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The question

I am 56-years-old and very healthy. I eat well, low sugar and carbs, lots of whole grains no alcohol no desserts no junk food. I train a lot as I am a cycling enthusiast. I have a problem with weight around my mid section. If my caloric intake has been traditionally low is my metabolism asleep? How can I wake it up?

The answer

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I recommend the first thing you do is find out how many calories you are actually consuming each day.

It is possible that you are eating too few calories for your level of exercise and consequently, your body is holding on to every calorie you eat making it difficult to lose a few pounds. But it is also possible that you are eating more calories than you think, even though your diet sounds like a very healthy one.

There are many great tracking tools online - tools that allow you to estimate your daily calorie intake, calorie expenditure and calorie intake required to lose or maintain your weight. Check out fitday.com, MyPlate on livestrong.com, or sparkspeople.com.

If you determine that your caloric intake is too low for what you need to fuel your cycling, gradually increase your calories in increments of 100. Every week, add 100 calories worth of food to your diet until you reach the recommended calorie intake based on your goal.

To give you an idea, 100 calories worth of food is roughly two ounces of chicken or salmon, 1/3 cup of chickpeas, 1 cup of skim milk, ½ cup of brown rice, or 1 medium apple or banana.

I also recommend that you add strength or resistance training to your fitness routine to help maintain muscle mass. Age-related muscle loss is inevitable and causes our resting metabolism - the number of calories burned at rest - to decline by one to two percent each decade.

For women, this translates into a drop of 7 calories a day for each year after 30 and 10 calories per day for men.

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It may not sound like much but it can make a difference to your weight - especially if you're still eating the way you did in your twenties. For example, a 56 year old male needs to consume 260 fewer calories than he did at the age of 30; a 56 year old female needs to eat 182 fewer calories each day than she did at age 30 to hold her weight steady.

The good news is that we can slow or delay age-related muscle loss with regular strength training. Strength exercises that build muscular strength, tone and endurance are also an important part of staying lean.

Send dietitian Leslie Beck your questions at dietitian@globeandmail.com. She will answer select questions, which could appear in The Globe and Mail and/or on The Globe and Mail web site. Your name will not be published if your question is chosen.

Read more Q&As from Leslie Beck.

Click here to see Q&As from all of our health experts.

The content provided in The Globe and Mail's Ask a Health Expert centre is for information purposes only and is neither intended to be relied upon nor to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

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