losing weight without cardio

Losing weight without cardio, because you should enjoy your weight loss journey

If the thought of the hours you might need to spend running, biking, or puffing your way through endless sessions on the elliptical machine to lose weight are enough to put you off even getting started, then don’t despair, because losing weight without cardio is totally doable.

There is a stereotype that you need to make laps in the park as often as possible or to spend hours on a treadmill in the nearest fitness center to lose weight. But here's the thing: running is not a $100 bill, so not everyone likes this activity, or any other long boring cardio for that matter.

If you never used to run or you don't love that type of training, that’s not really a problem when it comes to losing weight, as there has always been plenty of debate about the pros and cons of both cardio and strength training, when it comes to losing weight.

Worried if you can still do strength training, or is running your only option without access to the gym?  I know that all of us around the world have been affected by the gym closures caused by the COVID-19 coronavirus.  

But there are plenty of alternative ways to incorporate strength training at home, in a park or even your own back yard, and I’ll cover some of them here.

Don't let anything hold you back, not even a COVID-19. You've got this!

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It is quite possible to build a beautiful body and lose weight without cardio. How? Let's find out.

Cardio Training

Lets take a look at a few pros and cons.


  • Aerobic training has been shown to be good for brain health in some research.
  • Getting even a small daily dose of aerobic exercise can improve your sleep.
  • Putting your cardiovascular system under stress through aerobic training will improve it, reducing your risk of heart disease.
  • You don't need much equipment to do cardio training.  A good set of running shoes, and some performance active wear and you're ready.


  • When your body is in a calorie deficit state it can burn muscle as a source of energy, causing muscle loss.
  • The many hours of cardio needed to sustain weight loss can lead to over-training, and injury through repetitive use of the same joints and muscles.
  • You burn calories while you are training, but that stops as soon as the training does.  So it's pretty inefficient compared to strength training.
  • As your body adapts to the cardio training, you will need to do more and more to increase the intensity to continue producing a progressive overload to sustain weight loss.  That can lead to decreased muscle mass, over-training, lower metabolism and fat retention
  • You can become skinny fat.  Because you will be losing muscle mass, your body can become skinny but still be holding onto fat, which will give you the appearance of being skinny fat.
  • Longer workouts are needed to burn the same amount of  calories as strength training.  While their can be a good calorie burn from doing HIT cardio, the fact that doing strength training will continue to burn calories after your workout is finished, and increase your metabolism as well makes it much more efficient.


While there are obviously some benefits to cardio exercise, there can be quite a few cons as well.  It really comes down to establishing your fitness goals, and then working out a training program which will help you achieve them over the long term, in the most efficient way possible.

Cardio doesn't mean losing weight

You may have heard about efficient fat burning during cardio training. But the main objective of such training is to strengthen the cardiovascular system while burning excess fat is secondary. Unlike strength training, the effect of running when it comes to burning calories only impacts your body during your activity. And resistance training accelerates metabolism for a long time, even after you’ve finished a workout.

Running does not lead to weight loss on its own, without endurance exercise and a proper diet. Even after running the heroic 10 kilometers (that can kill beginner's knees), not a single ounce of body fat will leave your waist or hips. Physiologically, it is not possible.

During any physical activity, the body feeds on resources that circulate through the bloodstream or those stored in muscle tissue. But when this torture finally stops, you need to replenish that lack of nutrients.

And it rarely comes from your fat reservoirs. If you like to eat a lot, then your fat storage remains untouched. There will be enough proteins, fats, and carbohydrates from the food you’ve just eaten.

beef pasta

But is it possible to lose weight doing cardio?

Debates among trainers and nutritionists about the secret of successful weight loss will last forever. Now, among reputable trainers, there are both ardent defenders of cardio training and those who consider it useless, or even harmful. Let's consider some of the facts and  you can conclude if this kind of training is efficient.

Cardio Facts

Without a doubt, moderate cardiac loads have a beneficial effect on the cardiovascular system and endurance.

1. The principal source of energy is fat.

During cardio training, aerobic energy consumption process starts. It causes the active use of fat inside the muscles. This fact created an opinion that such training is the best way to lose weight. Cardio includes activity like running, cycling, aerobics, dancing, and many people do not like any of those things.

