Is cycle syncing scientifically proven, thought? Good question. The truth is that there is not enough evidence to support the benefits of cycle syncing. There aren’t many studies on the topic, and most of them are old or weak.
As a woman, have you ever wondered why you smash a HIIT set one week, then struggle through it the next?
Where you are in your menstrual cycle could have something to do with it. Learning to be aware of your cycle while you train can help you manage stress, boost immunity, understand your metabolism and improve your performance, leaving you feeling fitter, stronger and faster.
Women reported high levels of well-being and self-esteem during the middle of the cycle in the study. Increased feelings of anxiety, hostility, and depression were reported before their period.
What is Cycle syncing ?
Cycle syncing is the practice of making lifestyle choices – from food to workouts, socialising to work projects – according to the phases of the menstrual cycle. First coined by Alisa Vitti in her book WomanCode, acolytes swear by its ability to make the ever-shifting cascade of hormones easier to manage and optimise their energy levels, focus and intuition.
Women have four phases in their menstrual process, also called the moon cycle: menstruation, follicular, ovulation, and luteal. Similar to the moon’s 28-day cycle from new moon to new moon, a healthy menstruating woman will go from one bleed to the next in a 28-day cycle (although this can vary based on lifestyle factors). As a business coach and wellness expert, I work with ambitious and purpose-driven entrepreneurs all around the world, and one of the best pieces of advice I can ever share is for women to hack their own cycle and treat this rhythm as a gift. Not only do I find that it can this lead to more productive work hours and more orgasms (who doesn’t want that?), it can also prevent burnout and offer tools to cope or overcome pandemic fatigue.
Who can benefit from cycle syncing?
While everyone can benefit from cycle syncing, there are certain groups who may benefit the most. These groups include women who:
- have polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS)
- are overweight
- are overly fatigued
- want their libido back
- want to conceive
You wouldn’t leave the house without checking the weather. So why live blindly without monitoring the flow of our hormones?
If you’re not feeling 100 percent yourself, especially around your period, cycle syncing may be for you.
Matching your life with your cycle helps you avoid burnout and keeps you mindful, every single day, to your body’s needs.
Framework for Cycle Syncing
Before we talk about how to practice cycle syncing, I want to go over the four phases of the menstrual cycle. I know many of us learned about this in health class, but it’s always good to have a reminder.
The follicular phase starts on the first day of your period and ends at the start of ovulation. Early in this phase, your hypothalamus sends a message to your pituitary gland to release the follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH). The FSH’s job is to trigger your ovaries to produce 5 to 20 small follicles with immature eggs. Usually, only one egg matures, however, sometimes two eggs can mature during the same cycle. Any extra follicles get reabsorbed into your body. During the follicular phase, there is an increase in estrogen, and your uterine lining also thickens to prepare your body for a potential pregnancy. The follicular phase lasts for 16 days on average, however, it may depend on the person, and may go anywhere from 11 to 27 days.
Ovulation means that it is the end of the follicular phase. Increased estrogen levels lead to the release of luteinizing hormones (LH) that cause ovulation. Remember the egg maturing during the last phase? During ovulation, your ovary sends this mature egg down your fallopian tube to your uterus. This egg is ready to be fertilized by sperm at this time. Ovulation is critical for pregnancy so tracking your cycle and knowing when ovulation occurs is crucial if you are trying to get pregnant. During ovulation, your basal body temperature rises, and your discharge thickens. Ovulation tends to happen around day 14 if you have a 28-day cycle. However, it may be different if you have a long or short cycle, which makes understanding your cycle important. Ovulation lasts for 12 to 48 hours. Unfertilized eggs die and dissolve afterward.
After ovulation, the luteal phase is next. After the follicular phase, the egg turns into a corpus luteum, which releases a lot of progesterone and some estrogen to help a fertilized egg implant. If you get pregnant during ovulation, your body will start producing human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) to allow the corpus luteum to stay healthy and your uterine lining will thicken to support a healthy early pregnancy. HCG is also a hormone that pregnancy tests look for. However, if you don’t get pregnant and the egg doesn’t get fertilized during ovulation, the corpus luteum shrinks and reabsorbs, leading to a decrease in estrogen and progesterone. At this time, your body is getting ready for menstruation (your period), and you may experience symptoms of premenstrual syndrome (PMS), including bloating, breast tenderness, headaches, cravings, weight gain, and mood changes.
Read More about Premenstrual Syndrome & Craving here
Though most women are preoccupied with this phase, menstruation is only one stage of their menstrual cycle. This is when you get your period. If you are not pregnant, estrogen and progesterone levels will drop. The thickened uterine lining will start shedding along with other unwanted tissues, blood, and mucus. Depending on the person, a normal period may last anywhere from 3 to 7 days. Everyone is different, however, if you are experiencing anything unusual, including unusually long, short, light, heavy, or painful periods, it is critical that you visit your doctor. Cramps, bloating, breast tenderness, mood swings, and headaches may also occur during this time, especially during the first couple of days of your period. Again, while some discomfort is normal, it is important to look into it if you notice anything unusual.
Exercise and Cycle Syncing
Pushing harder and fighting through pain is not always good for you when working out. Your hormones and energy fluctuate throughout the month. Mixing up your exercise routine based on your menstrual cycle may help support your body without compromising your health.
Here is how to plan your workouts when cycle syncing:
- Follicular phase: Your hormones are low, and it may affect your stamina. Light cardio, such as light runs, hiking, and flow-based yoga are great ideas.
- Ovulation: Your estrogen and testosterone levels are peaking, and your energy is probably higher at this point. This makes it an excellent time for more intense weight training, high-intensity training intervals (HIIT), Tabata workouts, circuit training, group classes, or a spin class.
