The Importance of Testosterone for Men and Women

Written by: Ryah Nabielski, MS, RDN

We often think of testosterone as the male hormone, but women need it too. It plays a role in mood, motivation, muscles, and more! Healthy levels of testosterone support health at any age, yet both men and women can experience imbalances and associated symptoms. 
In today’s article, we’ll discuss testosterone in men and women, including symptoms of deficiency, and how to support healthy testosterone production with nutrition, lifestyle, and supplements. Keep reading to learn more about: 

  • What is testosterone?
  • Importance of testosterone for men
  • Low and high testosterone in men
  • Importance of testosterone for women
  • Low and high testosterone in women
  • Natural strategies for testosterone support

Let’s dive in! 

What is Testosterone?
Testosterone is a steroid sex hormone produced in response to brain signals. It’s part of the androgen family of hormones, which includes DHEA (a testosterone precursor) and DHT (a potent form of testosterone). 
Endocrine glands, including the testes, ovaries, and adrenal glands, produce testosterone. As a chemical messenger, it travels through the bloodstream and affects tissues throughout the body. Testosterone levels increase at puberty, peak in the 20s, and begin to decline in the 30s. 
Men and women have relatively steady testosterone levels compared to the hormonal changes in the female menstrual cycle. In men, brain hormones trigger its release every few hours. Women have much lower levels than men but still more testosterone than either estrogen or progesterone. 

Fun fact: Both men and women make testosterone and estrogen! 

Testosterone and Men’s Health 

Testosterone is the primary male hormone responsible for male characteristics, including hair patterns and a deeper voice. Testosterone is also essential for: 

  • Fertility
  • Spermatogenesis (sperm production)
  • Sex drive (libido) 
  • Growth and development in adolescence
  • Muscle mass and body composition 
  • Blood cell formation 
  • Mood

Testosterone begins declining, slowly and steadily, in a man’s 30s. However, low testosterone can impact men at any age after puberty, typically related to an underlying cause such as chronic health conditions, alcoholism, cancer treatments, poor lifestyle habits, etc. 
Symptoms of low testosterone in men may include: 

  • Low libido
  • Low energy
  • Depression
  • Mood swings
  • Weight (fat) gain
  • Decreased confidence and motivation
  • Decreased facial and body hair
  • Muscle and bone loss 
  • Fertility challenges and lower sperm counts

High testosterone in men is less common than lower levels, but elevated androgens can also affect sperm count, body composition, and mood. 

Your doctor can evaluate your testosterone levels with simple blood tests. But don’t just settle for knowing your levels; when testosterone is out of balance, it’s essential to ask why and address the underlying contributors.  

Testosterone and Women’s Health 
The ovaries and adrenal glands produce testosterone in women. While female characteristics are mainly attributed to estrogen, testosterone plays a vital role in how women feel and perform. Testosterone supports sexual desire, bone health, motivation, strength, and energy. 

Fun fact: Women need testosterone to make estrogen. All estrogen starts as testosterone. 

Women can experience low or high testosterone. Low testosterone may be due to stress, hypothyroidism (low thyroid hormones), nutrient deficiencies, or medication use. High testosterone is frequently attributed to PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome), the most common endocrine disorder in women of reproductive age. 

Symptoms of low testosterone in women may include:

  • Low sexual desire and libido
  • Low muscle mass
  • Low bone density 
  • Anxiety and depression 
  • Dry skin 
  • Fatigue
  • Thinning hair
  • Decreased motivation and drive

Women are twice as likely to suffer from anxiety and depression as men. Hormonal patterns may help to explain the disparity. New research suggests that healthy testosterone levels may be protective against anxiety and depression. 
High testosterone and other androgens can occur for multiple reasons, but the most common cause is PCOS. Symptoms of high testosterone in women include:

  • Irregular or absent menstrual cycles
  • Menstrual cycles without ovulation 
  • Oily skin 
  • Acne
  • Male pattern hair loss 
  • Male pattern hair growth (hirsutism)
  • Weight gain
  • Mood swings 
  • Anger and aggression 
  • Fertility challenges
  • Fatigue
  • Unbalanced blood sugar

As discussed for men, working with your healthcare provider for a proper hormone evaluation and root cause assessment is important. Many hormonal imbalances can have similar symptoms. For example, thinning hair could result from high testosterone or low thyroid hormone. It could also have other causes, such as nutrient deficiencies or an autoimmune condition

Consider symptoms as messages from the body that something is out of balance. They’re your cue to listen deeply and work with your healthcare team to restore balance to the system. 

