There has always been the fear that as a woman, too much weight training or too many supplements will add huge amounts of muscle, making you look manly and unattractive – mention the word ‘testosterone’ and you’ll conjure ideas of masculine bodybuilders with massive arms, shoulders and jaw lines.
Well you’d be wrong, and more to the point – you’d be missing out on a hell of a lot of female-specific benefits that healthy levels of testosterone is crucial for.
So why should a woman increase her testosterone levels and what are the benefits? In this article we’ll give you everything you need to know:
- Why women need testosterone
- The benefits
- How to optimize testosterone – our top 5 tips
- Final word
Why females need testosterone
Testosterone is one of five classes of steroid hormone and belongs to the androgen family – it is also classed as a ‘sterol‘ in that it is a lipid synthesized by cholesterol. Whilst it is produced in the testes of males, in females it is produced in the ovaries and also adrenal glands.
Although you may think of testosterone as being just as ‘male’ hormone, it is also an important hormone for women too – it helps to regulate ovulation, assists in development of puberty and increases libido – lower levels of T are associated with decreased desire, arousal, and also orgasm .
In females it is an essential hormone for regulating and balancing metabolic functions. It also supports muscular function, energy levels and of course, sexual appetite.
It’s not just men that produce testosterone, women produce it too – but you’ll generally have far less than your male counterparts – 15-70ng/dL compared to 300-1000ng/dL in fact. That’s around 10-15 times lower.
Regardless of whether you are a man or a woman, you have to realize how beneficial naturally increasing testosterone can be – it is crucial for overall health and well being, and can help massively with your aesthetics, athleticism and confidence.
For example, a study in the journal ‘Menopause’  found that when you administer testosterone to females who have very low levels of testosterone – less than 31ng/dL (in this case the ladies had previously undergone a hysterectomy), lean muscle levels increase, aerobic power improves, and libido increases too.
This highlights the importance of the hormone in a number of health-related metabolic functions. Other benefits of increased testosterone in women include:
- Increased lean muscle mass which will help you burn fat
- Improved bone health – when testosterone levels increase, bone strength does too
- Reduced post-menopausal symptoms
- Reduced risk of cardiovascular illnesses
- Preserves cognitive health and function
How can women optimize testosterone?
As a woman, having optimal T levels will make all the difference to your athleticism, health and body composition.
We’re not talking about anabolic steroids here – we’re talking about naturallyincreasing your testosterone via simple lifestyle tips that you can start straight away. We don’t recommend steroids at all.
Here are our top 5 methods for optimizing your T levels naturally to improve athleticism and body composition:
1. Get more zinc, magnesium and vitamin D3 in your diet
Zinc is a mineral that many of us are deficient in – around 2 billion worldwide in fact . By getting enough zinc in your diet – around 10 – 30mg a day – you’ll increase your testosterone as well as markers of physical performance  – additionally, you’ll also see improvements in your immune system, liver function and mood.
You’ll find zinc in foods such as oysters, beef, lamb and mushrooms.
Magnesium is also a nutrient we are likely to be deficient in – according to the World Health Organisation, 75% of Americans don’t achieve the daily recommended intake of this essential mineral. Magnesium increases your total and free testosterone levels, as well as supports your muscle and insulin levels – it can also assist with mood and depression . You’ll find magnesium in pumpkin seeds, dark green vegetables, beans and nuts.
Vitamin D3 is the perfect nutrient if you want to optimize your T levels. It is plays a major role in maintaining overall health and athletic performance. Studies have reported that vitamin D3 increases both free and total testosterone when supplementing ~3300IUs per day .
This sunshine hormone will also help to optimize your bone health – in particular if you are have gone through the menopausal transition or are approaching it . You’ll find it in foods such as oily fish, cheese and eggs but your best bet is to get it naturally via sunlight.
2. Increase fats for cholesterol
As a sterol, testosterone is formed from cholesterol, so it is important to ensure that you get sufficient amounts in your diet. Increasing cholesterol-rich foods allows your body to optimize T levels naturally.
Good sources of fat to stimulate testosterone include eggs, avocados, coconut and butter.
Studies have show that those on low fat diets have reduced testosterone levels. For example, Dorgan et al  assigned 43 volunteers into either a low fat group – 18.8% energy from fat, or high fat – 41%. Results showed that T levels were 13% higher in the high fat group, and importantly estradiol levels – a form of estrogen – was 12-28% lower in the high fat group too.
