Female Bodybuilding & Fitness

The Fat Burning Secrets

Women and Steroids : Removing the Veil

By Leigh Penman


It is no secret that many female bodybuilders use testosterone esters in order to enhance muscle growth. In fact, before I left the UK about 12 years ago I knew several top female competitors who were using Sustanon 250 at doses of 250mg/week!

Let me give you 2 further examples of doses used by females when it comes to testosterone...

  • 50-100mg/week Testosterone Enanthate or Cypionate.

  • 200-250mg Testoviron or Sustanon every two weeks

Although the second example may be considered pretty strong, the first one is probably a fairly average dose when it comes to testosterone use in both competitive and non-competitive female bodybuilders. However – and here's the shocker – BOTH drug regimes are given to women with a medical prescription. Now before the more adventurous ladies out there pick up the phone to make a doctor's appointment, you had better know how you qualify for the above testosterone therapy. The condition you need to be diagnosed with in order to take advantage of this 'special offer' is Gender Dysphoria. In other words you have to be a woman who feels uncomfortable within the female body and wants to undergo gender re-assignment, thus beginning the process of developing male characteristics (and I don't mean refusing to ask for directions when you are lost!).

Now that you have suddenly lost the impulse to pick up the telephone, let us consider the changes experienced by women who undergo testosterone treatment at the lowest dosage mentioned (i.e. 50-100mg/week).


  • Deepening of the voice

  • Growth of facial and body hair

  • Male pattern baldness

  • Enlargement of the clitoris

  • Possible shrinking and/or softening of breasts (which is often due to changes in fat distribution)


  • Increased libido

  • Redistribution of body fat

  • Cessation of ovulation and menstruation

  • Increased sweat and changes in body odor

  • Prominence of veins and courser skin

  • Acne

  • Alterations in blood lipids (cholesterol and triglycerides)

  • Increased red blood cell count

Of course the psychological changes are also worth mentioning since hormone levels have a significant impact on the brain. Testosterone therapy often results in an increased sex drive and a general increase in self confidence. For women, introduction to exogenous testosterone can also significantly impact psycho-sexual behavior. As far as aggression is concerned, despite what the media would have you believe this is not always an issue. It depends on the temperament of the woman to begin with and her chemical sensitivity to androgens. Incidentally, in the case of transmen (female to male gender re-assignment patients), the relief they experience on finally beginning hormone treatment usually leaves them exhibiting less aggressive behavior than before treatment.


When testosterone is prescribed to transmen the main aim is THE TOTAL ANNIHALATION OF FEMALE CHARACTERISTICS – female bodybuilders take note!

As previously mentioned, drugs favored for this purpose are the testosterone esters Testosterone Cypionate and Testosterone Enanthate. Enanthate is often preferred due to the fact that it provides a more even testosterone release. However, some individuals will tolerate one better than the other due to the make-up of the compounds and individual body chemistry. Sustanon is more widely used in Europe as is the relatively new Nebido (testosterone undecanoate). Nebido gives the advantage of only requiring four shots a year to maintain testosterone levels. However, each dose requires the injection of 4ml of testosterone undecanoate, which may require multiple simultaneous injections. Availability is also a concern when it comes to Nebido – as is cost.

Oral androgens may also be prescribed with dosages of Andriol ranging from 160 -240mg/day. Andriol is the oral form of Nebido. Interestingly enough, drugs such as mesterlone and fluoxymesterone are considered too weak for the induction of virilization.


During the course of the last few decades, incidences of transgender athletes competing in various sports have become more widespread. However, this is a choice they make due to a medically diagnosed condition (gender dysphoria). It is also interesting to note that many transmen indulge in bodybuilding pursuits prior to taking hormones in order to create a more masculine physique. In the case of female bodybuilders, for the most part, their use of testosterone has nothing to do with an underlying case of gender dysphoria. Female bodybuilders use testosterone to gain a muscle building advantage. Unfortunately, many of them do not see the long term consequences of their actions. The muscle enhancement comes with many irreversible side effects and the psychological impact of dealing with those side effects may only really hit home after their competitive days are over. I often wonder how those Sustanon 250 women I knew years ago are dealing with the side effects now that their competitive days are over. Of course, many of them remain involved in bodybuilding behind the scenes so I guess they don't have the same mental issues to deal with. However, what about those women who have totally left the sport, how do they adapt to their androgynous appearance and irreversible secondary sexual characteristics (e.g. deep voice, facial hair growth, increased overall body hair). Perhaps, with the big picture in mind, it would be wise to say that any woman considering using testosterone for physique enhancing purposes should think of long term effects rather than short term gains.


One very interesting viewpoint I received via e -mail recently was from a female bodybuilder living in San Francisco, who had at one time in her life considered gender re-assignment but felt that becoming involved in bodybuilding was enough to make her feel more comfortable in her own body, removing the need for radical re-assignment. Now I am sure the psychological makeup of this individual is fairly unique and I am sure there are many who would find this offensive to the sport. However, you have got to consider the fact that, for this individual, bodybuilding gave her a fresh outlook on life and took her from a place of physical rejection to physical acceptance. I was curious to know whether she had indeed used testosterone at any point in her bodybuilding career. What follows is her candid answer (out of respect, I have refrained from revealing her identity)…

"I began bodybuilding initially to change my physique into one that was more acceptable in my eyes. I wanted the stronger – some would say more masculine – body. I had suffered from gender issues from a very early age. I even recall asking a relative of mine about sex change operations when I was about 6 years old! By my early twenties, although I was working out to build muscle, I was still desperately trying to fit into the mould of the 'ideal woman'. I even went so far as getting married and trying to be 'super-wife'…needless to say, that did not work. Divorce followed within 2 years. I then went to a gender specialist and was diagnosed with gender dysphoria and prescribed hormone treatment. I took the treatment for almost 3 months and went through what felt like puberty for the second time. My voice broke; I grew facial hair and had a little bit of acne. I decided to stop the treatment, can't remember exactly why. I do know that becoming involved in bodybuilding at a competitive level filled a mental void in my life. Testosterone? I have used it occasionally since then. Would I advise other women to take it purely for bodybuilding purposes? Absolutely not!

"When you take testosterone you have to be very aware that you are, no matter how you try and justify it, essentially taking transgender medication. You will experience significant and irreversible changes, maybe not immediately, but they will manifest slowly and steadily. I am one of the very few people who feel comfortable living in what you refer to as 'the androgynous zone'. Unless you have true gender issues, testosterone is not for you!"

Strong words, controversial words… but nevertheless thought provoking words. How you respond to them and indeed how you respond to this whole article, remains to be seen. This is just one side of the use of testosterone by women. Next time I am going to take a look at the therapeutic uses of testosterone in terms of treating women with depression, fatigue and low libido. Till then I encourage you to think very carefully before self administering testosterone. You could just be purchasing a one way ticket into... The Androgynous Zone!

Leigh Penman