Stop clutching your pearls. A strong libido is a sign of a healthy, fit body. Don't have one? Here's how to fix that.
Sexier By the Bite
What if we adjusted our food and lifestyle choices - not to get leaner or drop pounds - but to have a better sex life? And what if that change in intention were enough to optimize our metabolic health and happiness along the way?
After all, a healthy libido is generally a sign of a healthy body.
To be even more blunt, getting off regularly means you're getting plenty of circulation to the genitals, which is a sign you're also getting plenty of circulation to more vital organs, like the brain and heart. It also means you're producing robust levels of sex hormones.
The neat thing? Eating and exercising to enhance libido will automatically guide you to make smarter choices... ones that show you're taking care of your body rather than beating it up.
"But I'm Already Having Sex!"
How often and is it actually good? According to Dr. Laurie Mintz, author of the book Becoming Cliterate, half of all 18-35 year old women have trouble reaching orgasm with their partners (1).
One survey of 1400 participants found that during intercourse, on average women reached orgasm only about 31-40% of the time (2).
That should mean something to you. Namely this: Most women aren't getting off as often as men during intercourse. We don't climax quite as easily.
In fact, men can do destructive things to themselves all day long and still manage to "stand at attention" at night. Many don't even know they have medically low testosterone because they're still having satisfactory sex.
Did you catch that? Men can get away with fairly shitty hormonal production and still have orgasms.
We're a bit different, ladies. For us to have frequent and satisfactory sex we require optimized hormonal production, stress-free brains, lowered inflammation, focus, self confidence, minimized distractions, the right moon phase, the warm glow of candlelight, and a perfect room temperature. Only half of this list is facetious.
Having a great sex life requires you to truly take care of your body. And not in the meaningless "self-care" sort of way that gives women incentive to overspend, overeat, and over share their nakedness to prove how much they love themselves on social.
And chances are, when you DO optimize your sex life, you'll also see the difference in your energy, mood, and perhaps even body composition. No, you won't likely be shredded if you're optimizing your libido. But you'll be more sexually functional and possibly more sexually attractive.
So while I can't eliminate your stress or all the things that cause it, I may be able to give you the physical edge by ramping up your sex drive. The first step is paying attention to these four factors and adjusting from there.
1 - Nutrient Factors
Deficiencies are tricky. You could be lacking in any nutrient and it could cause a cascade of physiological effects ending in a lack of libido. But let's cover some of the most common ones.
Anyone who's even glanced at the health headlines this year is probably taking it for the immunity benefits. But the D does far more than just prevent you from getting sick.
And if you're as deficient as most people these days, taking one measly capsule (of 1000 IU) isn't going to cut it... unless you're a regular sunbather.
Researchers measured vitamin D levels of over 100 women and gave them a questionnaire on their sex lives. The results? Those with higher levels of vitamin D in their blood had higher levels of sexual satisfaction (3). Full details in TC Luoma's better sex tip.
It's pretty common for fit women to have low iron. If you're still in your childbearing years, it's even more common (4). It doesn't matter how much meat you eat if you've got a period and a super active lifestyle. This deficiency can make you feel fatigued doing normal, everyday life stuff, which means your sex drive will suffer too.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
The good stuff found in fish oil keeps inflammation at bay. It's been shown to ameliorate depression (5) and nations where people eat more fish have less of a problem with mood disorders (6).
What does this have to do with sex? Well, depression isn't exactly a state of mind that's super conducive for bedroom activities. Not for most women at least. Anything that ameliorates a low mood will also contribute to more success in the sack.
Having low levels in your blood can keep you anxious and unable to sleep well at night. Anything that impedes relaxation can impede sexual desire. Being wired and moody does not set the stage for pleasure. How much do you actually need? Well, more than what's recommended for the average woman (310-320 mg/day) if you lift pretty regularly. Check out TC Luoma's tip, Get More Magnesium.
2 - Food Factors
There are no "hard and fast" dietary rules. (See what I did?) But you do need adequate carbs, fat, and calories to get off.
Why? Because what you eat influences the hormones you're able to produce, your digestion, energy, and mood - all of which affect your desire for sex.
The cool thing is, your libido can be your guide. If you're never interested in getting nasty with your dude, it could be a sign something needs to change nutrition-wise.
So... about those carbs, fat, and calories:
For a lot of women - especially those who train frequently and intensely - a diet that's too low in carbs can lead to chronic and excessive cortisol production. It may also lead to low levels of serotonin, which makes us easily irritated and unable to relax: two things that kill sex drive.
When it comes to cortisol in particular, research scientist and T Nation contributor Brad Dieter has said this about the connection between cortisol production and low carb dieting:
"Cortisol is released during high-intensity, anaerobic exercise to maintain normal glucose levels. The amount of glycogen you've stored directly impacts the release of exercise-induced cortisol.
The more glycogen you have stored, the less cortisol is released, and the less glycogen you have, the more cortisol is released.
Intuitively, this gives us reason to suspect that long-term glycogen depletion resulting from long-term low carb diets may lead to chronically elevated cortisol levels. Low carb diets also result in an increased exercise-induced cortisol response."
