Written by Megan McConnell
On social media platforms, such as TikTok, women across the globe are sharing their experiences weaning off oral birth control and adopting new hormonal management techniques such as cycle syncing, which consists of matching eating and exercise habits to one’s natural menstrual cycle in order to maximize health and wellness benefits.
The original idea for cycle syncing was developed and outlined by Alisa Vitti in her 2014 book WomanCode, and although there have been no clinical studies conducted, the practice of cycle syncing has spread rapidly across social media with many women praising its impact.
According to an article on Elara Care, cycle syncing can provide a variety of benefits, like improving hormonal balance, reducing period symptoms, increasing energy and bettering quality of sleep. However, it can be overwhelming when figuring out where to start. Below is a brief guide with suggestions on how you could start cycle syncing.
1. Track your cycle
The 28-day female menstrual cycle consists of four stages: menstrual, follicular, ovulatory, and luteal. Although every woman enters these stages around the same time, the exact amount of days spent in each stage often differs between individuals. According to the Cleveland Clinic, the menstrual phase is estimated to last seven days, the follicular lasts six, ovulation lasts two, and the luteal lasts 13.
Because this differs between individuals, it is important to keep track of your personal monthly cycle before creating a workout schedule or meal planning. It is recommended that women interested in cycle syncing log several natural cycles in order to get the best approximated length of each stage. Apps such as Flo Period Tracker & Calendar and My Calendar can be used to keep track of the different stages of your cycle right on your phone.
2. Keep your goal in mind
Cycle syncing can be used for a variety of different reasons. According to Healthline, it can help women who are overweight, feeling overly fatigued, want to increase their sex drive, want to conceive, or suffering from polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS). Keep these goals in mind when consulting with a professional and deciding the most effective schedule for you.
3. Create a workout schedule
Hormonal changes can make exercise more difficult or less effective during certain phases when energy and motivation are low. For example, during the menstrual period, light movements and rest are key while the body sheds the uterine lining. According to the Cleveland Clinic, light exercises such as yoga or walking are recommended.
However, workout intensity can often be increased in the follicular phase. Although you might still have low stamina during this period, light cardio exercises are ideal, such as short runs, swimming, or a group fitness class. During the ovulation period, intensity can be further increased with circuit or High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) exercises, and the luteal phase is best for moderate exercises like strength training, Pilates, and intensive yoga.
4. Plan your diet
Although it can be easy to get into the habit of eating the same meals every week, each menstrual stage’s varying balance of estrogen, progesterone and testosterone contributes to different nutritional needs.
During the menstrual phase, the Cleveland Clinic recommends eating iron-rich foods and increasing consumption of vitamins C and K to help compensate for the nutrients lost during bleeding. Foods that are good during this period include beans, leafy greens, lean red meat, berries, fruits, cheese, nuts, and eggs.
In the follicular period, proteins and carbohydrates are needed for increased energy levels and to accommodate for rising estrogen levels. Your grocery list should consist of foods such as brown rice, quinoa, broccoli, cauliflower, kombucha, avocado, pumpkin seeds, and leafy greens. Many of these foods can also be consumed during the ovulation period alongside those high in anti-inflammatory properties, according to Healthline.
Finally, during the luteal phase, your diet should consist of foods rich with complex carbohydrates, fiber, and magnesium to reduce bloating and hunger. It is also critical to drink lots of water during this period.
And remember, when deciding how to alter your diet, always discuss your intended changes with a professional to get feedback on how these alterations may impact you.
We aren’t medical professionals, nor are we experts in what works best for you and your body. A woman’s reproductive system is intrinsically linked to so much else in our bodies, therefore it’s important to treat it with the care and respect it deserves. If syncing your cycles isn’t for you then that’s fine, but if you’re interested in it then please always consult your doctor before making any lifestyle changes, and remember that not everything you see online will be the right fit for your body.