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Boosting Testosterone the Natural Way Is Better…And Legal

FALLS CHURCH, Va. -- Testosterone is an important subject for any man, but especially for service men whose job requires them to be stronger and have more endurance than most professions. This hormone (found naturally in both men and women) helps maintain bone density, fat distribution, and muscle strength and mass. Low testosterone levels can result in many health problems and may require treatment, but men who use substances to increase testosterone levels without consulting a doctor may be putting themselves at risk.

A common thought is more testosterone means better performance, but this is not always true. In fact, tinkering with your own body's testosterone levels, especially by taking supplements or steroids, can have devastating effects. Some supplements, like DHEA and ANDRO, are known to increase the development of certain types of cancers and worsen existing cancers by accelerating the rate of growth. Steroids, when misused, can have serious side effects including increased levels of aggression, impaired judgment, depression, sterility, testicular atrophying and heart defects - to name a few.

Many service men believe they can improve their performance by increasing testosterone levels, but they also believe using substances such as steroids are okay if it helps complete a mission. The reality is, steroid use is illegal unless prescribed by a physician and is a violation of the Uniform Code of Military Justice, punishable by reduction in rank or even expulsion from the armed services.
Barbara Darby, an Army substance abuse counselor, has observed this mentality firsthand.

"They thought they were covered by this unspoken rule," Darby said. "But then later, when they got caught, they had to pay the consequences."

The good news is that boosting testosterone levels doesn't have to be illegal or unsafe, and most natural methods have additional health benefits. Before you consider using a substance that could harm your career or health, consider these options:

■Keep your waist in check. Testosterone levels are directly related to your body mass index, which means that belly that's creeping up on you could be slowing you down more than you thought. A balanced diet, regular exercise and lots of water are the keys to maintaining a healthy physique, as well as keeping alcohol intake at one or two drinks per night.
■Lift weights. Strengthening your muscles boosts testosterone production. Pump iron at least twice a week. The more vigorous the workout, the larger the benefit. But be careful - if you injure yourself or feel more fatigued than usual, you could be overdoing it, causing testosterone levels to drop.
■Eat protein ... and fat. Both can affect your testosterone levels, so don't skimp on either. Fat should be 20-35 percent of your daily caloric intake. Find the "good" fat (monosaturated) in foods like olive oil, nuts and fish. An adequate daily intake of protein is one gram of protein per 2.2 pounds of body weight (e.g., a 180-pound man should get about 82 grams of protein in his diet each day). If you're on the go, foods like beef jerky, tuna, protein bars and peanut butter all provide high levels of protein.
■Manage stress. Your body's natural response to stress is to produce cortisol, which blocks the effects and inhibits production of testosterone (among other hormones). In unusual situations this isn't a problem, but everyday stressors can keep cortisol levels high. Deal with those stressors by taking deep breaths, exercising, talking about your stress to someone you trust or asking for help.
■Get plenty of sleep. The Centers for Disease Control recommends seven to nine hours of sleep per night. Sleep deprivation elevates cortisol levels, and sleeping less than five hours per night can decrease your testosterone levels by 10 percent to 15 percent.