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The Cardio-Free Diet Hardcover – April 10, 2007

3.8 out of 5 stars 112 customer reviews

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About the Author

Named one of the best personal trainers in the country by Allure magazine, Jim Karas is the author of the New York Times bestseller The Business Plan for the Body and Flip the Switch. He is a graduate of the Wharton School and the founder of Jim Karas Personal Training, LLC, which has trained more than five hundred clients in Chicago and New York.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Chapter One

Cardio's Reign of Terror

In 1977 Jim Fixx published his first book, The Complete Book of Running. It sold more than a million copies, and at the time it was the bestselling nonfiction book ever published. With that one book, the whole cardio craze was unleashed. Since then, we have heard hundreds, if not thousands, of doctors, exercise physiologists, and fitness experts go on and on about all the benefits of cardiovascular exercise.

In 1981 I was living in London and was about to turn twenty-one. Determined to drop some weight (I just couldn't face that milestone birthday feeling so out of shape), I took up running. I was twenty pounds overweight and trying to quit smoking for the fifty-third time, so I used the running to offset the extra calories I feared I would be consuming when a cigarette wasn't in my mouth. I didn't gain any more weight, but I didn't lose any either. For months I was running every day for an hour to an hour and a half, for a total of about ten hours per week, and didn't lose an ounce. If you eat, eat, eat and run, run, run (or perform any form of cardio) as I did, at the end of the day, you won't lose any weight. Learn from my mistake, and don't blow ten hours a week exercising for nothing.

As running became more popular, high-impact aerobics was also hitting the scene. To relieve some stress and try to get rid of the extra pounds (since the running didn't work), I took up high-impact aerobics, still convinced that cardio was the key to weight loss. One Saturday the teacher did not show up for the eight a.m. high-impact aerobics class. About a hundred of us, mostly overweight regulars, stood around for fifteen minutes until I said, "If someone can find a tape, I'll teach." I had the routine memorized, which is never a good thing (as you will soon learn), so up I went to teach the class. Since the teacher didn't show up for the nine o'clock class either, I taught that one as well.

After that class, the manager of the club approached me and asked if I wanted a job as an instructor. I asked what the offer was and he said, "You get four dollars an hour plus a free membership." So began my career as an aerobics instructor.

From that day on, my doomed relationship with cardio was official. Okay, I want to be honest. I am a recovering cardioholic. I have been "clean" for many, many years, and continue to stay as far away from straight cardio as possible, and I'm in the best shape of my life! But for quite a long period of time, I, too, was adamant that cardio was the key to weight loss. Boy, was I ever wrong.

Here is the rest of my history with cardio, which I refer to as the Karas Cardio Rap Sheet:

  • Low-impact aerobics: Same concept as high-impact, but less jumping, so it wasn't quite as painful on my body, but I still didn't lose any weight.
  • The Step: Similar to low-impact, but there was a lot of flailing around like a crazy person and almost tripping and falling as I went up and down, up and down a step.
  • The Slide: It was sort of fun to slide back and forth on a slick surface. I didn't lose any weight, but I did relive childhood memories of sliding on the ice.
  • Spinning: Spinning really took the cardio world by storm. To this day, spin class is popular among those who still haven't figured out that all that cardio won't get them the results they are looking for. And for the record, spinning is brutal on your body (more on that in Chapter 3).
  • Tae Bo: I jumped around and repeatedly popped, or hyperextended, my joints, which can lead to major pain and injury. When you box, you are supposed to hit something, not air.
  • Boot Camp: Since I wasn't in my early twenties and my daily life didn't resemble a war zone, this wasn't a good fit either, nor should it be for any of you.

I believed, like so many people, that working up a "good sweat" equates to a good, effective workout. Basically: More Sweat = Better Workout. This is a common misconception. As with everything else in life, we have to learn to work smarter, not harder, to get ahead.

In the past thirty years since the cardio craze has taken off, do you think Americans, on the whole, have lost weight? In 1987 there were 4.4 million treadmill users. By 2000 that number had exploded to forty million users -- more than a 900 percent increase. Consumers spend more on treadmills than any other home exercise equipment. Since 1980, the number of overweight Americans has doubled. According to Duke University, "Sixty-three percent of U.S. adults were overweight or obese in 2005, compared to 58 percent in 2001." Given that there are three hundred million Americans, that's an additional fifteen million Americans who became overweight or obese in just four years.

