach your goal by cutting calories only.  A reduction of only 500 calories per day from your usual intake will equal a one pound of weight loss per week.

But please be aware that when you are losing weight in this manner you are not only losing fat, you are also losing muscle. Muscle is essential to building or maintaining a shapely, healthy body.  You need to preserve or build muscle while losing weight.  The only way to preserve muscle while dieting is to exercise and place an emphasis on weight training.

Here is an example of a weight loss formula I use in my “Biggest Loser Pro” sessions.  This will show in black and white how the combination of calorie cutting and exercise can work together to help you lose weight.

Woman Stretching

My weight loss formula

If a  175 pound women needs 2,375 calories to maintain her current weight, and she reduced her calorie intake by 776 calories per day to reach a 1,500 calorie diet, she would save 5,435 calories per week.  If this woman increased her exercise level by only 300 calories per day, she would burn an extra 2,100 calories per week.

If you add the calories she saved by reducing her food intake and the calories she burned through exercise it equals 7,526 calorie deficit per week, or a weight loss of 2.15 pounds per week.  This is an average and it may vary from week to week.  If you are relatively healthy and have no metabolic disorders this formula holds true for everyone.

If you lose body weight by diet alone you will lose muscle mass. The result is that you obviously become less strong as your body composition changes.  Even though you may weigh less, your BMI may not change in the way you want.

Avoiding a higher body fat percentage after weight loss

The BIG drawback of losing weight without exercise is that when your calorie consumption returns to normal you will gain weight.  When you gain weight after losing it without exercise, you don’t automatically regain the lost muscle mass.  Most of your regained weight will be in fat stores, so your body fat percentage will be higher then before the initial weight loss.

If you repeat this pattern of behavior you set yourself up for the old “yo-yo” syndrome that we are all familiar with.  Every time you lose weight without exercise, and then gain any weight back, you change your body composition for the worse. You will be fatter and less muscular.  Muscle burns more calories than fat, so it stands to reason that the higher your muscle to fat ratio, the higher your BMR (the rate at which your body uses calories) will be.

If you follow this pattern long enough your BMI (body mass index) gets out of balance, making it harder and harder to lose weight because your fat to muscle ratio is so askew.  You get fatter even if you weigh less then when you started.  The result is that you can be at a normal weight but have a high body fat percentage, and be unhealthy and flabby.

Woman on a treadmillThe reality of weight loss without exercise

So my answer to the first question is:

YES, you can lose weight without exercise.

Just know that in the long run you may be jeopardizing your long term success.

The answer to the second question is:

You are doing all this exercise and not losing the weight you want because...You can’t out exercise a poor diet!

To be truly successful and happy with your body and weight it really takes a combination of exercise and diet. Neither one on its own is the answer.

Please make nutrition your priority when cutting calories.  Eat quality meat, vegetables and fruit.  Don’t rely on portion control packs, meal replacements and other gimmicks.

Please avoid highly processed foods and fast food.  You can lose the weight you desire if you use a reasonable approach. Be calorie conscious, get in some weekly exercise and focus on good nutrition.