A close-up image of Centr trainer Maricris Lapaix holding a dumbbell.
Centr Team

6 things no one told you about women’s fitness

Centr Team

Have you ever felt uncomfortable in the gym, struggled to find a sports bra that actually works for HIIT, or had your workout plans interrupted by period pain?

Two thirds of female Centr members told us they have faced fitness barriers because of their sex. And that’s not exactly shocking when you realize that research into women’s health and fitness has been sidelined for decades.

For a long time, exercise science studies have used male subjects, with the assumption that what worked for them would work for women, too.

Things are changing, but there are still plenty of blindspots.

With help from sports dietitian Angie Asche, we’re shining a light on 6 overlooked factors that impact women’s fitness, so you can take on your training and nutrition with power.

Centr trainer Maricris Lapaix performs an overhead press with a tube band and straight bar, in a well-lit living room.

A Centr survey found 1 in 3 women have shifted their fitness priority from looking good to supporting their mental health.

1. Women have a higher injury risk

If you follow women’s soccer – or any football played around the world – you probably won’t be shocked to hear that women are more likely than men to be brought down by common sports injuries.

So why are women at higher risk of things like ankle sprains, ACL tears, stress fractures and plantar fasciitis?

Underfueling can increase the risk of injury.

Angie Asche

There are a few factors at play, including greater flexibility in ligaments, less supportive muscle mass, and a wider pelvis (which alters the alignment of the knee and ankle). But as we mentioned earlier, there’s also a notable research gap when it comes to female athletes.


Pilates with Sylvia is an effective way to support mobility and reduce injury risk.

Until sports science catches up, the best thing to do is listen to your body.

For example, if you’re working out at a similar intensity to men you know, you may need to take more rest days. It’s also a good idea to be diligent about strengthening your supporting muscles (eg. building your quad muscle to protect your knee).

The way you eat also plays a part in managing injury risk, says Angie.

“Underfueling can increase the risk of injury,” Angie says. “Make sure you’re eating enough calories and enough of each macronutrient: fat regulates hormones and provides energy, protein repairs lean muscle tissue and supports bone health, and carbohydrates provide the energy we need for training.”

Keeping your bones strong is also crucial.

“With so many stress fractures and poor bone health in female athletes, it’s important you’re getting enough vitamin D and K, calcium and magnesium,” Angie says.

A collage showing four high-protein recipes from the Centr recipe library.

Protein is another essential nutrient for strong bones – try these high-protein recipes to show your skeleton some love.

2. Hormones can put you on a performance rollercoaster

Make sure you’re strapped in, because the hormonal fluctuation that accompanies your menstrual cycle leads to energy fluctuations for many women.

Then just when you’ve spent your whole life getting to grips with those ups and downs, perimenopause and menopause shift the goalposts again.

Tracking your cycle and energy levels will give you the power to adapt your training in a way that works for your body. We’ve created guides to eating and training with your cycle, and during perimenopause and menopause to help you ride the energy waves and tune in to what works for you.

3. Women get more bang for their buck than men

Okay, so fluctuating hormones mean you may not be as consistent as the fellas. But new evidence suggests women get greater benefits from exercise than men do – and from less physical activity, too.

For instance, to lower their risk of all-cause mortality, men needed to do 300 minutes of medium-to-vigorous physical activity per week, while women only needed 140 minutes to achieve similar benefits.

This is not to say you should move less, but that whatever exercise you can fit in is going to pay you back, big time.

4. There’s a good chance you’re not eating enough

Many female athletes hugely underestimate the fuel they need to perform at their best. One study of college swimmers found that 96 percent of them didn't get the recommended amount of protein, carbs or fats to support their training.

"We work with a lot of highly active women, who aren’t necessarily athletes, who struggle with this as well," Angie says. "Especially if they are actively trying to make body composition changes like losing fat."

Centr trainer Alexz Parvi sits on a workout mat and enjoys a healthy, nutritious snack from the Centr recipe library.

Don’t be afraid to fuel your training with quality food.

