Cycle syncing is the practice of making lifestyle choices that coincide with the four phases of the menstrual cycle. Each phase impacts the body differently due to fluctuations in hormones. As you go from one phase to the next, you’ll feel your best if you eat and exercise in specific ways.
What are the four phases?
Menstrual (part of the follicular phase): Days 1-5 (on average)
This is when you actually have your period. Levels of progesterone and estrogen drop. The thick uterine lining sheds since it isn’t needed (it supports pregnancy)! This is what causes bleeding.
Follicular: Days 1-14 (on average)
Estrogen and progesterone levels begin to rise. Your pituitary gland releases follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH), which is where the phase gets its name from. FSH allows your ovaries to produce around 5-20 follicles which contain immature eggs. Only one will survive and this triggers a rise of estrogen.
Ovulation: 1 day (although you can be fertile the 4-5 days leading up to this day)
Now your ovary will release the mature egg. This phase is the time during your cycle when you can actually get pregnant!
Luteal: Days 15-28 (on average)
Finally, one of two things can happen. If you are pregnant, your body will create the hormone hCG that is picked up by pregnancy tests. If you’re not, estrogen and progesterone will drop, taking you right back to the menstrual phase for another period. Here is when you would experience PMS symptoms.
Exercising during each phase
Due to the changing levels of hormones during each phase, your energy levels will vary as well! If you keep track of what phase you’re in, you’ll be able to anticipate when you’ll feel energized or when you might need to rest. These are the best general types of workouts for each phase. Keep in mind it all comes down to how your own body feels.
Menstrual phase (part of follicular phase)
Since your body is going through intense changes during this time, keep movement light and avoid strenuous activity. Brisk walking or low-intensity yoga may be best.
Hormones are rising but are still somewhat low during this phase. As a result, you’ll feel more energized but not your most capable. You may experience low stamina, so if that’s the case avoid activities that call for high endurance. Think light hiking and easy jogs/cardio.
Hormones are peaking here, and your energy levels will reflect this! Take advantage of this energy surge and opt for high-intensity training. Book that spin class during this time.
Now your body is gearing up for another period, and you know that means dropping hormone levels. Low-intensity movements will feel the most manageable. Maybe some pilates.
Eating during each phase
Support your body’s changing needs with nature’s medicine. Certain foods can accommodate the drop of hormones and others are best for periods of high energy. Below are some basic recommendations for each phase.
Since you’re losing blood and iron during this time, opt for food sources with iron to restore supplies. Dark leafy greens, beans, lentils, and fish are best! You may also be experiencing cramps, so anti-inflammatory spices like turmeric will help combat the discomfort. Make sure to stay extra hydrated too, since the process of menstruation may have a negative impact on your gut. To keep digestion moving, water is key.
Estrogen levels are rising now, so foods that metabolize this hormone are ideal. Try adding in sprouted or fermented foods...like kimchi.
Since you’ll have more energy, you may be training and moving more, so refuel accordingly! To make up for lost water due to sweating, pack in the hydrating foods like tomatoes, peppers, berries, and cucumbers.
Show your body some love as it transitions into the taxing state of menstruating. Warming comfort foods are key and totally game here. Roasted sweet potatoes, brown rice, and whole-grain pasta are great choices.
Ovulation and the Menstrual Cycle
Menstrual Period Calculator and Calendar
Can You Get Pregnant on Your Period?