2. However, fat is used only during exercise.

After cardio training, the process of intramuscular fat burning stops. And only if you don’t eat for several hours, the excess fat from your body will move to replenish the muscles.

3. Cardio can make you gain weight.

There is a high likelihood of "Super-compensation" of calories spent by eating after exercise. However, even if you limit your nutrition, the body will seek to stock up at the earliest opportunity.

4. Long-term cardio leads to a decrease in muscle mass.

To start the weight loss process, you need to reduce caloric intake. However, it will also decrease the percentage of muscle tissue. Moreover, it leads to an unaesthetic appearance and possibly bad body image. You will also have to keep a low-calorie diet. The body will go into the energy-saving mode and will spend fewer calories.

As you see, you can chain yourself to a treadmill, but if you consume more calories than your body burns, then you will quite successfully gain weight. The total calorie content controls everything.

box jumps

So why even consider cardio training?

Cardio is just one of many ways to increase the body’s calorie consumption. And it allows doing it very quickly. It is suitable for those who love running or who are always in a hurry. During a 45-minute run, you can spend the same amount of calories as in 2-3 hours of a pleasant walk in the park. For weight loss, in general, there is no difference. It still comes down to calorie burn versus consumption.

The task is to choose for yourself the type of activity that, on the one hand, you enjoy and will look forward to, and on the other hand, allows you to burn more calories.

It can be Nordic walking, sports dancing, all kinds of group exercises in fitness centers, resistance training with barbells, and aerobic exercises in the backyard. The only essential things are the training intensity and the amount of energy spent.  If you don’t find something you enjoy doing, then it’s very unlikely that you will stick to it in the long term, and your weight loss goals will be lost.

How much do you need to exercise per week?

Let's see the generalized recommendations of physiology specialists for adults who do not have noticeable health problems. The frequency of training is 3-5 times a week.

The intensity is in the range of 60-80% of the maximum heart rate (the maximum heart rate can be easily calculated using the '220 - age' formula. For example, if you are 35 years old, then the maximum heart rate will be 220-35 = 185. If you are new to sports, then focus on the lower limit of the recommended range - 60%. In our case, this will be 185x0.60 = 111 beats per minute).

The duration of the training, if we are talking about continuous exercises, like swimming, running, skiing, skating, cycling, and so on, should be from 20 minutes to an hour. The higher the intensity (pulse), the shorter the duration.

By the way, all these types of physical activity do not eliminate the need to walk regularly. Are you sure you want to lose weight?

Then find a pedometer in your smartphone and gradually increase the number of steps every day to 10-12 thousand. Believe me, if you get off the bus three stops before your destination, and leave the car in the farthest corner of the parking lot, then it's not difficult to achieve these numbers.

skipping cardio

Benefits of resistance training

Weight training is the most effective and useful exercise, not only for those who want to gain muscle mass but also for losing weight.

Let’s look at some facts in favour of strength training.

1. Strength training helps speed up your metabolism.

The bigger the muscle mass in the body, the metabolism of any person is more active,. Strength training causes micro-traumas of the muscles and thus increases the energy consumption for their recovery, which continues for hours after training. Thus you lose weight (burn more calories) for several more hours after you have finished strength training.

Also, it has been proven that resistance training increases insulin sensitivity, which is often reduced in obese people. Of course, it does not mean that you can eat anything after training. Do not forget that for weight loss you need to consume fewer calories than you expend.

2. It helps maintain your muscle mass during a diet.

As I have said above, to get rid of hated fat, you need to create a calorie deficit (spend more energy than you get with food). But in this case, your diet will be catabolic, and not only fat can burn, but also muscles.

Your body decides that it is easier to reduce muscle mass, which is one of the principal consumers of energy than to burn fat. And the main way to maintain muscle mass is strength training. It sends a signal to your body that muscles are a priority for you because you use them actively and regularly.

The body knows that it needs to maintain a certain amount of muscle mass to get you through your day’s usual activity, which is why using progressive overload in strength training will cause the greatest muscle gain.  You can read more about that here.

3. The more muscle in the body, the more you can eat.

Muscles need a lot of energy for normal work. That is why the more muscle you have, the more you can eat, without the risk of gaining weight. Muscle cells spend more energy than fat cells, increasing your daily normative value (usage) of calories.