How can this keep happening?

It keeps happening because Americans continue to listen to the wrong advice. They want to believe that the answer to their problems is as easy as putting one foot in front of the other, but nothing worth accomplishing is that easy.

Copyright © 2007 by Jim Karas

Chapter Two

The Body Weight Equation

Some people are shocked to learn that their present body weight is the function of every single calorie they have ever consumed minus every single calorie they have ever expended through metabolism and activity. Your body weight is simply the result of the following equation:

Calories In -- Calories Out = Body Weight

To be more specific:

Calories In (Food) -- Calories Out (Your Resting Metabolism and Activity) = Your Present Body Weight

We all know what food and activity are, but what is resting metabolism? Your resting metabolic rate is the number of calories that your body requires on a daily basis if you stay in bed all day, doing nothing. Approximately 60 to 70 percent of your daily caloric expenditure goes toward your resting metabolic rate. It includes the functioning of vital organs in your body (such as the heart, lungs, brain, liver, kidneys, and skin), temperature regulation, and -- most important to our discussion -- your muscles.

For years I have heard people say, "I can't lose weight because I have a bad metabolism." But according to Steve Smith, MD, an associate professor of endocrinology at the Pennington Biomedical Research Center of Louisiana State University, "The variation in resting metabolism is likely to be less than 3 percent. If two equally active thirty-eight-year-old women are both five foot five and weigh 130 pounds, one might have a resting metabolic rate of 1,800 calories and the other 1,854 calories." That's a difference of only 54 calories per day, about half of a medium-size apple. Guess what else? The more you weigh, the higher your basal metabolism. The heavier you are, the more your heart, lungs, liver, and so on have to work because of the additional size. So if you are overweight, realize you have a higher metabolism than you would have if you were lighter.

Gary R. Hunter, PhD, director of the exercise physiology lab and professor at the School of Education at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, says, "Research shows that building and maintaining muscle can speed up metabolism." This research goes on to say that "muscle burns ten to twelve times the calories per pound each day that fat does -- you're boosting your metabolism not just during exercise but all day." If muscle burns ten to twelve times the calories per pound that fat does, and most research shows that fat burns 2 to 3 calories per pound per day, then muscle must burn between 20 and 36 calories per pound per day. Tufts University states that strength training has the potential to increase your metabolism by as much as 15 percent. If you go back to our example of a thirty-eight-year-old woman who is five foot five and 130 pounds and burns 1,800 calories a day resting, that 15 percent increase in her metabolism would translate to 270 extra calories burned (that's ten calories fewer than a full-size Snickers bar) each and every day.

Strength training is the key to weight loss because it is the only way to maintain and build lean muscle, which boosts your metabolism. Most women fear it because of the belief that it will make them big and bulky, but quite the contrary: Strength training will actually make you lean and incredibly sexy. Muscle is natural and aesthetically pleasing to the eye, and it is the key to weight loss. If you have this preconceived notion, then please flip to page 36, where I explain why "getting big" is simply not possible for women and should not be a concern.

In order to lose weight, you need to create a caloric deficit, which means you have to take in fewer calories than your body requires for metabolism and daily activity. Here is an example:

1,200 calories (food) -- 1,700 calories expended(metabolism and activity) = -500

That five-hundred-calorie deficit will force your body to use some of its own stored energy. Another word for stored energy is fat, of which 3,500 calories equals one pound. If you eat 3,500 more calories than your body requires, your body will store those calories as one pound of fat. If you create the caloric deficit of 3,500 calories, you will lose a pound. That's how you lose weight. A lot of other experts would lead you to believe it's more complicated than that, but it's just that simple.

There are four ways to achieve a caloric deficit:

1. Eat less.

2. Increase your activity.

3. Elevate your basal metabolic rate.

4. All of the above -- also known as The Cardio-Free Diet.

Looks pretty simple, doesn't it? But there is a long-term problem with how we have traditionally addressed the first two ways, and it is the reason Americans haven't been able to keep off the weight -- until now. The only effective solution is number four, The Cardio-Free Diet, because it incorporates all three ways to lose weight. Here is why any ... --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Gallery Books; 1 edition (April 10, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1416949135
  • ISBN-13: 978-1416949138
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 7.3 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (112 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,106,355 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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This book is intended for beginner's in weight training. It is an excellent book for someone who needs to be taught how to put together a beginning weight training program. If you already weight train on a regular basis this book is not going to benefit you. I am going to recommend my husband read and learn from the exercises.