How to Support Healthy Testosterone Naturally 
Several nutrition and lifestyle factors, including nutrition, exercise, and supplements, can support healthy testosterone production in men and women. We’ll cover these next. 

Please note that this is general information and not medical advice. Please work with your healthcare provider for personalized guidance. 

Producing testosterone (and other hormones) is a nutrient-intensive process. An inadequate supply of any single nutrient can inhibit the production and metabolism of testosterone. Starting with nutrition, ensure good levels of these essential nutrients by eating the following foods:

  • Zinc – Oysters, other shellfish, and red meat are the highest sources. Plant sources include pumpkin seeds, hemp seeds, tahini (sesame seeds), and pine nuts. 
  • Magnesium – Kale, collard greens, spinach, chard, avocados, lentils, black beans, almonds, cashews, quinoa, yogurt
  • Selenium – Brazil nuts, fish, pork, chicken, sunflower seeds, eggs
  • Vitamin D – Oily fish (wild salmon, herring, mackerel), grass-fed dairy products, egg yolks, sun-exposed mushrooms, cod liver oil, vitamin D supplements 
  • Polyphenols – cacao, berries, avocados, green tea 

Protein is also critical for testosterone. Adequate dietary protein supports lean body mass, blood sugar balance, and other underlying conditions for sex hormone balance. Research suggests that very high protein diets (at levels very challenging to obtain for most people) can decrease testosterone levels in men. Moderate protein diets do not have this effect. In truth, most people can benefit from more protein, not less. 

Testosterone is anabolic; it promotes protein building and inhibits protein breakdown in the body. In other words, it helps you build and maintain muscle. Men have more testosterone than women and also have more muscle. While testosterone supports muscle mass and growth, building muscle also supports testosterone. 

Strength training is one of the most important things you can do to support healthy testosterone levels. Testosterone levels increase immediately after strength training and other acute physical activity in men. 

Some studies suggest the same effect on testosterone in women, showing estrogen and testosterone increase after exercise. Yet, other studies indicate no change in circulating testosterone after exercise. One idea is that the benefits of strength training may be more profound based on the phase of the menstrual cycle and the associated hormonal pattern. 

If you’re ready to get training, join Hannah Bower!

Nutritional supplements help supplement the diet and support the lifestyle changes you need for healthy hormones. 
Consider beginning with a high-quality multivitamin. Twenty2 Nutrition Prenatal Women’s Multivitamin or Twenty2 Nutrition Men’s Multivitamin can help you meet your daily nutrition needs by filling in micronutrient gaps. These formulas contain zinc, selenium, magnesium, vitamin D, and a complete array of essential vitamins, minerals, and herbal and metabolic support.  
Read more about the benefits of a multivitamin here
Additionally, because testosterone links with the body’s muscular system, you can use supplements to support muscle mass. Consider a quality protein powder to help meet your daily protein needs for muscle growth, strength, and maintenance. Twenty2 Nutrition has an option for everyone, including Collagen-Egg Protein, Grass Fed Whey Protein, and Vegan Protein.  
Creatine is another supplement to support exercise performance, power, strength, and muscle mass. Twenty2 Nutrition Creatine Complex combines creatine, magnesium, and HMB (hydroxymethylbuturate) for additional benefits. 
Learn more about creatine in our two-part series: Creatine Explained and Creatine Supplement Benefits and Creatine + HMB and Creatine Supplement FAQs.

Nutrition and lifestyle habits are the foundation of happy hormones! You can’t skip over this step. Even when you work with a practitioner, how you eat, move your body, and supplement will only enhance specific treatment strategies. Always discuss symptoms, hormones, and supplement questions with your trusted healthcare provider. 

Testosterone is important for reproduction, muscle mass, and total body benefits. And it’s not just a male hormone; it’s a life hormone essential for everyone. 

This article is for educational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified healthcare provider before changing your diet or beginning a new supplement, especially if you are pregnant or breastfeeding, take medication, or have a medical condition. 

Ryah Nabielski, MS, RDN is a Registered Dietitian, functional nutritionist, writer, and recipe creator. Ryah helps clients use a natural, food-as-medicine approach to improve fertility, pregnancy, hormone balance, autoimmunity, and discover a healthy relationship with food and body. Learn more about Ryah and her private practice at