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Testosterone In Women – Symptoms and What you Can Do

How can you tell if your testosterone levels are less-than-optimum?

Testosterone is Fun; It Promotes Sex Drive

Most people know testosterone as the ‘man hormone’: the yin to the woman’s yang of estrogen. And this isn’t untrue; men do, on average, possess more testosterone—seven to eight times more. Testosterone, after all, is produced by the testes (get it?). And a lot of people have an idea of testosterone that is definitely (if excessively) male: uncontrollable rages, bulging muscles and hairy chests, reckless decision-making, pumped up trucks with aggressive bumper stickers, etc.

Well, this may shock you, but women’s ovaries and adrenal glands also produce testosterone! Unfortunately, we too often underestimate or dismiss the importance of testosterone in women’s health. But, why should men have all the fun? And testosterone is fun; it promotes sex drive, it gives us energy and motivation, and it builds muscle and maintains bone density.

Low Testosterone in Women is a Common Issue

Low testosterone, unfortunately, is a common issue for women. But how can you tell if your testosterone levels are less-than-optimum?

In both men and women, low testosterone (or, “T”) can manifest as low energy and stamina, high anxiety, and decreased libido; of course, there are many complex factors that can explain these symptoms, such as an individual’s lifestyle or mental state.

But oftentimes, a woman can have all of her ducks in a row, and still experience these symptoms. She might have a healthy and well-balanced diet, a challenging (but not too challenging!) exercise regimen, a fulfilling social life, work that she enjoys…and she might suddenly find herself experiencing ‘the blahs’. Nothing in her external environment has changed, but she lacks the energy to exercise, and she finds she gets tired more easily than she once did. Maybe she’s getting older, as for both women and men, testosterone levels drop as they age. And a testosterone deficit can be particularly disruptive in the lives of menopausal and postmenopausal women.

Some Other Symptoms of Low Testosterone in Women Might Include:

  • Poor memory or concentration
  • Painful intercourse
  • Decreased muscle strength and tone
  • Fat that just won’t quit—especially around arms and legs
  • Loss of bone density or osteoporosis

Sound familiar?

Get it Checked Out

Now, I’m not a doctor, obviously, and you can’t know for certain if you’re experiencing low T until you actually get it checked out. But even if you do get it checked out, and your doctor confirms that, yes, your testosterone is low, what can you do about it? Testosterone prescriptions for women are usually limited to topical creams. And even if you were to undergo testosterone therapy, you run the risk of scary and unpleasant side effects, such as acne, persistent headaches, and unwanted hair growth (or baldness!).

Ways to Boost Testosterone in Women That are Natural, Safe, and Effective

Well, I’m here to tell you that you don’t need a doctor’s prescription, and that there are ways to boost your testosterone that are natural, safe, and effective. Introducing these practices into your routine will improve your energy, motivation, and overall feeling of wellbeing, even if your testosterone levels are normal. Unless you are literally pumping testosterone into your veins intravenously (as in, steroids), there is almost zero chance that you, as a woman, will overload on testosterone from following any of my recommendations.

So, are you ready? Here we go!

  1. Sleep

I know, so annoying. For me, and for many people, sleep is not an easy thing. And if you’re like me, sleep needs work; but then, too often, the more you work, the more impossible sleep becomes. Story of my life. And whether you’re a ‘good’ sleeper–or if you’re attempting to clobber yourself into unconsciousness every night—deep and restful sleep is essential for testosterone production. One study performed on young, healthy men found that testosterone levels decreased 10-15% in just one week of restricted sleep (5 hours a night); to compare, testosterone levels decrease 1-2% in older men per year, on average. And while there has been relatively little research done on the relationship between sleep and testosterone for women, we know that testosterone peaks during the deep, restorative REM phase of sleep and that once awake, testosterone is at its highest first thing in the morning. And a nice hit of testosterone will give you the motivation, focus, and energy to absolutely crush your day—in the best way possible. So, get that sleep! You can check out my tips below for flipping the switch on your brain and getting the sleep that you so need and deserve.

  1. Don’t spend time in your bed—or your bedroom, if possible. My place is 150 square feet, which, if you don’t know what that looks like, means that my living room is literally my bedroom. So, I make sure to get out and do my work in cafes or libraries.
  2. Turn off your phone! I try and disconnect from my devices at least an hour before I go to bed; this is annoying to my friends, but absolutely essential to my well-being. If you can’t disconnect, at least turn your phone to ‘Nightshift’ mode, or you can download an app such as ‘f.lux’, which will change the blue light in your screen to a nice, soothing orange at whatever time you choose.
  3. Meditate! Decrease your cortisol levels and get your body prepped for a deep, restful snooze. I find the Headspace app very helpful for jump-starting a meditation routine. There are also tons of meditation podcasts out there that are geared specifically towards sleep and relaxation.
  4. Lift heavy!