But there are plenty of orgasms to be had if you're a low carber. Just be cognizant that if you're combining this dietary approach with taxing workouts, you'll be more likely to experience that chronically-elevated cortisol state, and that's not a good place to be in if you're wanting to get bigger doses of vitamin-O.
On the flipside, eating too much of the carby stuff is a sex-drive killer too. Most people have experienced this, at least in the short term. Going overboard on carbs will make you temporarily lethargic and bloated. Not a great mealtime strategy if you're wanting to get it on after dinner.
But you know your reaction to food better than anyone else. So giving you an eat-this-not-that list is absurd. Maybe baked potatoes and refried beans are a bad choice for you. Well, they're excellent for me... after digestion.
So, pay attention to what you eat and how it makes you feel a couple hours afterward. Then opt for foods (and portions) that won't make you sluggish and farty during the hours you'd be most likely to have bedroom activities.
And while you're at it, pay attention to what you do chronically to see if the way you're eating on a daily basis has any effect.
It's important for the production of sex hormones. In the 90's people were literally trying to eliminate fat from their diets... even to the point of skipping avocados. Was any woman really twisting the sheets on her zero-fat diet?
According to the Women's International Pharmacy:
"Dietary fat is the only source of the essential fatty acids that are the chemical building blocks for eicosanoids. Eicosanoids are the molecular glue that holds the human body together. They control the hormones and are made by every living cell in the human body (7)."
But just like everything else, there's a range. In fact, you could still probably do a low(er) fat diet and produce the necessary sex hormones, especially if you're getting high-quality fats. Think fish oil and egg yolks instead of the trans fats you'd get from prepackaged crap.
A reasonable and temporary deficit or surplus won't make your lady parts dry up. But continually undereating will place sexual health on the backburner.
Some women associate their own sex appeal with how they look while dieting. This is a mistake that can cause women to overdo the deficit. This practice generally leads to a case of the hangries... not the hornies.
And if your diet is lowering your sex drive (even during the times of the month when it should be highest), could that be a sign it's unsustainable? Or just plain unhealthy? Again, anything that contributes to a drop in testosterone will cause a drop in your sex drive.
3 - Drug Factors
According to the Hormone Health Network, female sexual dysfunction (FSD) can be caused by antidepressants, contraceptives (ironically), blood pressure medications, and certain pain meds. These things are notorious mojo-wreckers (8).
Obviously, stopping treatment may not be an option. But if there's a possibility you can change your lifestyle in way that ends the need for these, it'd be worth sorting out. You may have to find a doctor who leans more progressive and integrative than someone who's quick to write a prescription and get you out of his hair.
It's dose-dependent, and you may be disappointed in how low the threshold is. Alcohol lowers inhibitions and can amp up the arousal (9). But it can also delay (or prevent) orgasm and decrease vaginal lubrication (10).
Oddly enough, Shakespeare nailed it in Macbeth:
"It provokes the desire but it takes away the performance."
Studies are kind of all over the place though. So start paying attention and know yourself. The serving size health experts recommend (one five-ounce glass for women) appears to be benign for most women when it comes to sexy time.
There's another thing to consider: If you're an everyday drinker, who's used to having a couple glasses a night, it may be preventing you from getting high-quality sleep. And being sleep deprived is one way to become orgasm deprived (11).
Moderate doses have actually been shown to increase sex drive in female rats (12). The key word is moderate. Sex requires a level of relaxation, which isn't easy to achieve when you've got the jitters or you feel fueled up enough to take on your to-do list.
It's an excitatory drug that elevates cortisol and causes anxiety for some - even in moderate amounts. Even so, it still depends on the individual. If you can find your sweet spot it may give you a little boost just like it did for the rats.
Cannabis can lead to increased sex drive and improved orgasms (13). It also tends to help if you're the type who can't stop overthinking or worrying about silly crap.
But you don't have to "get stoned" for it to be beneficial. In fact, too much may make you sleepy or anxious. If you're not accustomed to using it, it's better to err on the side of less. Edibles, oils, teas, mints, and other products all work just fine, so smoking's not even required.
4 - Lifestyle Factors
A recent Bachelorette bragged about having sex four times in a night with one of her suitors, but it's highly unlikely she got anything out of it. Why? Because this was an attention-seeking stunt, and because sex outside of committed, romantic relationships is shown to be mostly unsatisfying for women according to the research (14).
According to Laurie Mintz, only 55% of men versus 4% of women say they usually reach orgasm during first-time hookup sex (1).
Plus we tend to communicate better with loved ones than strangers. And communicating about what feels good is necessary for launch. Do you really need a study for either of these statements?
It creates a crappy hormonal milieu and distracts you during the act. But this doesn't just include day-to-day stress. You also need to consider the stress you get from consistently crushing hard workouts. If you're always digging yourself into a recovery hole, you're causing a cascade of issues that result in inflammation and likely a dampened sex drive.