Also, the good sensitivity to insulin that strength training provides allows gaining less fat in case of overeating. Excess carbohydrates will move not to the fat reservoirs, but the muscles.

Not to mention that developed muscles makes your body beautiful and healthy. Strong really is the new sexy!

bodybuilding without cardio

What strength exercises should I choose?

Barbell, Body-weight and Dumbbell Exercises

The barbell does not sound feminine and can be frightening, but doing exercises with good form and with a weight that you feel comfortable with until you are strong enough and confident handling heavier weights, you will achieve good results with either barbells or dumbbells.

With really very little equipment you can design a strength training workout plan that you can do anywhere.  During this COVID-19 coronavirus period, I've re-purposed part of the garage at home to still get a good workout done.

During this period it's so good for your mental health as well as your physical conditioning.

You can try doing relatively simple exercises like the following:

  • Dumbbell lunges. Choose the suitable weight for you and hold a dumbbell in each hand. As you inhale, take a step forward and keep your back straight;
strength training lunges
  • Dumbbell overhead press. Hold the dumbbells at your shoulders height, with hands at a comfortable 90 degrees, then press up till your arms are extended.
losing weight without cardio shoulder press
  • Bicep curl. Hold the bar (either a straight barbell or an easy-curl bar) with your knuckles facing your thighs, then curl upwards bending at the elbow while keeping your upper arm still and close against your body.
bicep curls
  • Tricep curl. Hold the bar (either a straight barbell or an easy-curl bar) with your knuckles facing away from your thighs, then curl upwards bending at the elbow while keeping your upper arm still and close to your body.
losing weight without cardio tricep curls

It’s good to do tricep curls after bicep curls, as it helps to prevent shortening of the bicep muscles, along with the fact that your tricep is actually a larger muscle.


If you can’t do any to start with, then start by doing negatives.  Start in the up position with your chin above your hands, and then lower yourself as slowly as you can.  That’s one rep, then repeat for as many reps as you have scheduled for the set.

Pull-ups are a compound exercise and are considered one of the more difficult strength training exercises as it requires quite strong muscles and endurance. But this exercise is highly efficient. You can improve your back muscles and arms at the same time.

I always find my abs are feeling nice and tight after pull-ups as well.  You can make your abs work harder by lifting your feet up in front of you, with your legs kept straight while completing the pull-ups.

Don’t be discouraged if you’re just starting out, and find doing many pull-ups hard.  Just do as many as you can, and keep adding one more rep each time. You’ll be doing sets of 10 in no time, followed by sets of 20, and then you’ll feel like superwoman.

legs raised chin ups
chin ups

Dumbbell Squats

 Squats are known as one of the most effective exercises for muscle gain, and are a compound exercise that works many of the major muscle groups. While body weight squats are great, adding some weight like dumbbells to them, will make them a much better exercise for weight loss. 

Try holding a pair of dumbbells at shoulder height, squat down, and then stand up straight and do a shoulder press by straightening your arms overhead.

losing weight without cardio squats

Push Ups

Its great thing about push-ups is that you really can do them pretty much anytime, anywhere.  And remembering the principles of progressive overload you can focus on adding an extra rep every day that you do push-ups.

strength training pushups

What should I remember during resistance training?

Breathe right

Doing strength exercises, never hold your breath! It leads to increased blood pressure, dizziness, and even loss of consciousness in extreme cases. Don’t believe me? Then check out these classic fails;

Choose the weight according to your abilities

Properly selected weight for strength training is the key to the proper development of muscles and weight loss. Along with incorporating progressive overload (link above) into your training, you need to calculate your starting strength, and then continue to measure it to ensure progression.  The best way to do this is by establishing your one rep maximum. Find out more including a one rep max calculator here.


This point is no less important than the training itself. Lack of rest after exercise slows down muscle development and can lead to overtraining syndrome.

Therefore, after strength training, be sure to stretch, relax, and get enough sleep. Losing weight is impossible without a full recovery. This process of recovery occurs at night during sleep, when the most essential vital hormones, are produced.

Eat right

A woman engaged in strength training should remember that without proper nutrition, she will not be able to achieve the goal and lose weight. Try to follow the basic rules of a good sports diet. Know what your macro-nutrient intake should be, and stick to it.  I’ve written a post about the importance of knowing your macros where you can find out more here, and about ​​sports nutrition here.

