The age-old adage goes that to kick-start fat loss, you need to spend endless hours on the cardio machines at the gym. Strength training was for the meatheads who wanted to be the next Arnold Schwarzenegger, not for the trim men and women who were looking to drop a few pounds. Science doesn’t necessarily abide by adages, however, and this case is no different.

We now understand that to achieve optimal fitness results, a mixture of strength training and cardio is necessary. If you still need some convincing, read on to see exactly how strength training torches body fat. Gabriel Patterson, Winnipeg fitness and nutrition expert weighs in:

It’s true: When comparing cardio vs. strength training, cardio burns more calories. An hour of running will burn more calories than an hour of strength training. However, strength training is critical to building muscle, which in turn can lead to more dramatic weight loss. The reason for this is because, at rest, muscle burns more calories than does fat.

On a given day, muscle can burn between 7 and 13 calories per pound, while a pound of fat will only burn 2-5 calories over the same period. Therefore, you can potentially burn three times as many calories during a day, just as your resting metabolic rate, if you have muscle instead of fat. This notion also can bleed over into your post-workout burn, when muscles in need of significant repair from a shred session burn more calories healing themselves than do muscles tired after a run.

The second main reason that strength training is critical during fat loss is that it helps preserve, or even build, the muscle mass that you have while restricting calories. When you’re in a caloric deficit, your body will burn muscle just as much as it will burn fat, and it’s hard to target one or the other doing cardio alone. You’ll lose weight for sure, but the odds are that weight will be a mixture of muscle and fat. There aren’t too many people who have a goal of “lose muscle mass,” so it’s necessary to find a way to preserve it. Enter strength training. Resistance workouts help tell your body that it needs all that muscle in order to make it through the day, and instead of burning it for fuel, it should preserve the tissue. Your body is then forced to burn fat for that energy, and voila; muscle mass is preserved. “Studies have shown that while following the right workout plan during a weight-loss period, almost 100 percent of skeletal muscle mass can be preserved,” stated Winnipeg trainer, Gabriel Patterson.

Ideally, you’re mixing cardio and strength training while trying to lose fat. Most experts and trainers agree that unless you’re in a competition or are an athlete, 3-4 days of strength training and 2-3 days of cardio per week are sufficient to help boost your resting metabolic rate and burn fat quickly and safely. Make sure you build recovery into your plan to give your body time to heal! Hopefully, this article helped you see why, instead of avoiding strength training, you should seek it out.

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