How to Lose Fat Without Gaining Muscle – [2021 Updated]

Updated on - Written by
Medically reviewed by Gopal Ramakrishnan Asst. Prof.

How to Lose Fat Without Gaining Muscle

Not everyone wants to bulk up and build muscle. If that is you, it is totally fine and you can achieve your goals of losing fat without gaining muscle. 

Working on your body to give up the extra fat while maintaining a lean appearance would require that you tweak your exercise routine and diet. Your body type could also influence the route you’d have to take to achieve your desired goal. 

How to Lose Fat Without Gaining Muscle

To lose fat without gaining muscle requires you to stick to mostly cardio workouts and stay away from strength training exercises. A healthy calorie deficit diet is also essential. 

The key to achieving your desired body is to focus on both aspects of your goal.

The key to achieving your desired body is to focus on both aspects of your goal.  

Basically, you will be engaging in diets and exercises that help you cut the fat while simultaneously avoiding workouts that cause muscle gain

Cardio 

Cardio or aerobics are exercises that get your heart rate up. They would typically have you doing multiple fast-paced motions that leave you sweating. 

Fat loss is not the only thing cardio is good for. Your overall health, especially your heart[1] would appreciate the numerous benefits of participating in cardio workouts.

That is not even the best part. You do not have to follow very strict rules when it comes to cardio. You could participate in a sport you love and that can count as your workout as long as it gets you sweating and your heart racing.

For starters, a brisk walk makes a good cardio workout and it does not require much from you. Take out those sneakers and take a walk that brings you closer to your body goals. 

If you have a gym membership, then you would get the same from running on the treadmill. 

Dancing is also a great aerobics workout. If you have a dance instructor, that is great, but if you do not, whip out your boom box, get into some free clothing, and dance the fat away. 

Other fun cardio workouts that you can include in your workout schedule are:

  • Jump rope
  • Cycling 
  • Swimming 
  • Boxing 
  • Rowing

If you have underlying health conditions, you might want to consult your doctor before you begin any workout regimen.

Strength Training 

You might want to set those weights aside if gaining muscle is not your goal. 

Here is the deal: strength training workouts target specific muscle groups for growth.

How does it work? 

Well, these exercises put lots of strain on these muscles causing micro-tears[2]

As your body tries to heal from these repeated micro-tears, the muscles undergo hypertrophy. This repetitive cycle is how you build muscle. 

Since that is not your goal, you will need to drop those weights. Other strength training workouts such as squats, push-ups, or deadlifts, should also not make it to your exercise routine. 

Depending on your body type, you could get away with including a dumbbell in your workout without gaining much muscle. However, it might be best to keep it at a minimum.

Calorie Deficit 

Counting calories can be tedious but is a necessary evil if you want to lose fat. 

The calories in our food provide the energy we need for our daily activities. When we consume more than what our body needs at a time, it converts the excess carbs to fat for later use.  

A calorie deficit diet is important because it compels our body to reach into the fat stores to fuel our daily needs. 

So, if you work out without adjusting your diet you might not see much progress and a calorie deficit alone might not be enough[3] to burn fat. Combining this diet with exercise will give better results. 

Thankfully, technology has made the process way easier than it used to be. Your smartphone can be all you need to calculate and monitor your daily calorie intake. 

You would need to start by calculating your specific daily calorie requirements before you set a moderate calorie deficit. A simple calorie counter App from the App store should help keep you on track. 

A visit to your doctor or nutritionist before you begin, especially if you have specific health conditions, is essential so you don’t face malnutrition. 

Clean Eating 

Another important step that will help you lose fat is to eat healthily. 

That means ‘No’ to sodas and ‘Yes’ to water.  

You also want to cut out high-fat meals from your diet. No more cakes and other super sugary foods too.

A healthy meal should contain all the food classes in moderation. 

Pick meals with moderate amounts of good fat. Your heart will thank you. 

You would also benefit from having lean meats such as fish, chicken breast, and pork cutlets, in your diet. These foods will help you meet your protein nutrition needs as well as develop some lean muscle for a toned appearance. 

A fiber-rich diet is excellent if you want to lose fat. Fiber offers no nutrients but will help keep you full and away from snacking till your next meal.  