The consequences of not eating enough can be serious, Angie says, including decreased endurance and strength, loss of muscle mass, compromised bone health and a weakened immune system.

While your Centr meal plan provides a great starting point, you might need more energy depending on your body size, activity level and other factors. Angie recommends consulting an accredited dietitian if you’re concerned about underfueling.

5. Pelvic floor work is crucial (even if you don’t have kids)

Did you know men have a pelvic floor? Yup, they do.

But the thing is, a woman’s pelvic floor – which supports your bladder, bowels and uterus – is particularly vulnerable to weakening.

You’re probably thinking “childbirth”, but your pelvic floor can also be impacted by high-impact sports, heavy lifting and aging. And as the base of the group of muscles known as your core, a strong pelvic floor is crucial for staying active.

So how do you keep yours in good health?

  • Strengthen with Kegels. You can do this exercise anywhere. Contract and lift your pelvic floor by thinking about your front and back passages rising into your stomach – draw them up for 3 seconds, then relax.
  • Use daily diaphragmatic breathing to condition. Also known as deep belly breathing, you can do this sitting or lying down. Place one hand on your chest and the other on your belly. Breathe in very slowly through your nose for 4 seconds, feeling your belly expand. Hold your breath for 2 seconds, then exhale through your mouth for 6 seconds.
  • Keep the whole region in good shape with deep core work, like you’ll find in Pilates with Sylvia or yoga with Tahl.

Centr trainers Tahl Rinsky and Ingrid Clay perform a V-sit exercise as part of a core workout.

Slower styles like yoga or Pilates can help you to focus on true core strength – including your pelvic floor.

6. Active women are at risk of nutrient deficiencies

Because of underfueling and women’s unique physiological needs, those who work out regularly are at high risk of deficiencies in several key nutrients.

Iron: “Iron deficiency is 5-7 times more likely in female athletes than male,” says Angie. “It’s one of the most common deficiencies we see in our practice, especially among endurance athletes.”

To combat this, Angie recommends:

  • Consuming more iron-rich foods like beef, fish, eggs and poultry, as well as fortified grains, oatmeal, nuts, legumes and tofu.
  • When you eat iron-rich foods, add some vitamin C to enhance absorption. For instance, have a glass of orange juice with your meat dish, add berries to a spinach salad or smoothie, or have bell peppers (capsicum) with fish.
  • Limiting coffee, calcium-rich foods and phytates (found in grains, legumes and nuts) when consuming iron, as they can inhibit absorption.
  • Cooking your meals in a cast iron skillet, as this can increase the iron content of your food.

And if you’re concerned about ongoing iron deficiency, consult a sports dietitian or doctor.

A plate of Pan-seared Garlic Steak with Asparagus & Almonds, from the Centr recipe library, sits on a table.

Try our simple Pan-seared Garlic Steak to boost your iron stores.

Calcium: If you work out a lot, or are menopausal, you should be particularly conscious of your calcium intake to support bone health. “For athletes, the International Olympic Committee suggests increasing calcium intake to 1500mg per day to meet the increased metabolic demands of exercise,” Angie says.

Women in menopause also experience higher calcium demands because of lower estrogen levels. “Estrogen helps to increase calcium absorption and retention in bone,” she explains.

A glass of Creamy Green Smoothie, from the Centr recipe library, sits on a table.

Try a Creamy Green Smoothie for a fresh calcium combo of milk and spinach.

Vitamin D: “Vitamin D plays a key role in the production of estrogen, and deficiency could have an impact on bone health, menstrual function and fertility,” Angie explains. “Female athletes at highest risk of deficiency are those with darker skin (higher levels of melanin), who have limited sun exposure, train primarily indoors, or eat very few vitamin D containing foods.”

Folate: Pregnant women should be aware of their folate needs and speak to a doctor about supplementation.

Creatine: Angie points out that research shows women have 70-80 percent lower creatine stores than men, and tend to consume lower amounts through food. So you may want to consider supplementing.

Want more advice from the experts?


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