- Luteal phase: Before your period, your estrogen levels are dropping. You may be starting to feel more tired. Moderate intensity workouts, such as pilates, power yoga, and lighter levels of strength training may be the best.
- Menstruation: Light movements are usually the best during this stage. Kundalini yoga, leisurely walks in nature, pilates, Tai Chi, and lots of rest may support your body best.
The key is to always listen to your body. If you are feeling good, you can push yourself a little bit more. But if you are tired or feeling off, it’s okay to ease your workouts a bit. I do believe the weight training is important for everyone, just at the level that your body can handle.
Nutrition and Cycle Syncing
Your nutrition is incredibly important for your health. But different foods may affect you differently through your cycle.
Most importantly, no matter what stage you are in during your cycle, avoid inflammatory foods. I am talking about refined sugar, refined oils, additives, artificial ingredients, junk food, processed food, caffeine, and alcohol. Avoid these foods and focus on whole foods nutrition instead. Eat regularly, every 3 to 4 hours (unless you do better otherwise), to help balance your blood sugar levels and avoid cortisol spikes or mood swings.
Follow these nutrition tips throughout the month while cycle syncing:
- Follicular phase: Add foods that support estrogen metabolization like cruciferous veggies (broccoli, etc.) , such as anti-inflammatory and antioxidant-rich foods, including hemp seeds, chia seeds, kale, sugar snap peas, carrots, artichokes, sprouts, strawberries, blueberries, and apples will help to build energy.
- Ovulation: Support your liver and load up on anti-inflammatory foods, such as beets, carrots, apples, and cruciferous vegetables. These foods offer anti-aging benefits and protection from environmental toxins. Hydrating and fiber-rich fruits and vegetables, such as grapefruit, berries, peaches, plums, grapes, cucumber, radishes, bell pepper, and greens can support your energy levels during this phase.
- Luteal phase: Add foods that help to produce serotonin and support your mood, like leafy greens. Prepare for menstruation with iron-rich foods, such as dark leafy greens, red meat, and seafood. Load up on magnesium-rich foods, including pumpkin seed, almonds, sunflower seeds, spinach, and in limited amounts, dark chocolate (if tolerated) to reduce fatigue and improve libido. At this time, I recommend that you also increase your magnesium supplement dose. Avoid alcohol, added salt, artificial sweeteners, carbonated drinks, and dairy.
- Menstruation: Since you are losing blood, restoring your iron levels with iron-rich foods, such as dark leafy greens, red meat, and seafood is critical. Anti-inflammatory herbs, such as turmeric, ginger, cinnamon, garlic, parsley, and rosemary, and omega-3-rich anti-inflammatory foods, such as fish, seafood, hemp seeds, chia seeds, and flax seeds may help to reduce cramps.
Remember, everyone’s body and nutritional needs are different. For example, if you have histamine intolerance, you need to follow a low-histamine diet and avoid high-histamine foods even while cycle syncing. Working with a functional health medicine practitioner (hint: my team and I!) can help you make the right nutritional decision based on your individual needs and health issues.
Improve Your Libido and Sex Life
From emotional stress to hormones, a lot can affect your libido and sex life. Estrogen dominance and high testosterone, both of which are very common for PCOS, can decrease your libido significantly. Too much cortisol, your main stress hormone, can also reduce your sex hormone and rob your libido.
Here is how cycle syncing can help:
- Follicular phase: During this stage, most women experience a lower sex drive. Creative foreplay, touching, and massaging may be preferred.
- Ovulation: Your estrogen and testosterone levels are at their peak. This is also the time when your body is ready to conceive. Whether ‘baby making’ is your goal or not, chances are, this is when you are the most interested in sex. This is a perfect time for spontaneity, trying new things, and keeping things exciting.
- Luteal phase: During this time, you may need a bit more stimulation to reach an orgasm. Trying out new positions or even some sex toys may be fun.
- Menstruation: While orgasms may help relieve your cramps, having sex during your period is a personal choice. Some women prefer to stay away from sex and prefer cuddles or resting instead. Listen to your body and support it with good nutrition.
Remember, good nutrition that supports your hormonal health is critical. Eating a healthy diet, reducing stress, leading a healthy lifestyle, and following these cycle syncing sexy suggestions can help you get your libido back and to have a creative sex life.
Fertility and Cycle Syncing
Cycle syncing may help your fertility. A 2007 study at Harvard University has found that diet and exercise habits may help to improve fertility. They followed 17,544 women and looked at factors of ovulatory infertility. They found that women who ate a diet rich in fiber, iron, plant protein, and high-fat dairy had better fertility scores than others. They were also more likely to take multivitamins and had a lower BMI than those with lower fertility scores (2).
Focusing on good nutrition and a healthy lifestyle according to your menstrual cycle may improve your hormonal health and fertility. I recommend a diet rich in greens, vegetables, low-glycemic fruits, herbs, healthy fats, and clean protein to support your hormones and improve your fertility.
How to Start Cycle Syncing?
Everyone’s body and everyone’s cycle is different. It is important that you track your cycle and understand your symptoms throughout the month. There are some great apps available that can help if you are not into pen and paper. It can take up to 3 months to really figure out the length of each phase of your cycle.
It’s important that you understand any health issue that may also be affecting your cycle, moods, energy levels, and other symptoms. Working with a functional medicine practitioner can help you uncover any health issues you may be dealing with.
Understanding your cycle and health challenges will help you to start your cycle syncing journey. Follow the recommendations in this article. Listen to your body and make modifications if needed as you go.
Cycle syncing is a practice that helps you tune in with your hormonal fluctuation throughout the month. Navigating these changes and planning your workouts, nutrition, and other activities according to your cycle can help you feel your best every day of the month. I recommend that you give cycle syncing a try to optimize your health and well-being.