Then you get to the section on diet and calories. I completely disagree with the diet recommended. The book recommends that all women start out with only 1,200 calories in Level 1, and throughout the course of the plan end up eating only 1,500 per day for maintenance. If I ate anywhere from 1,200 - 1,500 calories per day I would be starving and go crazy! I think that calorie level is way too low. In addition, it doesn't take into consideration the individual's size or daily activity level.

For the exercise section/plan I give it 5 stars, but had to reduce it to a 3 due to the diet plan.
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Actually I like a lot of things about this book. The first few chapters (sampled above) are as good a look as you are likely to encounter on the fallacy of aerobics/cardio training for fat loss, at least in their general thrust. Anyone who has been trudging away on a treadmill for years in an unsuccessful attempt to get the body they want should have a look at Karas' opening chapters.

But while I like the central theme (building fast twitch muscle fiber and eating less food is the only way to get the body you want), there is so much wrong with the specifics that I can't really recommend this book for anyone but the rawest beginner.

First of all, "aerobic" training does have its place in anyone's health and fitness regime. Easy daily walks are superb for relaxation, mental health and active recovery from hard workouts. Likewise, interval training (wind sprints, hill running, etc) are also proven to boost metabolism and burn fat all out of proportion to the amount of time spent doing them. It's the "jogging" and the 10K runs that your average trainee needs to ditch, not the very easy and the very hard practices on the extreme ends of the spectrum. The author is simply wrong to group these in with "aerobic training", and this error weakens his argument.

In a similar vein, the author betrays a serious ignorance of the true purpose of a "real" hatha yoga practice. Every serious hatha yoga practioner knows that yoga's "real" weight loss benefits come from the increased sense of well being and sensitivity to the body's rhythms. Yoga is a practice, not a workout, and to treat it as one as Karas does betrays his limitations in a way he probably doesn't suspect.
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People might get some positive experience with running.. and that's fine. maybe, it fights depression or whatever. That's fine, too. What ever works for you. However, from a bodybuilder and building 6 pack perspective, cardio is a muscle wasting exercise. You build nice body by building muscles aka strength training. If people do strength training nearly correct, it is also a cardiovascular exercise without ruining joints. You go get yourself a weight (20lb) and start doing 100 squats. If your heart isn't pumping with this strength training exercise, I don't know what will. This book is really cleverly written. I really like the content of the book. And this isn't one of those hyped up diet or exercise book. Nothing in this book suggested something that you shouldn't be doing. If you want to run around to loose weight, that's fine. But it is NOT better overall exercise than strength training exercises. Also, when you build muscle, you are raising resting metabolic rate. This is just win/win.

1. you don't waste muscle
2. you get fit and muscular
3. you can do these exercise almost anywhere.

If others who negatively reviewed this book read the book, they would understand where the author is coming from. There are more than one way to loose weight.. but the best way is not to waste the muscle... you need to build the muscle to maintain the muscle to burn more calories. Cardio doesn't achieve this better than strength training exercises.

I highly recommend this book. This book lays out its merits, and they are compelling.
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What an amazing book! In a few short weeks my body has totally changed. Jim Karas knows his stuff. I train with his trainers and had a hard time letting go of the notion that I needed to do the old fashioned cardio.

I work just as hard (more) and my heart is still getting a great work-out. I challenge my muscles and am sculpting a new body to boot. I highly recommend this approach to anyone who wants to maximize their workouts in our busy time crunched schedules. I am convinced we need to be lifting weights if we want to keep our bodies and bones strong as we age.
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A year ago I developed foot problems and was not able to do any cardio at all. I signed up with a trainer at a swanky Beverly HIlls gym, and did weight and strength training 3 times a week. In 2 months I lost 12 pounds in body fat - as I was being monitored by a nutritionist with the latest fancy machine that measures weight loss in terms of muscle or fat. I feel and look amazing. My diet basically stayed the same with lots of lean protein and vegetables, but I did boost my fat to muscle ration substancially. WHen I heard of the Karas book, I read it in one sitting and couldn't agree with it more.
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