There's no one-size-fits-all answer to reducing stress though. It just has to become a priority. And sometimes the answer is, do less. Stop filling your schedule with tasks, and if you're a lifter, simmer down on your training a bit. The excess is not helping you.
It has to become a priority too. But you've already heard every trendy sleep hygiene tip: turn off the TV, be terrified of blue light, stop checking email at night, yadda yadda. Do what you have to do to get a higher quality of sleep on a consistent basis.
This was my solution and it has worked for years. It's just hard to get turned on when you're exhausted in the daytime and anxious at night.
If TV time is cutting into naked time, you're missing out. Staying up late to binge a show doesn't necessarily mean you're staying up even later to have sex afterward. You probably know this, but it helps to hear someone (besides your partner) say it: Turn off the TV and get some real-life action.
This is a biggie. If you feel like poop about yourself, you're not going to want to receive pleasure... let alone be seen or felt. One way to feel better is to just do hard stuff with your body or brain. Accomplish things. It may sound weird, but doing so can lead to a spurt of testosterone.
It's an epidemic, according to TC Luoma. And I would agree. But perhaps being aware of it can help us fight it.
Prudishness Isn't a Virtue
Plenty of people will assume this article was written by a woman who "gets around" and thus has a team of crabs in her undies helping her write about sex.
Nope! I'm a wife and a Christian. I believe physical intimacy is a tool that keeps monogamous couples bonded. I also believe that bedroom activities should be spontaneous, fun, and maybe even a little freaky.
But as a marital aid, sex only really works if the woman enjoys it too. Otherwise it'll eventually fall by the wayside while her disinterest, physical fatigue, and stress stand in the way. It's because of these obstacles that a lot of marriages turn into sexless, roommate situations... if they even last that long.
Why aren't more of us fighting that? Prudishness isn't a virtue and committed relationships don't have to be boring. In fact, they'll probably last longer if they're not.
- Mintz, Laurie B. Becoming Cliterate: Why Orgasm Equality Matters - and How to Get It. HarperOne, an Imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers, 2018.
- Lehmiller, Justin. "How Often Do Women Orgasm During Sex?" Kinsey Institute Research & Institute News, Indiana University, 24 Jan. 2019, blogs.iu.edu/kinseyinstitute/2019/01/24/how-often-do-women-orgasm-during-sex/.
- Masum Canat, et al, "Vitamin D3 deficiency is associated with female sexual dysfunction in premenopausal women," International Urology and Nephrology, November 2016, Volume 48, issue 11. pp 1789-1795.)
- Awidi, M., Bawaneh, H., Zureigat, H., Alhusban, M., & Awidi, A. (2018). Contributing factors to iron deficiency anemia in women in Jordan: A single-center cross-sectional study. Plos One, 13(11). doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0205868
- Gertsik, et al. "Omega-3 Fatty Acid Augmentation of Citalopram Treatment for Patients With Major Depressive Disorder," Journal of Clinical Psychopharmacology, February 2012, Volume 32, Issue 1, pp. 61-64.
- David Mischoulon, MD, PhD, "Omega-3 fatty acids for mood disorders," Harvard Health Publishing, August 03, 2018.
- How Dietary Fat Benefits Hormones. (2020, July 21). Retrieved from https://www.womensinternational.com/blog/dietary-fat-benefits-hormones/
- Salonia, A., Briganti, A., Rigatti, P., & Montorsi, F. (2005). Medical conditions associated with female sexual dysfunction. Womens Sexual Function and Dysfunction, 263-275. doi:10.1201/b14618-37
- George, W. H., Davis, K. C., Heiman, J. R., Norris, J., Stoner, S. A., Schacht, R. L., . . . Kajumulo, K. F. (2011). Womens sexual arousal: Effects of high alcohol dosages and self-control instructions. Hormones and Behavior, 59(5), 730-738. doi:10.1016/j.yhbeh.2011.03.006
- Here’s What Happens When You Mix Booze with Sex. www.healthline.com/health/alcohol-and-sex.
- Goldstein-Piekarski, Andrea N., et al. "Sex, Sleep Deprivation, and the Anxious Brain." Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, vol. 30, no. 4, 2018, pp. 565-578., doi:10.1162/jocn_a_01225.
- Guarraci, Fay A., and Anastasia Benson. "'Coffee, Tea and Me’: Moderate Doses of Caffeine Affect Sexual Behavior in Female Rats." Pharmacology Biochemistry and Behavior, vol. 82, no. 3, 2005, pp. 522-530., doi:10.1016/j.pbb.2005.10.007.
- Lynn, B., et al. "355 The Relationship Between Marijuana Use Prior to Sex and Sexual Function in Women." The Journal of Sexual Medicine, vol. 14, no. 1, 2017, doi:10.1016/j.jsxm.2016.11.242.
- Armstrong, Elizabeth A., et al. "Accounting for Women's Orgasm and Sexual Enjoyment in College Hookups and Relationships." American Sociological Review, vol. 77, no. 3, 2012, pp. 435-462., doi:10.1177/0003122412445802.