3. Lift heavy weights girls!
Regular participation in weight training sessions increases lean muscle levels, as well as strengthening bones and connective tissue – and with lower optimum T levels (remember they’re 10-15 times lower than in males) you won’t run the risk of getting overly muscular. But you will naturally burn fat and add shape you your muscles.
Aim for full-body workouts covering all major muscle groups in each session. Complete 2-4 sets per exercise and aim for 6-12 repetitions per set. 8-10 exercises in total is what you’re aiming for.
4. Reduce alcohol
Alcohol is notorious for containing phytoestrogens – plant compounds that mimic the action of estrogen. One study in the American Association for Cancer Research Journal  reported that one such phytoestrgen, xanthohumol, completely blocked the effects of testosterone.
You’ll also find that the ethanol component of alcohol contains 7kcal per gram, making it the second most dense energy source, behind fat with 9kcal per gram. Not great if you are trying to watch the calories.
Bear in mind as well that if you like to drink a little ‘too much’ then even acute bouts of ‘alcohol intoxication’ can see plasma T levels start to decrease – and remain low until blood alcohol lowers completely .
5. Get off the pill
Oral birth control pills decrease T production, as well as increase the production of steroid hormone binding globulin (SHBG) – a chemical that binds testosterone and inhibits it from being any use to you. A study by Zimmerman et al  found that oral contraceptives reduce androgen levels, especially testosterone (by 61%), and by inhibiting ovarian and adrenal synthesis. They also reported increases in SHBG.
Evidence may also suggest that with lower T levels and increased SHBG, libido will take a massive hit, with your sexual appetite and drive decreasing long-term .
There are also a number of other medications that have been reported to decrease T levels – these include medications for blood pressure, sleeping pills, antihistamines and antibiotics.
Summary – Raising Female Testosterone Naturally
Increasing your T levels naturally improves athleticism and body composition – it also reduces your chances of cardiovascular illness and keeps your brain firing on all cylinders.
Regardless of whether you are a man or a woman, optimizing testosterone is crucial for overall health and well being, and can help massively with your aesthetics, athleticism and confidence.
There are a number of ways of naturally optimizing testosterone levels in women, including:
- Zinc, magnesium and vitamin D3.
- Increase fats for cholesterol.
- Lift heavy weights.
- Reduce alcohol.
- Stop using oral contraception.
Follow these key points and you’ll definitely start to notice the benefits.
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- Huang, G et al. Testosterone dose-response relationships in hysterectomized women with or without oophorectomy: effects on sexual function, body composition, muscle performance and physical function in a randomized trial. Menopause. 2014; 21(6): 612-23
- Prasad, AS. Prasad, Discovery of human zinc deficiency: 50 years later. Journal of Trace Elements in Medicine and Biology. 2012. 26(2) (2012), pp. 66–69
- Kilic M, Baltaci AK, Gunay M et al (2006) The effect of exhaustion exercise on thyroid hormones and testosterone levels of elite athletes receiving oral zinc. Neuroendocrinol Lett 27(1–2):247–252
- Barragán-Rodríguez, L et al. Efficacy and safety of oral magnesium supplementation in the treatment of depression in the elderly with type 2 diabetes: A randomized, equivalent trial. Magnes. Res. 2008; 21: 218–223
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- Dawson-Hughes, B et al. Effect of Calcium and Vitamin D Supplementation on Bone Density in Men and Women 65 Years of Age or Older. N Engl J Med. 1997; 337: 670-676
- Dorgan, JF et al. Effects of dietary fat and fiber on plasma and urine androgens and estrogens in men: a controlled feeding study. Am J Clin Nutr. 1996; 64(6): 850-5
- American Association for Cancer Research. 2009. http://www.newswise.com/articles/hops-compound-may-prevent-prostate-cancer
- Mendelson, JH et al. Effects of acute alcohol intake on pituitary-gonadal hormones in normal human males. J Pharmocology Exp Therapeutics. 1977; 202(3): 676-682
- Zimmerman, Y et al. The effect of combined oral contraception on testosterone levels in healthy women: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Human Reprod. 2014; 20(1): 76-105
- Turna, B et al. Women with low libido: correlation of decreased androgen levels with female sexual function index. International Journal of Impotence Research (2005) 17, 148–153