Cycle syncing: A self-care approach to nutrition, exercise and daily life

Women's Health

by Baylor Scott & White Health

Mar 30, 2024

Throughout the month, do you notice that on some days you are full of energy, whereas others you feel sluggish? Or do you start craving certain foods while you’re on your period? This is all related to the hormonal shifts of your menstrual cycle.

These fluctuations throughout the month have led to an emerging wellness trend known as “cycle syncing.” But what is it and how can it potentially benefit how you feel?

What is cycle syncing?

Cycle syncing, also known as menstrual cycle syncing or hormonal syncing, is a self-care practice where women align (or "sync") lifestyle elements such as diet and exercise with their menstrual cycle.

The idea behind cycle syncing is to adjust your daily routines to consider the natural hormonal changes that occur throughout the four phases of the menstrual cycle. This allows you to cater to your energy levels, physical changes and mood fluctuations.

If you’re curious about how cycle syncing can help you optimize your life, read on to discover the benefits and practical steps to start today.

What are the benefits of cycle syncing?

The essence of menstrual cycle syncing is being in tune with your body and understanding what food or movement will make you feel your best. As with any practice of listening to your body, there may be several benefits of cycle syncing, such as:

  • Enhanced mood
  • Balanced hormones
  • Improved energy
  • Increased productivity
  • Premenstrual symptom (PMS) relief

The menstrual cycle syncing phases

There are four phases of your menstrual cycle, but the exact timings vary from person to person. Here’s an overview of what’s going on in your body and how you can expect to feel during each phase:

  • Menstruation (days 1-5): Your levels of estrogen and progesterone drop as the uterus sheds its lining. Common symptoms during this phase are cramping, bloating, fatigue and mood changes, and this phase is often associated with low energy levels and significant hormonal fluctuations.
  • Follicular phase (days 6-14): As your estrogen levels rise, energy levels typically increase. Symptoms include increased energy and motivation, as well as improved mood.
  • Ovulation (day 14): This phase occurs around mid-cycle when estrogen levels peak and ovulation occurs. Common symptoms include abdominal bloating and pelvic discomfort.
  • Luteal phase (days 15-28): Progesterone levels rise during this phase, which may lead to increased appetite, bloating and mood fluctuations for some people.

Can you cycle sync on birth control?

Cycle syncing on birth control is possible, but it varies by the type. Hormonal birth controls, such as the pill or an intrauterine device (IUD), regulate hormones but may still induce a monthly bleed. This means that cycle syncing practices can still have a positive impact on hormone shifts and cramping.

Non-hormonal birth controls like barrier methods and fertility tracking do not impact the natural hormonal cycle, which means you can track your cycle and adjust your routine as normal.

Life transitions: Cycle syncing and menopause

Cycle syncing can be especially beneficial for women going through perimenopause due to the unpredictability of your period as you start to enter menopause. Estrogen levels will begin to drop, which can leave you feeling tired and unmotivated.

Focus on starting to shift your exercise routines toward more low intensity style workouts such as light walking, yoga or Pilates. Due to the hormone fluctuations during menopause, it also may be more difficult for your body to recover from bouts of exercise. Therefore, be intentional about getting adequate and quality sleep, drink plenty of water and consume a well-balanced diet to ensure your body is prepped and ready for your next workout.

Once your cycle completely stops and you enter menopause, you will have established healthy habits in place for living well in this new phase of life.

How to cycle sync

To begin cycle syncing, you'll need to start tracking your menstrual cycle and the four different phases. You can do this by using a calendar or there are several apps and tools available to help you with this.

Once you have a clear idea of the length and symptoms of your cycle, you'll be able to tailor your lifestyle and choices to each phase.

Cycle syncing your workouts

Cycle syncing your workouts means altering your exercise routines in relation to which stage of your menstrual cycle you are in and the hormonal changes that come with each stage.

“The body requires different levels of energy through the menstrual cycle in preparation to either ovulate or menstruate,” said Gillian Koskie, an exercise physiologist at Baylor Scott & White All Saints Medical Center — Fort Worth. “Therefore, depending on which part of the cycle you are in, you can shift your focus to either rest and recovery or higher intensity workouts,”

Cycle syncing your diet

Cycle syncing your diet informs what you eat and drink throughout your menstrual cycle. From prioritizing certain foods to increasing your hydration, it’s a method of easing menstrual symptoms and giving your body the right fuel it needs to feel your best.

During menstruation, for example, iron levels may decrease due to blood loss, so eating iron-rich foods such as leafy greens and lean meats can prevent feelings of fatigue. The luteal phase sees progesterone levels rise and can lead to craving carbohydrates and sweets.

Cycle syncing and fertility

Cycle syncing itself is not a fertility treatment or any guarantee of fertility. But understanding your menstrual cycle and its various phases can provide excellent insights into your fertility window and hormonal fluctuations, allowing you to know optimal times for conception.

Is cycle syncing right for you?

Listening to your body is a huge part of feeling your best each day. Having a deep understanding of your body’s hormonal fluctuations can be very beneficial throughout your life—particularly if you notice significant changes that could indicate a health condition.

Cycle syncing is a holistic approach to wellness for you to align with your body's needs. If you’re curious about cycle syncing, connect with an OBGYN today.

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