For maximum benefits to the body, the last meal before exercise should contain proteins and carbohydrates. Carbohydrates are sources of energy, that increase the efficiency of the workout. And proteins strengthen muscles.

After training, you need to eat something rich in proteins and fast carbohydrates, for example, cottage cheese and a slice of a banana, or an apple. For convenience, use whey or casein-based protein shakes.

Proteins play an important role in bodybuilding. It is the principal building material for our muscles. In general, you need to eat a higher protein diet and limit the intake of simple carbohydrates and fats.

protein for weight loss without cardio

What to include in my diet for weight loss

Animal products such as white (chicken or turkey breast) and red meat, fish, eggs, and dairy products are rich in protein and contain essential amino acids. You can also add beans to this list, as they are a vegetable source of protein. An added benefit of beans is that some recent studies have shown that people who eat a diet high in beans tend to live longer.  I’m not advocating swapping meat for beans, as animal protein is important in a good balanced diet, just try adding beans into your diet.

Of the carbohydrates, the most useful are complex ones. They are excellent sources of energy. It can be various cereals (buckwheat, oatmeal).

Example workout for losing weight without cardio


Warm up by skipping - 3 x 2 min rounds with 30 seconds rest between each round.


Dumbbell lunges  - 10 lunges with each leg alternating x 3 sets with 30 seconds rest between each set.


Dumbbell overhead press - 12 reps x 3 sets with 30 seconds rest between each set.


Bicep curls - 12 reps x 3 sets with 30 seconds rest between each set.


Tricep curls - 12 reps x 3 sets with 30 seconds rest between each set.


Push ups - 10 reps x 3 sets with 30 seconds rest between each set.

You should be able to get through this workout in about 25 to 30 minutes.  It's designed without a lot of rest between sets to keep your heart rate up so you get a good workout. 

You could also do this as a circuit workout, where you do one set of each exercise rotating through them all till you've done three sets of each. 

If you are at a more advanced level of fitness, and don't find this challenging enough, or you just know you need to burn more calories, feel free to add in more exercises like chin ups dumbbell squats. 

You could also add on another set to each exercise, doing 4 sets instead of 3. 


As you may see, losing weight without cardio is not so hard. Moreover, cardio training is not aimed at weight loss. Its primary goal is improving your cardiovascular system, so you do not have to run on a treadmill for hours to lose weight.

And if you want to lose weight, you need to control your nutrition and do some form of resistance training regularly. Your principal goal should be creating a calorie deficit. So you need to burn more energy than you get from the food you are eating.

Do this in a sensible planned manner, without trying to produce fast dramatic weight loss.  If you are losing about 500g to 1kg per week then you are doing just fine, and more than this may actually be unhealthy, depending on your starting body mass and fitness level.

Also, plan your training menu, as eating healthy food combined with strength exercises speeds-up metabolism. And do not forget to rest and sleep. Continuous training without proper relaxation can exhaust you.

A handy resource to find out the calories in your food is here.

And a reference to how many calories you actually need, if you couldn’t be bothered to work it out more accurately is here.

There are lots of common questions that people have about losing weight without cardio, and I've answered some of them below, which I hope helps clear up a few for you.

Your questions about losing weight without cardio answered;

Is lifting or cardio better for losing weight?

Depending on the intensity of a cardio workout or a strength training workout one may burn more calories than the other however, your metabolism will stay elevated for longer after strength training than from cardio, and weight lifting is better for building muscle. Therefore, a good lifting program is likely to be better for losing weight than cardio.

How many times a week should I do cardio to lose belly fat?

If you want to include cardio, then thirty minutes of moderate intensity exercise on most days. Combine this with strength training to build muscle mass.

How long do you have to do cardio to burn fat?

The general guidelines suggest anywhere from twenty to sixty minutes of cardio to be healthy, but there are many variables including your current weight, level of fitness and the intensity level of the cardio which you are doing. It is also relative to your diet, and how many calories you have consumed, and therefore need to burn, before you will start burning fat.

Can you lose weight by not eating?

