Cycle Syncing: How to work with your hormones in each phase of your cycle

Cycle syncing is a method that aligns your exercise, nutrition and overall lifestyle to the natural rhythm of your menstrual cycle, which can help to reduce symptoms, optimize performance and improve overall well-being.

illustration different moods during each phase of the menstrual cycle

If you menstruate, you're probably all too familiar with the discomfort and symptoms that come with it. From cramps and bloating to fatigue and mood swings, these symptoms can make it difficult to focus on daily tasks, let alone maintain a consistent exercise routine.

But what if there was a way to alleviate these symptoms and help you feel good throughout your cycle?

Cycle syncing is a method that aligns your exercise, nutrition and overall lifestyle to the natural rhythm of your menstrual cycle, which can help to reduce symptoms, optimize performance and improve overall well-being. In this article, we will delve into the specific symptoms that cycle syncing can alleviate and how to implement it into your routine for a healthier and more balanced life.

What is cycle syncing?

Cycle syncing, also known as menstrual cycle syncing, was first coined by Alice Vitti, an expert in women's hormones and integrative nutrition, in her book “Woman Code” in 2014. In simple terms, cycle syncing involves aligning lifestyle factors like diet, exercise, sleep patterns, social commitments and more, in accordance with the different phases of your menstrual cycle to improve hormone balance and alleviate symptoms associated with hormones.

As mentioned by Dr Natalie Brown in our video article, Phases of The Menstrual Cycle Explained, -

“By understanding your body, you can start working with it rather than against it or fighting the negative symptoms of the menstrual cycle.”

This approach can help optimize your health and fitness goals by taking into account the unique hormonal changes that occur during each phase of your menstrual cycle.

Moods during each stage of the menstrual cycle that are used in cycle syncing

Understanding the importance of cycle syncing for the menstrual cycle

The menstrual cycle is often mistaken for menstruation (period). However, your period is just the first part of your cycle, which starts on the day you start bleeding and ends when your next period starts.

Understanding the menstrual cycle and how it impacts your body and mind can help you understand changes in your hair, skin, bowel movements, mental health, physical strength, sex drive and so on.

Based on a recent study (2020) on menstrual cycle length, a typical cycle lasts for an average of 27-29 days, and can be divided into 4 phases:

  • Menstrual phase
  • Follicular phase
  • Ovulatory phase
  • Luteal phase
changes in hormones and uterus lining in the different phases of the menstrual cycle

Phase 1: Menstrual phase

The menstrual phase is the first phase of your menstrual cycle which usually lasts between 3 to 7 days, and is characterized by the shedding of the lining of the uterus (also known as the endometrium).

During this phase, your estrogen and progesterone levels are low, which can lead to feelings of fatigue and bloating.

Note, though we referr to this time as the menstrual phase, it's also the beggining of the follicular phase (see image above).

Phase 2: Late Follicular phase

The late follicular phase is the second phase of your menstrual cycle which can last from 14 to 21 days, and is characterized by the growth of new follicles in the ovaries.

During this phase, your estrogen levels gradually increase, which can improve your mood and energy levels.

Phase 3: Ovulation and Mid Luteal Phase

The ovulatory phase is the third phase of your menstrual cycle which typically lasts for about 1 to 2 days, and is characterized by the release of an egg from the ovaries (also known as ovulation).

During this phase, your estrogen and progesterone levels are at their highest, which can boost your mood, energy levels, and libido.

Phase 4: Late Luteal phase

The luteal phase is the final phase of your menstrual cycle, and is characterized by the development of the corpus luteum in the ovaries.

During this phase, your progesterone levels increase, which can cause symptoms such as bloating, breast tenderness, and mood changes.

breakdown of the different phases of the menstrual cycle

Each phase is characterized by specific hormonal changes that can affect your mental health and physical health.  Now that we know the key hormonal changes, we can discuss more about how to adapt your nutrition and fitness routine to support your physical and mental health, and maximize its benefits

If you would like to read a more in-depth explanation, find it here in our complete article on -  The Menstrual Cycle - Phases, Hormones and Their Functions

Benefits of cycle syncing

According to experts cycle syncing can offer several benefits for women, including:

  • Improve hormonal balance
  • Reduce PMS symptoms such as bloating, mood swings and cravings
  • Make your workout routine more effective
  • Reduce the risk of injury during a workout
  • Reduce period symptoms such as period pain and mood swings
  • Feel more energized and balanced
  • Provide fertility support and when best to conceive
  • Better quality of sleep
benefits of cycle syncing

Who can benefit the most from cycle syncing?

It’s important to note that every person is different and some will experience severe symptoms throughout their cycle whilst others will not be greatly impacted.

Understanding cycle syncing can benefit every person who menstruates, especially if you do not feel at your best in all phases of your cycle (i.e. suffer from PMS).