Testosterone is the most important hormone for building lean mass. And though not many studies have been done on the relationship between testosterone and weight-training in women, the available research shows that testosterone levels will immediately increase after a demanding weight training session, and that maintaining a challenging and consistent weight-training routine may increase T levels in the long-term—and this has been demonstrated in subjects both young and old!

Though weight-training, all in all, is greatly beneficial to health, research finds that there is an ideal way to train if you want to maximize your testosterone. They recommend that you a) train at a sufficiently-challenging volume and intensity, and b) involve multiple joints (such as with squats, lunges, overhead press, etc.). You may also choose to work out immediately after you wake up, in order to optimize your early-morning testosterone peak.

If you’re confused about how to optimize your weight training routine, you can check out Infofit’s thoughts on on progressive overload here. Or, if you want to go even deeper with your regimen, and become an expert on fitness training and exercise, you can peruse our offered courses and seminars here.

  1. Stop dieting!

That’s right! As if being miserable wasn’t a good enough reason to stop starving yourself, you now have crappy testosterone to contend with! Personally, I have observed this phenomenon in my own life. When I restrict my calories, I diminish into a shell of my former self: I am exhausted, depressed, irritable, and when I do muster the will to go to the gym, I have all the strength and motivation of a slug. When you refuse to give your body the fuel it so sorely needs, it reacts by slowing or shutting down all the ‘accessory’ functions not necessary to immediate survival, including the hormones of sexual reproduction. Because, by your body’s logic, what’s the point of a sex drive or memory or focus when you’re not getting enough fuel for immediate survival?

And besides simply eating for your caloric needs, it’s also important to remember eating in balance for your macronutrients. Healthy fats are especially important for testosterone production in both men and women! Research has shown again and again a link between low-fat diets and decreased testosterone levels. Too often, women are encouraged to reduce fat intake in order to lose weight, because society believes “fatty food = fat body”. Don’t get sucked into this false mentality! Fat is essential for so many functions–cognitive function, protection of your organs, vitamin absorption, and more!

If you are interested in learning more about achieving a balanced diet that is optimized to your needs and lifestyle, check out Infofit’ s nutritional course and seminar offerings here!

  1. Consider supplementation

While it is always ideal to be getting most of your essential vitamins and micronutrients from the food you eat, we understand that sometimes your body needs a little extra help. A qualified naturopath can discuss with you the possibility of supplementation for testosterone. Zinc, arginine, and maca have all demonstrated positive effects on testosterone levels in women and are certainly worth looking into!

  1. And, last but not least, remember your power position!

There is some fascinating research out there that investigates the association between a person’s posture and their hormonal profile. One study showed that simply taking a “power stance”–chest open, chin up, and shoulders back—significantly increased testosterone and decreased cortisol levels! So simple, and so awesome! Now, go out there, get your chin up, and kick some butt!

Written by Theresa Faulder, Master’s in English, Certified Personal Trainer (completing) and Infofit fitness blog writer.

Works cited:

Carney, D. R., Cuddy, A. J., & Yap, A. J. (2010). Power Posing. Psychological Science, 21(10), 1363-1368. doi:10.1177/0956797610383437

Craig, B., Brown, R., & Everhart, J. (1989). Effects of progressive resistance training on growth hormone and testosterone levels in young and elderly subjects.Mechanisms of Ageing and Development, 49(2), 159-169.  doi:10.1016/0047-6374(89)90099-7

Hämäläinen, E., Adlercreutz, H., Puska, P., & Pietinen, P. (1984). Diet and serum sex      hormones in healthy men. Journal of Steroid Biochemistry, 20(1), 459-464. doi:10.1016/0022-4731(84)90254-1

Hill, P. B., & Wynder, E. L. (1979). Effect of a vegetarian diet and dexamethasone on plasma prolactin, testosterone and dehydroepiandrosterone in men and women. Cancer Letters, 7(5), 273-282. doi:10.1016/s0304-3835(79)80054-3

Katznelson, L., Robinson, M. W., Coyle, C. L., Lee, H., & Farrell, C. E. (2006). Effects of modest testosterone supplementation and exercise for 12 weeks on body composition and quality of life in elderly men. European Journal of Endocrinology, 155(6), 867-875. doi:10.1530/eje.1.02291

Wilmuth, C. A., Cuddy, A., & Carney, D. (n.d.). The effect of preparatory power posing on performance in stressful social evaluations. PsycEXTRA Dataset. doi:10.1037/e514472015-685