Skipping meals is potentially a good way to fire up your metabolism and start to lose weight.  Intermittent fasting has been gaining in popularity, and many people find success with this method of spacing out meals. You should always make sensible decisions about your diet, and don’t simply try to “starve” yourself to weight loss, or your body will just start fighting back against you.  You need to have the proper nutrition to fuel your training, and ensure your body is functioning properly and healthy.

Can you lose weight by walking?

Yes, walking is a moderate intensity exercise and provided you get enough steps in each day, combined with the right diet, you can lose weight.

How many calories does 30 minutes of cardio burn?

That will depend on what type of cardio you are doing, and the level of intensity with which you are doing it.  Harvard medical school provides this useful list of calories burned by different activities for different people in a thirty minute session. Here

How often should you workout to lose weight?

You should aim to do at least three workout sessions per week, combined with the right meal plan to lose weight.

Is cardio good for fat loss?

As I hope I’ve made clear above, you don’t need to do cardio for fat loss.  But you can if you wish to, and again it’s really down to calories in versus calories expended, so make sure you pair whatever cardio you choose to do with the right diet.

How does fat leave your body when you lose weight?

Through a series of metabolic processes, put simply though we could say, you pee it out, your breath it out and you sweat it out.  In my opinion the important thing is that, it’s going out!

What exercise burns the most belly fat?

You really can’t spot target fat on your body with exercise.  Our bodies lose fat all over, so the best thing to focus on is which exercise burns the most fat.  That comes down to intensity, duration and therefore calorie expenditure.  Some of the best would be heavy deadlifts and squats.

Is 30 minutes of cardio enough?

It depends on the intensity of the cardio which you are doing, and how regularly you are doing it.  For example, if you are doing an intensive HIT cardio for thirty minutes three times per week, combined with the right diet, then this would be enough to cause some weight loss.

What is the best cardio for fat loss?

HIT cardio, which stands for high intensity training, where you have periods of high intensity effort followed by short active recovery periods has been proven to be effective for weight loss, when considering different cardio options.

Why do I weigh more after cardio?

You will have an additional water intake when you are doing cardio, which will add some weight.  Also, your body will be converting glycogen (sugar) to energy for your muscles, and they glycogen binds together with water in that process, which adds some weight as well.

Is running good for belly fat?

As you can’t spot target fat in only one area of your body, you really need to just think about whether an exercise will be good for losing body fat, not specifically belly fat. While running can be good for losing body fat, when combined with the correct diet so that you are creating a calorie deficit, it should be combined with other types of exercise such as strength training to maintain or increase muscle mass as well.

How much weight will I lose if I stop eating for 2 weeks?

You will probably have quite a bit of weight loss, but I certainly don’t recommend that you try this.  The weight loss will be temporary, with a lot of it being water weight, and muscle loss, and once you start eating again, your body will try to hang onto any fat as a defense mechanism because it thinks you might be starving again soon. It is far better to follow a healthy diet and exercise plan, to lose weight in a way that can be maintained over the long term.  

How much weight can you lose by drinking water for 3 days?

I presume that when asking this question people mean that they will stop eating for three days. Again that is not a good idea, as while you will drop some weight in the short term, it will just come back again once you start eating.  The only reason that someone might really need to do something like this is if they are a professional athlete such as a boxer, who needs to reach a certain weight limit for an event, but even then, needing to do something drastic like this would mean that they probably didn’t have the right meal plan during their preparation to lose the weight progressively, and doing this will make them weak for their competition.

Can you lose weight by not eating and just drinking water?

As I’ve discussed in the last two questions, this is a bad way to try to lose weight.  If you do this for a few days it probably won’t do you too much harm, but it won’t produce a lasting benefit for you either.  You should focus on a diet and training plan which you can maintain over the long term, to meet your weight loss goals.

How can I slim my waist fast?

Eat a healthy diet containing proteins with the right mix of carbohydrates, and monitor your calorie intake versus calorie expenditure to make sure you have a reasonable deficit of about 500 calories per day.  Following a good exercise plan will help increase your calorie expenditure to meet this goal.  Doing some ab exercises can strengthen your ab and core muscles to help “hold your belly in” as well, while your fat loss continues.

Does walking reduce thigh size?

Yes, if you do enough walking regularly, combined with a sensible diet it will help to reduce your thigh size.  You should target doing more than 10,000 steps per day, which you can easily track with an app on your smart phone, or a fitness watch with a pedometer.

