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Can Women Benefit From Boosting Testosterone?

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Are you familiar with the benefits of testosterone for women? When we talk about female hormones, estrogen gets all the attention, but testosterone plays a critical role in maintaining female bone, muscle and sexual health.

Testosterone levels naturally decline with age, which can cause problems late in life. Healthy lifestyle habits can help limit this decline.

Where Do Women Get Testosterone?

When you hear the word testosterone, you probably picture a bunch of sweaty bodybuilders grunting and lifting weights. But no matter if you’re male, female, 90 pounds or 290 pounds, testosterone is an essential hormone for your health.

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For men, the bulk of testosterone production occurs in the testes. The primary source of testosterone in women comes from the ovaries, although the average woman produces 10-20 times less than the average man.

Men and women both produce a small amount of testosterone in the adrenal cortex of their kidneys.

What is the Benefit of Testosterone for Females?

Testosterone has most of the same benefits for women as men. Testosterone is an anabolic hormone, which means it helps build tissues like muscle, bone and tendons. Women are at a higher risk of osteoporosis than men, so keeping testosterone in a healthy range between 15 and 70 ng/dL may help you maintain your bone density as you age1.

Is it possible for women to have too much testosterone? Yes, testosterone levels above the 70ng/dL can cause the development of masculine features such as body hair and facial hair growth.

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Testosterone for Women’s Fitness

Picture the guy at your gym who looks like he ate the second biggest guy at the gym for lunch. That guy’s testosterone levels are probably near the upper limit of the normal range for men (or higher if he takes steroids). You’re not going to end up looking like him if you increase your testosterone, but he’s an extreme example of the muscle building and fat loss properties of testosterone.

If you want to see what women at the higher end of the healthy testosterone range look like, turn on an international track and field meet.

Most professional female athletes who compete in track events have low body fat percentages and extremely toned muscles. They also usually have relatively high testosterone levels (compared to other women).

Increasing your testosterone won’t send you to the Olympics, but research does show it can help you cut down on visceral body fat2.

Testosterone for Female Sexual Health

If your sex life suddenly seems to be lacking, low testosterone may be responsible. Testosterone levels are closely tied to libido, and multiple studies show that increasing testosterone can increase sex drive in postmenopausal women3.

Testosterone for Women’s Bone Health

As you age, both your estrogen and testosterone hormone levels decline. Declining testosterone can increase your risk for osteoporosis. Falling is a major cause of injury for seniors, so by keeping your testosterone levels high, you can limit your risk of fracture later in life.

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Symptoms of Low Testosterone in Women

How do you know if your testosterone levels are outside the normal range? If you answer yes to a number of the following question, you may want to have your testosterone levels tested by your doctor.

  • Has your sex drive decreased recently?
  • Have you gained weight even though you haven’t changed your eating or workout habits?
  • Has your doctor diagnosed you with osteoporosis?
  • Do you often feel fatigued?
  • Do you have trouble sleeping?
  • Have you noticed an increase in brain fog?

Having any of the following symptoms by themselves isn’t enough to diagnose low testosterone. Even if all of these symptoms apply to you, the only way to know if you have low testosterone is through a blood test.

Ways Women Can Increase Testosterone

 You can increase your testosterone levels by improving your lifestyle habits. These habits include exercising regularly, eating a healthy diet, and reducing stress.

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The Benefits of Exercise for Testosterone

Lifting weights is one of the most common activities people do to gain muscle. However, it’s not the weights that make your muscles grow.

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When you break down your muscles by stressing them, your body releases hormones like testosterone to rebuild the muscle fibers stronger than they were before. Including regular resistance training in your workout program can keep your testosterone levels primed.

Performing aerobic exercises can boost your testosterone levels as well by aiding in weight-loss. Research shows that insulin-resistance caused by obesity decreases testosterone production. This reduction in testosterone can lead to further fat gain, creating an unhealthy cycle that’s difficult to escape4.

The Benefits of Healthy Eating for Testosterone

 If you’re trying to increase your testosterone levels, the first step is to cut sugar out of your diet. Reducing sugar is one of the best dietary habits for your overall health.

