Why Women Should Care About Testosterone

Understanding the role of testosterone in women's health

Kalyn Weber
By Kalyn Weber
Jovan Mijailovic
Edited by Jovan Mijailovic

Updated December 6, 2023.

a woman sitting nest to a sofa thinking about her testosterone levels

For women, the role of testosterone in the body is not always clear. Here is some basic information that every woman should know about this mighty hormone, and why it's not just for the boys.



What is testosterone?

Testosterone is a steroid hormone that belongs to a class of hormones called androgens. It is produced mostly in the testes of men and the ovaries of women, although small amounts are produced in the adrenal glands as well. Testosterone is best known for its anabolic effects, like building muscle and tissues, helping with protein synthesis, and increasing bone density.

Testosterone also has androgenic effects that we often associate with male secondary sex characteristics, i.e. deepening of the voice, development of facial and body hair, and changes in facial bone contours.

Biomarkers 101: Testosterone


Why is testosterone important for women?

For both men and women, testosterone plays a key role in the development and maintenance of muscle mass, strength, energy levels, and bone density. For women in particular, the maintenance of bone density and muscle mass is important, as both of these tend to deteriorate with age.

Testosterone may also offer females some more subtle effects, like impacting mood and (here’s the big one) sexual desire. That’s right, the big “T” is linked to the big “O” for women as well as men.

» Read more about the science behind testosterone biomarkers

What are the signs of low testosterone for women?

Women with low testosterone (low T) may experience decreased libido and persistent fatigue. [1] For athletes in particular, muscle weakness is another frequent complaint.

Because testosterone is a hormone, symptoms of deficiency resemble symptoms of depression and other mood disorders. [2] In fact, certain experts argue that misdiagnosis and lack of treatment are common for these reasons.



a cell phone with a woman's health logo on it


What are the signs of high testosterone in women?

Between 4% and 7% of women produce too much testosterone in their ovaries. [3] Some of these women have a pattern of symptoms called polycystic ovary syndrome, or PCOS. [4] This diagnosis is important for women, as PCOS can lead to infertility and other problems.

Another possible effect of high T in women is excessive hair growth in unwanted areas, known as hirsutism. (Yes, there’s a scientific name for those pesky chin hairs you have to pluck.) Other signs include acne, excessive perspiration, frontal balding, and deepening of the voice.

» Discover key blood biomarkers associated with female fertility

What to do if your testosterone is too high

If your testosterone is high, you should talk to your doctor. Your doctor will likely check your testosterone levels and refer you to an endocrinologist, a doctor who specializes in hormone levels and glandular functions. Certain factors, like smoking, obesity, and PCOS, are also associated with high testosterone



How to increase testosterone in females naturally

Here's how to boost your testosterone levels naturally and improve your overall health.

  • Exercise less (if you’re exercising too much) For both men and women, overtraining—the type often seen in endurance sports like distance running—can actually decrease your testosterone. Take time to rest if you need it!
  • Exercise more (if you’re not exercising) While endurance training may be associated with decreased testosterone levels, research indicates that acute endurance training and resistance training can actually increase your circulating androgens—including testosterone. [5]

Does working out increase testosterone in females?

Research shows that acute endurance training and resistance training can actually increase your circulating androgens—including testosterone. [5] But be sure not to overtrain as this can decrease testosterone in both men and women.

  • Move some weight Take a break from the treadmill and hit the weights instead. In addition to increasing androgen levels, resistance training comes with a ton of other amazing benefits for women, including stronger bones (reducing your risk of developing osteoporosis) and weight loss. It's recommended that women resistance train two to three times a week. [6]
  • Have more sex There is a correlation between testosterone levels and sexual activity in women. While it is believed that individuals with higher testosterone levels tend to have higher libidos, some research indicates that it is the sex itself that may be increasing women’s testosterone. Several studies showed that sexual arousal leads to small increases in plasma testosterone levels in women. [7]
InsideTracker, your personal health analytics dashboard

Optimize your wellness and performance

Read the review

Test

48 blood and dozens of genetic biomarkers


Pricing

Ultimate Plan: $699/test


Insurance

FSA/HSA (partial)


Privacy

HIPAA and SOC-2 protection

Brief overview

InsideTracker is a personalized health and wellness platform that aims to help people optimize their biomarkers to live healthier and longer lives. It analyzes genetics, behaviors, and goals to give you personalized nutrition, fitness, sleep, stress, and supplementation recommendations.

Why choose InsideTracker

InsideTracker offers DNA testing for dozens of genetic fitness, nutrition, and longevity genetic markers. Since genetics influence many aspects of your health, the app can provide helpful context and an action plan. It also integrates with wearable devices to collect real-time health data, tracking factors like sleep, activity, and heart rate.

Pros and cons

Science-backed recommendations

Comprehensive blood biomarker testing

DNA testing

Integration with wearables

Encourages retesting every 3 to 6 months

User-friendly interface

Personalized optimal zones

Customizable Action Plan

Not a replacement for medical care

DNA testing not available outside of the U.S.


  • Eat more zinc Zinc is a powerful little mineral, which blocks the enzyme that converts testosterone to estrogen. More zinc = less converted estrogen = higher testosterone. Good sources of zinc include oysters (hence their reputed aphrodisiac abilities) and other seafood, pumpkin seeds, red meat (especially beef and lamb), and spinach.
  • Eat more magnesium Magnesium is also believed to increase your testosterone by inhibiting testosterone from binding to its binding protein, sex hormone binding globulin (SHBG). As a result, you have more free testosterone (the biologically active type of T) floating around in your blood. Great sources of magnesium include fish, beans, nuts, and leafy green vegetables.
a diagram of magnesium's role in testosterone production in women


Optimize your health with InsideTracker

The role of testosterone in female physiology continues to be studied by scientists and researchers. However, it is believed that taking steps to naturally increase testosterone levels in females can have a positive impact on overall health and well-being. And, the best and easiest way to get insight into the levels of this biomarker is with a little help from InsideTracker!

InsideTracker’s Ultimate Plan lets you test a wide range of blood biomarkers plus important ratios, including free and total testosterone, SHBG, and cortisol, and gives you individualized recommendations based on your age, gender, ethnicity, activity levels, and goals.




References:

[1] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/12107541/

[2] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/11955793/

[3] https://academic.oup.com/aje/article/153/3/256/80402?login=false

[4] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3941370/

[5] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21142281/

[6] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5955292/

[7] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/10367606/