That being said, based on a study done in 2016 on a group of women aged from 25 to 46, you may benefit the most from cycle syncing if you are:

  • Overweight
  • Over fatigued
  • Continuously low on libido
  • Finding it hard to conceive

How long does it take to feel the effects of cycle syncing?

Since each of us women have a different cycle pattern, it is a bit hard to pinpoint the exact timeframe to start feeling the effects of cycle syncing.

That being said, on an average, it can take up to 3 months for you to start feeling the effects of cycle syncing.

How to cycle sync during each phase of the menstrual cycle?

In a previous section, we explained the different hormonal fluctuations that you would face during each phase of the menstrual cycle.

In this section, we shall discuss how you can utilize those fluctuations and tailor them to your fitness routine, nutrition plan and fertility to make the best of it.

How to cycle sync during your follicular phase

During the menstrual phase, your energy levels are likely to be at its lowest, due to your estrogen and progesterone levels being low, and the potential loss of nutrients from bleeding. This can lead to feelings of fatigue and bloating.

cycle syncing nutrition, workout and mental wellness guidelines for the menstrual phase

Exercise cycle syncing guidelines during the menstrual phase

As you are low on energy levels, this is definitely not your moment to do high-intensity workouts. It is best recommended to take rest during this phase.

As for workouts, try low-impact exercises during your menstrual phase like:

  • Relaxing yoga poses
  • Light cardio, like walking and hiking
  • Stretching

Note these are generic guidelines. Some people report feeling strong and energised from day 2 of their cycle. If so, listen to your body and amend your workouts to fit your needs.

Nutrition cycle syncing guidelines during the menstrual phase

Food focus: Nutrients, warmth & comfort

To support your health and wellbeing during this phase, focus on eating foods that are high in fiber,iron,zinc and antioxidants. These foods can help alleviate bloating and support overall health.

Add these food items to your shopping list for the menstrual phase:

  • Sweet potato
  • Kelp or similar sea vegetables
  • Brown rice Kefir or probiotic yogurts
  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Millet- based cereals
  • Wheat germ
  • Protein such as beef / chicken
  • Lentils
  • Fish
  • Eggs
  • Tofu
  • Nuts

Mental wellness cycle syncing guidelines during the menstrual phase

As this phase puts you in a low energy state, it is important to spend a little time for yourself and explore your inner self.

Practice a few of these for a better state of mind during your menstrual phase:

How to cycle sync during your follicular phase

During this phase, your estrogen levels gradually increase, which can improve your mood and energy levels. Symptoms like cramping that occur during the menstrual phase often do not occur in the follicular phase.

cycle syncing nutrition, workout and mental wellness guidelines for the follicular phase

Exercise cycle syncing guidelines during the follicular phase

Now that your energy levels are starting to kick back in, this is a good time to ramp up your workouts and try more challenging activities.

Some of the workouts you can include during your follicular phase are:

  • HIIT (high-intensity interval training)
  • Boxing
  • Strength training
  • Swimming
  • Running
  • Hiking

Nutrition cycle syncing guidelines during the follicular phase

Food focus: Fresh, light and repair

In terms of nutrition, focus on eating protein-rich foods, which can help support muscle growth and repair. It is also important to include adequate fiber during this stage to support the body’s metabolism of estrogen.

Add these food items to your shopping list for the follicular phase:

  • Leafy green vegetables
  • Flaxseeds and pumpkin seeds
  • Avocado
  • Broccoli
  • Nuts/seed mix
  • Probiotic yogurt
  • Olive oil
  • Zucchini
  • Fish (Salmon)

Mental wellness - cycle syncing guidelines during the follicular phase

During this phase, you are likely to feel more creative, upbeat and optimistic. Utilise this time to do activities like:

  • Brainstorming and planning
  • Try new things
  • Socialising

How to cycle sync during your ovulation phase

During this phase, your estrogen and progesterone levels are at their highest, which can boost your mood, energy levels, and libido. Ovulation phase is the stage at which your body is getting ready for potential pregnancy.

cycle syncing nutrition, workout and mental wellness guidelines for the ovulation phase

Ovulation phase workouts

This is a great time to focus on taking advantage of your increased energy levels. Keep in mind, not to overdo your training, as it could decrease your sex hormone-binding globulin (SHBG) resulting in lower fertility.

Some of the workouts you can include during your ovulation phase are:

  • HIIT (high intensity interval training)
  • Cycling
  • Running
  • Circuit training
  • Boxing

Foods to eat during the ovulation phase

Food focus: Fibrous, strength and recovery

Focus on eating a balanced diet that includes a variety of fruits, vegetables, and healthy fats, which can support overall health and wellbeing.