Not only can reducing sugar increase your testosterone levels, but it can also improve your insulin sensitivity, decrease your risk of heart disease, decrease your risk of type 2 diabetes, and improve your body composition5.

Reducing Stress to Increase Testosterone

When you get stressed, your body produces a hormone called cortisol. The purpose of cortisol is to provide your body with quick energy to escape a threatening situation.

If a lion started chasing you, your body would produce cortisol and adrenaline to help you escape. Unfortunately, your body can’t differentiate between a life-threatening situation and chronic mental stress so cortisol levels can remain elevated for weeks or months.

Cortisol and testosterone have an inverse relationship6. When cortisol levels increase, circulating testosterone decreases.

Keeping stress under control keeps your testosterone levels high. If you notice yourself feeling particularly stressed, look for ways to relax. Some stresses are unavoidable, but by finding relaxing activities that help you deal with a stressful situation, you’ll be better prepared.

An image of a woman exercising in her living room

Should Women Consider Testosterone Replacement Therapy?

The testosterone replacement therapy industry is expected to reach $3.8 billion by the year 2022. Aging men are the most common demographic to receive this treatment. There’s still debate over whether women should undergo testosterone therapy.

During menopause, your estrogen levels decline. Your body can produce a form of estrogen called estradiol from testosterone. The relationship between testosterone and estrogen is one reason why researchers have begun examining the addition of testosterone to postmenopausal hormone therapy.

There’s little research looking at the long-term effects of testosterone replacement therapy for women. High dosages of testosterone replacement therapy may cause the following:

  • Acne
  • Body hair growth
  • Fluid retention
  • Mood swings
  • Irritability
  • Deepened voice
  • Baldness
  • Clitoral enlargement

Some medical professionals believe that using testosterone in post-menopausal hormone therapy may increase your risk of developing breast cancer7.

Most of the research looking at the effects of testosterone replacement therapy on women have lasted six months or less. Until long-term research comes out, it’s best to stick to natural ways to increase testosterone.

Think of testosterone therapy as a bandage for the real problem, which is likely poor lifestyle habits (unless you suffer from a medical abnormality).

Focus on improving your diet, exercising properly, and reducing stress and your hormonal levels should improve naturally.

Citations and Sources

1.
Mohamad N, Soelaiman I, Chin K. A concise review of testosterone and bone health. Clin Interv Aging. 2016;11:1317-1324. [PubMed]
2.
Janssen I, Powell L, Kazlauskaite R, Dugan S. Testosterone and visceral fat in midlife women: the Study of Women’s Health Across the Nation (SWAN) fat patterning study. Obesity (Silver Spring). 2010;18(3):604-610. [PubMed]
3.
Basson R. Testosterone therapy for reduced libido in women. Ther Adv Endocrinol Metab. 2010;1(4):155-164. [PubMed]
4.
Fui M, Dupuis P, Grossmann M. Lowered testosterone in male obesity: mechanisms, morbidity and management. Asian J Androl. 2014;16(2):223-231. [PubMed]
5.
Vreman R, Goodell A, Rodriguez L, Porco T, Lustig R, Kahn J. Health and economic benefits of reducing sugar intake in the USA, including effects via non-alcoholic fatty liver disease: a microsimulation model. BMJ Open. 2017;7(8):e013543. [PubMed]
6.
Brownlee K, Moore A, Hackney A. Relationship between circulating cortisol and testosterone: influence of physical exercise. J Sports Sci Med. 2005;4(1):76-83. [PubMed]
7.
Somboonporn W, Davis S. Postmenopausal testosterone therapy and breast cancer risk. Maturitas. 2004;49(4):267-275. [PubMed]
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Daniel Yetman

Daniel grew up in Halifax, Canada. He completed his Honours Kinesiology degree at Dalhousie University where he received an education in topics such as nutrition, exercise physiology, strength training and sports psychology. He will graduate with his MFA in Writing from the University of Saskatchewan in May.
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