How can I drop 20 pounds fast?

Monitor your calorie intake versus calorie expenditure, while eating a high protein diet and following a good exercise plan including strength training and HIT exercise. Also make sure to drink plenty of water, have a high fiber intake and get plenty of sleep.

How can I burn 1000 calories?

There are multiple ways which you could do this through exercise, depending upon the intensity with which you are training.  HIT or high intensity training along with strength training would be two good options. This calculator by Harvard medical will help you to find different activities and the corresponding calorie burn

Can too much cardio cause weight gain?

Yes, doing too much cardio can cause you to overcompensate by eating too much so that you are not left feeling overly tired. It can also cause muscle break down which will lower your metabolism and make it harder for you to maintain a healthy weight.

What exercise burn the most calories?

Strength training causes your body to continue to burn calories while the muscles start recovery, and this effect can last for several hours after a strength training workout.  Therefore doing compound exercises such as deadlifts and squats would be likely to burn the most calories, though this would be subject to the duration and intensity of any exercise.

How can I lose a lb a day?

Losing water weight will give you a temporary weight loss, so often athletes who need to “make weight” will use steam rooms or sweat suites to lose water weight.  3,500 calories equates to about 1 pound of fat, so to lose 1 pound of fat you should create a calorie deficit of between 500 to 1,000 calories per day over a period of time to target weight loss of between one to two pounds a week.

How can I lose face fat?

You lose fat from your entire body, so to lose face fat you should follow a good diet and training plan, which creates a sensible calorie deficit that you can maintain over the long term to create sustained fat loss from your body.  As your body loses fat, your face will appear thinner as well.

Is exercising everyday bad?

Exercising every day can be very healthy, though you should take one day off for rest every week to allow your body to fully recover.  Also try to mix up the type of exercise you are doing as your body can become tired from overuse if you do the same things too repetitively.  Changing what you are doing will also have a greater impact on improving your strength and fitness, causing greater fat loss as well.  

Does sweating burn fat?

Sweating itself does not burn fat.  If you are doing some form of activity which is causing you to sweat, then the calories expended in doing the activity can burn fat.

How can I lose 10 kgs in a month?

Depending on your starting weight, losing 10kgs in a month might be an overly ambitious goal, but presuming that you may be very overweight, you should plan a good diet and training program so that you create a calorie deficit.  You should also keep your water intake high, make sure you are eating plenty of protein, take some extra fiber and get plenty of sleep.

Do fat people burn more calories?

Larger people need more calories throughout the normal course of their day, so yes they can burn more calories, but more calories than who?  What is the comparison?  Someone who has more muscle at the same body weight will burn more calories than a fat person for example.

Do you poop out fat when losing weight?

Most of the fat lost from your body is breathed out, with the balance turning to water which is excreted as sweat, urine, feces or pretty much any other moisture leaving the body.  This was the findings of a recent study the results of which you can find here

You should note from this research article as well, how a relatively small amount of excess food can have a large impact on someone’s weight gain.  So think twice before you eat that muffin!

Do you poop out fat when losing weight?

Most of the fat lost from your body is breathed out, with the balance turning to water which is excreted as sweat, urine, feces or pretty much any other moisture leaving the body.  This was the findings of a recent study the results of which you can find here

You should note from this research article as well, how a relatively small amount of excess food can have a large impact on someone’s weight gain.  So think twice before you eat that muffin!

Do you poop out fat when losing weight?

Most of the fat lost from your body is breathed out, with the balance turning to water which is excreted as sweat, urine, feces or pretty much any other moisture leaving the body.  This was the findings of a recent study the results of which you can find here

You should note from this research article as well, how a relatively small amount of excess food can have a large impact on someone’s weight gain.  So think twice before you eat that muffin!

Losing Weight Without Cardio
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Losing Weight Without Cardio
Losing weight without cardio is certainly possible. Learn why it is and how to do it with a complete explanation and all your questions answered.
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Sara Crave
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Ana Maria

As a certified strength coach and nutritionist, with a passion for living life and continual improvement, Ana Maria believes that every woman should bring out her inner goddess. A healthy active lifestyle, commitment to training and good nutrition are the keys. As the creator of Sara Crave, Ana Maria shares her passions for fitness, fun and fashion with you.

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