Women and Low Testosterone – What You Need to Know

by: Kaitlin Mackay

“How do I increase my testosterone levels?” is the question I get more frequently than any other. Usually with blushed faces and whispers of, “My libido is low,” I see women hoping to improve their libido to match that of their spouses. Every time my answer is cut and dry:

“Have more sex. Lift heavier weights. Watch more porn. Eat enough fat.”

Say What??

Have more sex.

Both males and females have increased levels of testosterone after engaging in sex. Although the increases are short-lived, only lasting a few hours, researchers hypothesize having transient rises in testosterone frequently and consistently may positively influence baseline testosterone levels (those at rest). Even though the literature is conflicted on the topic, there is one thing we do know for sure…having more sex won’t hurt your testosterone levels. ;)

Lift heavier weights.

Many studies examining hormonal response to exercise show testosterone increases after exercising. However, not all studies have consistent findings. Some report no change, while others report significant increases.

Heavy resistance training (weight lifting) was consistently found to positively influence testosterone levels in women. So if you want to see improvement in your testosterone levels, put down those pink dumbbells and grab some real weight.

It is important to pick the right kind of exercises to optimize our body’s hormonal response. Choosing compound movements recruiting more total muscle mass over single-joint exercises will stimulate a greater hormonal (and metabolic) response. Choose barbell deadlifts instead of lying hamstring curl (machine), barbell front squat instead of seated leg extension (machine) and chin-ups instead of bicep curls.

Watch More Porn

The studies on watching pornography and its effect on testosterone levels in women are…well, haven’t been done. So we don’t actually know if and/or how watching porn increases testosterone (I personally believe it does). But if you’re reading this article because the phrase “low libido” caught your eye in the intro, you’ll want to keep reading.

Dopamine, a neurotransmitter involved in sexual behavior, plays a significant part in the reward system. Dopamine, released in the brain when enjoying something, whether that is eating something delicious or being sexually stimulated, drives an anticipation of pleasure. Dopamine makes us feel good, but more importantly, it’s a motivator. Viewing porn causes dopamine to be released and it can then act as a motivator to pursue having sex.

I cannot say that scientifically, watching porn will increase your libido. But when was the last time you watched porn with your significant other and it didn’t lead to sex? That’s right, never.

Eat Enough Fat

How much fat you eat can influence your testosterone levels. Individuals consuming diets high in fat have significantly higher levels of testosterone compared to those consuming low-fat diets (<20% calories from fat).

Cholesterol is a precursor for the synthesis of testosterone. Getting an inadequate amount of fat in our diet can hinder testosterone production (among other sex and stress hormones), so it’s important to eat enough healthy fats (found in grass-fed, free-range, organic animal products, raw nuts, avocados, grass-fed butter, extra-virgin olive oil and coconut oil).

This does NOT mean the more fat you eat, the more your testosterone levels will increase, but what it DOES mean is if you are on a fat-restricted diet, you could be more susceptible to producing lower levels of testosterone.

WHY Would You Want to Increase Your Testosterone?

Your Levels May Be Low. The most likely culprits are birth control pills, menopause, childbirth and excess stress. Common symptoms of low testosterone levels include fatigue, low self-esteem, difficulty losing weight and trouble gaining lean muscle mass.

Fat Loss. High levels of testosterone at rest are associated with high lean muscle mass and low body fat. Likewise, low testosterone levels correspond with higher body fat percentages. Exactly how testosterone plays a part in lowering body fat isn’t well understood, but research shows testosterone inhibits the formation of fat cells. Additionally, testosterone may play a role in increasing lean muscle mass. So hit the gym hard and heavy.
Improved Libido. When testosterone is high, libido is high. If your libido is high, you’ll have more sex and be happier. It’s that simple.

Let’s face it…we’re getting old. As we age, our levels of sex hormones (including testosterone) decline and can cause undesirable effects like decreased lean muscle mass, increased body fat, a drop in metabolism, reduced bone density, and can contribute to mood swings and depression. It’s possible to counteract these effects by increasing testosterone.

Bottom line: We know testosterone acts in the body to support fat loss, generate lean muscle mass and improve libido. So improve your testosterone levels by having more sex, lifting heavy weights, watching porn and eating enough healthy fat!

Kaitlin Mackay is a personal trainer and nutrition coach with Body Systems Healing & Performance in Scottsdale. She specializes in strength training and fat loss programs as well as individualized supplement and nutrition plans. For more info, contact Kaitlin at kaitlin@bodysystemsaz.com or visit www.bodysystemsaz.com.

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Kraemer, WJ. et. al. “The Effects of Short-Term Resistance Training on Endocrine Function in Men and Women.” The European Journal of Applied Physiology and Occupational Physiology (1998): 69-76, accessed November 11, 2014, doi: 10.1007/S004210050389

Vingren, JL. Et. al. “Testosterone Physiology in Resistance Exercise and Training: The Up-Stream Regulatory Elements.” The Journal of Sports Medicine (2010): 1037-53, accessed November 11, 2014, doi: 10.2165/11536910-000000000-00000.

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