There was a time when men could slovenly slide into their middle-age without anyone ever casting a disapproving eye over their fuller figures. Not any more.

Today, men in the public eye are being held to the same ridiculous body standards as their female counterparts and everywhere you look there’s a 50-something hell-bent on recapturing their lean, lithe look of yesteryear. But why are more and more middle-aged men taking the fight to the flab these days? Not wanting to die prematurely seems to be a key driver.

[Don't ignore the symptoms: a men’s health guide for every age group]

[Minimise wear and tear: a men’s health guide (part 2)]

But it’s hard work getting in shape when you’re close to 50 – and it’s nothing to do with being lazy. Well, not entirely. As men age, levels of testosterone and human growth hormone, which helps regulate the body, deteriorate, making it harder to burn calories and build muscle, so your muscle mass decreases. Men can lose up to 500g of muscle mass each year by the age of 50 – it’s replaced instead by new layers of fat that congregate around the stomach and the chest. In short, the creeping onset of moobs and the middle-aged spread.

So how do you fight back? Well, eat less, eat better and exercise more. Simple, right? Well, yes and no. It obviously helps if you can get to the gym and, more importantly, if you have a personal trainer there.

Stick to proteins like fish, eggs and nuts, good fats like those found in avocados and healthy carbs like sweet potato. Cutting down on sugar is essential as is planning your food. Make a meal plan each week, go out and buy the food you need and stick to it. It’s not easy, particularly in the early stages, and especially at weekends when the temptation to party can kick in.

Fortunately, technology can help. There’s an app called My Fitness Pal. It logs each and every calorie that passes your lips and offsets them against the exercise you do each day. It also charts weight, whether you are on track to reach your target weight among other things.

Tips to tackle middle-age weight gain

• Start your day with exercise.

The more you put it off the less likely you are to do it. Create a weekly routine, mixing cardio with strength training. Factor in a swim or a cycle. Variety is less laborious.

Eat well and limit your calories to around 1,500 a day, rather than the recommended 2,000-2,400.

• Be realistic.

Losing a couple of pounds a week is a sensible rate, giving you a greater chance of keeping the weight off.

• Have early nights

Getting a good night’s sleep is vital as failing to do so can impact your training and lead to appetite surges. Seven hours should be a minimum. 

The Daily Telegraph