Thus, fiber will make achieving a calorie deficit diet easier. Your digestive system also benefits from a fiber-rich diet.[4]

Fat Loss without Muscle Gain for Different Body Types 

It is common knowledge that we all have different body types. These differences affect how fast our body processes food.

Understanding how your body metabolizes food and responds to workouts will help you decide which strategies to amplify on your way to your body goals. 

The three body types are:[5]

  • Ectomorph 
  • Endomorph 
  • Mesomorph 

Ectomorph 

If you could literally eat a horse without putting on weight, then you are likely an ectomorph.

Ectomorphs have a super-fast metabolism that burns right through their food, keeping them relatively thin even while on unhealthy diets. 

If you are an ectomorph, your diet is the most important part of your fitness routine. 

It is easy to be deceived by a thin frame into thinking that you are healthy while on an unhealthy diet consisting of mostly junk food. That is a ticking time bomb because such a diet exposes you to health risks such as diabetes and heart disease.

Ectomorphs can get away with a little strength training without gaining loads of muscles. However, you should focus more on cardio and clean eating. 

Endomorph 

Being an endomorph can be frustrating. If you eat a single candy bar, it goes straight to your waist. 

Endomorphs have a slow metabolism and have no problem gaining weight. However, weight loss can be a real pain. 

Maintaining a calorie deficit diet is essential for endomorphs to lose fat. You might also want to cut down on carbs. 

Clean eating is essential to achieving your goals of fat loss. So, unhealthy and processed food should not make it to your dining table. 

A robust cardio workout routine is the second approach to losing all that fat. From dancing to walking, you need to start sweating to jump-start your body’s metabolism of stored fat. 

Mesomorph 

Mesomorphs gain weight pretty easily and have no problem losing it either.  

If you are a mesomorph, your body should respond favorably to your cardio workout and you should see the weight drop off soon enough. 

However, if your goal is not to gain muscle, then you would need to stay as far away as possible from weights and strength training workouts.

It is pretty easy for mesomorphs to gain muscle and even a few reps with dumbbells can give you serious muscle gains. 

Let us not forget your diet’s contribution to helping you drop those extra pounds. A calorie deficit diet is crucial to getting your body to tap into its fat stores.  

Healthy eating habits that will help you with your weight loss journey are vital. It is time to get serious and eliminate sweets and reduce your carbs intake to get to your goals faster.  

Conclusion 

If you are looking to lose fat without gaining muscle,  then a combined approach of clean eating, calorie-deficit diet, and cardio exercises should have you on your way to your goals.  

You might want to stay away from strength training workouts if you do not want to build muscle. 

How you respond to these strategies depends on your body type— ectomorph, endomorph, and mesomorph. 


+ 5 sources

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  1. Nystoriak, M.A. & Bhatnagar, A. (2018). Cardiovascular Effects and Benefits of Exercise. Frontiers in Cardiovascular Medicine, [online] 5. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6172294/
  2. UHBlog (2018). How Microtears Help You to Build Muscle Mass. [online] Uhhospitals.org. Available at: https://www.uhhospitals.org/Healthy-at-UH/articles/2018/02/microtears-and-mass
  3. Fletcher, J. (2020). How to safely and effectively create a calorie deficit for weight loss. [online] Medicalnewstoday.com. Available at: https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/calorie-deficit#weight-loss
  4. Anderson, J.W., Baird, P., Davis Jr, R.H., Ferreri, S., Knudtson, M., Koraym, A., Waters, V. & Williams, C.L. (2009). Health benefits of dietary fiber. Nutrition Reviews, [online] 67(4), pp.188–205. Available at: https://academic.oup.com/nutritionreviews/article/67/4/188/1901012
  5. Healthful Papa. (2019). How to lose belly fat without gaining muscle by nutritionist. [online] Available at: https://healthfulpapa.com/belly-fat/how-to-lose-belly-fat/how-to-lose-belly-fat-without-gaining-muscle/

Medically reviewed by:

Jennifer Anyabuine holds a bachelor's degree in Biochemistry from the University of Nigeria Nsukka and currently a medical student. She is a freelance medical writer specializing in creating content to improve public awareness of health topics. When she's not writing or studying, you can find her with her dogs, Chelsea and Ginger.

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