Add these food items to your shopping list for the ovulation phase:

  • Quinoa
  • Eggs
  • Kale
  • Tomatoes
  • Flaxseeds & pumpkin seeds
  • Fruits: Berries, citrus fruits, papaya
  • Leafy green vegetables
  • Wholegrain: breads, pasta, rice

Ovulation phase mindset

Ovulation phase is the peak moment of your mindset. You will feel more confident and magnetic. Completely utilise this moment to indulge in:

  • Socialising
  • Public speaking
  • Planning and prepping
  • Collaborations

How to cycle sync during your luteal phase

During this phase, your progesterone levels increase, which can cause symptoms such as bloating, breast tenderness, and mood changes. If your egg hasn’t been fertilised during your cycle, this phase is where your body gets ready for menstruation. Your progesterone peaks, but then drops shortly. Oesterogen also drops hard. This stage can be when premenstrual syndrome or PMS may occur.

cycle syncing nutrition, workout and mental wellness guidelines for the luteal phase

Luteal phase workouts

During this final phase of your cycle, you are likely to still have a little bit of energy reserve left, but it will drop shortly after. It is a good idea to start pulling back a little bit and start prepping for the menstrual phase in terms of workouts

Some of the workouts you can include during your luteal phase are:

  • Yoga
  • Strength training (light)
  • Pilates
  • Low intensity cardio

Foods to eat during the luteal phase

Luteal food focus: Limit cravings, health and mindful

focus on eating foods that are high in complex carbohydrates, which can help regulate your mood and energy levels. During the luteal phase, you are likely to experience heavy cravings and mood changes. So it is key to provide your body with the nutrients it needs, but not the wrong ones.

Add these food items to your shopping list for the luteal phase:

  • Lentils
  • Dark chocolate
  • Caffeine- free herbal teas
  • Sesame seeds
  • Spinach
  • Brown rice
  • Protein(tofu, chicken, lean meats, fish)
  • Berries
  • Fruits (Apple)

Luteal phase mindset

During the luteal phase, you might be feeling more fatigued and less sociable. Your mind is also more prone to experiencing anxiety and overthinking.

This is the best moment to indulge in:

  • Planning
  • Project preparations
  • Self analysing

Fitness and cycle syncing

As discussed in the previous section, it is best to cater your workout to the different phases that your cycle will take you through.

For ease, here is a hormonal workout plan for you to save to plan your workout calendar

workouts to be done during cycle syncing in each phase of the menstrual cycle

Nutrition and cycle syncing

Nutrition during cycle syncing depends on your hormonal requirements at each of your phases as we discussed.

Here is a cycle-syncing food chart for you to save to plan your nutrition calendar and shopping list.

foodlist and nutrition during cycle syncing in each phase of the menstrual cycle

Sex and fertility and cycle syncing

As hormone levels highten and lower, so does your libido. Your sex drive peaks the most when you are in your ovulation phase, syncing with your body when it's most fertile. The menstrual phase is the least fertile phase of the month.

If you are looking for pregnancy or the best fertile window, it is best recommended to use a period tracking app like Elara care, Flo or Clue to make sure which part of the cycle you are currently in.

Can cycle syncing help with weight loss?

Cycle syncing workouts are designed to give the best output based on the phase of the menstrual cycle that a woman is in at the moment. By using this method of exercise, cycle syncing can definitely help with weight loss, hormone balance, better sleep, sex drive, and so much more.

How to start cycle syncing?

To start cycle syncing, the first step is to track your period and to identify which phase you are currently in. If you are facing irregular patterns, it would be wise to also note down your energy and mood levels.

Once you have identified your phase in the menstrual cycle, set guidelines of how to eat and exercise to best support your body during these phases.

You can also use your body's natural cues to identify when your phase changes.

If you are looking for a one stop destination to track and help you out with the whole journey of cycle syncing, we highly recommend trying out our free Elara Care app which is now available in the apple app store.

cycle syncing

Does cycle syncing actually work?

The simple answer is - Cycle syncing works.

So, why are most women still not following this emerging trend? Why do some women tend to give up on cycle syncing mid way through?

“Sticking on to this procedure of cycle syncing, is easier said than done”
A study in 2004 showed that about 46% women have a fluctuating pattern in their cycle length by about 7 days. A further 20% of them had a fluctuation of about 14 days. This simply means your cycle would differ from another woman, therefore generally following a few steps would just not be enough to see the same results as another would see.

Furthermore, the responses of progesterone and estrogen may exhibit huge variations between cycles and different women. Some women facing certain health conditions may also lack estrogen and progesterone.

It is therefore important to track your cycle with a good period tracking app and to follow tailored suggestions and procedures supporting your body and cycle, especially if you feel like you haven't been able to experience much differences even after following all the steps in this article.

At Elara care, we have dedicated our platform and free mobile app to help you track your period, get tailored recommendations, expert advises, community support and much more.

Come join us, Get your free Elara care app here.

download the elara care mobile app

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