A great sex drive doesn’t just make life more fun. It’s also a sign of a healthy, fit body. Optimize it and watch everything else improve.
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.
I’m not saying we need to have a constant sex drive, or that we should even want it during all four phases of the month. I’m just saying that optimizing the natural female libido will automatically lead to a healthier body, and perhaps even a healthier marriage.
When the female libido is on point, it means you’re producing robust levels of sex hormones. This is a big deal that women often don’t take into account when they over-exercise and go on extreme diets.
Maybe getting ripped isn’t all that great if your body isn’t functional in the bedroom. No matter how fit you look, if you have no desire for intimacy because your sex hormones are in the trash, you’re neither fit nor healthy. Not right now at least.
To be even more blunt, if you’re getting plenty of circulation to your lady parts, it also means you’re getting plenty of circulation to more vital organs, like the brain and heart. Having a great sex life is a sign of longevity and vitality. So it follows that optimizing it can make you more youthful in other physical aspects and possibly even extend your life.
Eating, exercising, and adjusting your lifestyle to enhance your sex drive can help guide you to make smarter choices… ones that show you’re taking care of your body rather than beating it up.
So let’s talk about some things you can do.
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 poor hormonal production and still have orgasms.
We’re a bit different, ladies. To have frequent and satisfactory sex, we require robust hormonal production, stress-free brains, lowered inflammation, focus, foreplay, self-confidence, minimized distractions, the right moon phase, the right Spotify playlist, the warm glow of candlelight, and a perfect room temperature.
Only half of that list is facetious.
Having a great sex life requires taking care of your body. And not in the cliche “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 Instagram.
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.
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 glanced at the health headlines over the past few years 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 it in their blood had higher levels of sexual satisfaction (3). Full details in TC Luoma’s better sex tip.
The microencapsulated form of vitamin D, as found in Biotest’s I-Well, is the most bioavailable, and its effects remain constant for up to 14 days.
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 very heavy period and a super active lifestyle, you can still be deficient.
If you’re feeling both anxiety and fatigue, and your legs feel abnormally heavy just walking up a flight of stairs, get tested for low iron. And make sure your doc doesn’t tell you “it’s fine” if you’re at the low end of normal. You want it to be optimal, not barely adequate for survival.
This deficiency can make doing normal, everyday life-stuff seem insurmountable, which means your sex drive, and relationships in general, will suffer too.
There are a lot of good supplement options, but the most effective one I’ve used requires a prescription. It’s called Irospan 24/6. If you can’t get that prescription, try a desiccated liver supplement.
If your periods are so heavy that even supplementing doesn’t help, then another thing to talk to your doctor about is what’s causing you to lose so much blood. This was a conversation I had with my female doc last fall and she had me start taking progesterone during the second half of the monthly cycle.
This minor adjustment shortened my period by a couple days and lightened it up significantly. As a result, it’s easier to keep my iron at a higher level.
The good stuff found in fish oil keeps inflammation at bay. It helps 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 contributes to more success in the sack.
This point about inflammation and mood can’t be emphasized enough, so check out this witty and intelligent quote from a woman who wrote an article called, The Best Health Supplements for an Unhealthy World.
“If depression is a rising problem (it is), and it’s a mood disorder strongly associated with inflammation (it is), wouldn’t it make sense to tamp down inflammation? That’s exactly what fish oil – or, more specifically, the omega-3 fatty acids inside it – does. The two inflammation fighters we’re after are EPA and DHA, and they’re most abundant in fish oil.
But when people think of inflammation, they often picture the acute kind – like what results from a sprained ankle. That type of inflammation is actually good and necessary for the healing process. What’s not good is chronic or excessive inflammation. The thing is, it’s not just the body that can get inflamed. The brain can too. And when it is, research shows it’s linked to depression and anxiety.”
Yes, I just quoted myself. You can find the citations in the original article. And here’s where you can get high-potency DHA and EPA:
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. Consider taking ZMA to keep your magnesium levels topped up.
There are no “hard and fast” dietary rules. (See what I did?) But you do need adequate carbs, fat, and calories to get aroused and experience pleasure. 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 frisky with your husband, it could be a sign something needs to change nutrition-wise.
So, about those carbs, fat, and calories:
For many women – especially those who train frequently and intensely – a diet too low in carbs leads to chronic and excessive cortisol production. It may also lead to low serotonin levels, 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 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’s plenty of sexy time 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 if you want to get bigger doses of vitamin-O.
On the flip side, 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 makes 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 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 bloated 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 90s, people were literally trying to eliminate all fat from their diets, even to the point of skipping avocados. Were any women really twisting the sheets on their 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 back burner.
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 contributing to a drop in testosterone will cause a drop in your sex drive. What’s the point in dieting to look sexier if doing so makes you uninterested in sex?
