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Anabolic Steroids Make You Stronger, but At What Cost?

Athletes train to become stronger by lifting heavy weights on one day, feeling sore on the next day, and than not lifting heavy until the soreness disappears. Most people cannot lift very heavy weights more often than every five to 14 days. If you take steroids, you recover much faster so you can do more work and build muscles faster.

In one study, doctors monitored young men as they lifted weights and took steroids (synthetic male hormones) to make themselves stronger. Sixty-one percent experienced changes in sexual desire, 48 percent became manic or depressed, 46 percent had their testicles shrink, 43 percent suffered from acne, 37 percent developed enlarged breasts, and 62 percent had abnormal liver function tests.

The doctors discussed their abnormal tests with these otherwise healthy men. Only 19 percent said that they would not take male hormones in the future. On steroids, they could lift very heavy every other day and were so enthralled with their huge muscles that they didn't care how much they were harming themselves.

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Dear Dr. Mirkin: How should I use the incline feature on my treadmill?

Good treadmills have a lever that raises the front end to simulate running up hills, because running on level ground does not strengthen your upper leg muscles significantly. Running strengthens primarily your lower leg muscles. You stress your upper leg muscles only when you run up hills. Each one-percent increase in the elevation angle on your treadmill requires four percent more energy.

Serious runners train by running intervals. They run a short distance very fast, rest and then run very fast again. A typical workout could be to run four half-mile repeats, averaging two minutes each, with a slow one-eighth mile jog between each run. If you run a half mile on level ground in three minutes, you will run three minutes and eight seconds on a one percent incline, or eight seconds slower. Runners can expect slower times when they run up hills, but they will strengthen their upper legs.

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Dear Dr. Mirkin: How can I tell if I am getting enough vitamin D?

More North Americans are deficient in vitamin D than any other vitamin except B12. Vitamin D deficiency can cause osteoporosis, impair immunity and cause a variety of other health problems. Most people do not meet their requirements for vitamin D with food; they get it from sunlight. If you have fair skin, exposing a few of inches of skin to sunlight for ten minutes a day provides all the vitamin D you need. Darker skins require more time or more exposed skin.

Food sources of vitamin D include fatty fish, eggs, liver, vitamin D-fortified milk and butter, but concern about heart attacks has caused many North Americans to reduce their intake of these foods. At the same time, changing lifestyles and concern about skin cancer has caused many people to reduce their exposure to sunlight. Many senior citizens develop vitamin D deficiency because they do not go outdoors at all.

Vitamin D is necessary to keep bones strong. One third of the people who develop hip fractures lack vitamin D. To find out if you are deficient in vitamin D, ask your doctor to draw a blood test for 24 hydroxy vitamin D. If you have low levels, you need more vitamin D. You can take a supplement that contains 400 international units of vitamin D; or get more exposure to sunlight unimpeded by glass. Drinking vitamin D-fortified milk will not correct a deficiency because the calcium in the milk inactivates the vitamin D, so the amount available to your body is not increased no matter how much milk you drink.

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Dear Dr. Mirkin: I don't know beans! Do beans include lentils? What are the best types of beans for the diet?

Lentils and dried or split peas are included in the "beans" group (all are "legumes"). All types of beans are fine -- dried or canned; use any kind you like. The various varieties are pretty much interchangeable in recipes. Many supermarkets keep the widest selection of beans in the Hispanic or International section. Here are a few of Diana's favorite recipes using beans; you'll find MANY more in the Recipe section of drmirkin.com

Fastest Beans and Rice
Golden Lentil Soup
Southwestern Bean Salad

Recipe List

June 26th, 2013
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About the Author: Gabe Mirkin, MD

Sports medicine doctor, fitness guru and long-time radio host Gabe Mirkin, M.D., brings you news and tips for your healthful lifestyle. A practicing physician for more than 50 years and a radio talk show host for 25 years, Dr. Mirkin is a graduate of Harvard University and Baylor University College of Medicine. He is board-certified in four specialties: Sports Medicine, Allergy and Immunology, Pediatrics and Pediatric Immunology. The Dr. Mirkin Show, his call-in show on fitness and health, was syndicated in more than 120 cities. Read More
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