Tomatoes contain lycopene which elevates levels of nitric oxide (NO). NO increases blood flow to lady parts just like it does with man parts. More blood flow to the lady parts means more pleasure and better O’s.
Pomegranate rinds contain punicaligan, a healthy polyphenol. Get enough of it and it can inhibit aromatase activity and give women a safe bump in testosterone, leading to a bump in libido.
Finally, cranberries help prevent urinary tract infections. UTI’s hurt, and no woman wants to have sex when she has one.
According to the Hormone Health Network, female sexual dysfunction (FSD) can be caused by antidepressants, the pill (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 a 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 of wine 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 used to having a couple glasses a night, it may prevent you from getting high-quality sleep. And being sleep deprived is one way to become orgasm deprived (11).
Moderate doses increase sex drive in female rats (12). The key word is moderate. And rats. Because maybe they’re just horny little critters. But satisfactory sex requires a level of relaxation, which isn’t easy to achieve when you’re wired and feel fueled up enough to take on your to-do list.
Caffeine is 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 stuff like that one time you stuck your foot in your mouth fifteen years ago.
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 caution and use less.
Edibles, oils, teas, mints, and other products all work just fine, so smoking’s not even required.
Don’t fall for the lies. Sex outside of committed, romantic relationships is 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 hook-up 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? Keep your pants and standards up.
Stress creates a hormonal milieu that keeps you from even thinking about sex and distracts you during the act. But this doesn’t just include day-to-day stress. Also 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, limit your caffeine intake, avoid nighttime blue light, stop checking email past a certain time, yadda yadda. Do what you have to do to get a higher quality of sleep on a consistent basis. It’s just hard to get turned on when you’re exhausted in the daytime and anxious at night.
If TV shows and phone scrolling are cutting into naked time, you’re missing out. Staying up late to browse pictures and videos of other people’s lives is sad. So is replacing physical intimacy to binge-watch a show you’ll barely remember in a couple of years.
Trust me, I get how addictive these habits are, so this is a note to self too. But it helps to hear someone (besides your partner) say it: Turn off the TV, put down your phone, and get some real-life action.
Insecurity hinders sexy time. If you feel bad 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 leads to a spurt of testosterone.
It’s an epidemic even among females. Problem is, a lot of people still think of estrogen as the female hormone and testosterone as the male hormone. This is false, and there’s a whole list of wildly outdated myths women have been taught about testosterone.
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 spouses bonded. I also believe that bedroom activities should be spontaneous, fun, and mind-blowingly good for both participants.
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 LB. **Becoming Cliterate: Why Orgasm Equality Matters - and How to Get It.**HarperOne. May 9, 2017.
- Lehmiller J. How Often Do Women Orgasm During Sex? Sex & Psychology. December 4, 2017.
- Masum C et al Vitamin D3 deficiency is associated with female sexual dysfunction in premenopausal women. Int Urol Nephrol. 2016 Nov;48(11):1789-1795.
- Awidi M et al. Contributing factors to iron deficiency anemia in women in Jordan: A single-center cross-sectional study. PLoS One. 2018 Nov 5;13(11):e0205868. PubMed.
- Gertsik L et al. Omega-3 Fatty Acid Augmentation of Citalopram Treatment for Patients With Major Depressive Disorder. J Clin Psychopharmacol. 2012 Feb;32(1):61-4. PubMed.
- Mischoulon D. Omega-3 fatty acids for mood disorders. Harvard Health Publishing. August 03, 2018.
- How Dietary Fat Benefits Hormones. Women’s International Pharmacy. 2020 July 21.
- Salonia A et al. Medical conditions associated with female sexual dysfunction. 2005 Nov. Womens Sexual Function and Dysfunction. 263-275.
- George WH et al. Women’s sexual arousal: Effects of high alcohol dosages and self-control instructions. Horm Behav. 2011 May;59(5):730–738. PubMed.
- Santos-Longhurst A. Here’s What Happens When You Mix Booze with Sex. healthline. 2019 Sep 18.
- Goldstein-Piekarski AN et al. Sex, Sleep Deprivation, and the Anxious Brain. J Cogn Neurosci. 2018 Apr;30(4):565-578. PMC.
- Guarraci FA et al. 'Coffee, Tea and Me’: Moderate Doses of Caffeine Affect Sexual Behavior in Female Rats. Pharmacol Biochem Behav. 2005 Nov;82(3):522-30.
- Lynn BK et al. The Relationship Between Marijuana Use Prior to Sex and Sexual Function in Women. Sex Med. 2019 Jun;7(2):192-197. PMC.
- Armstrong EA et al. Accounting for Women’s Orgasm and Sexual Enjoyment in College Hookups and Relationships. American Sociological Review. 2012;77(3):435-462.
T Nation earns from qualifying purchases as an Amazon Associate. Read more about our policy.