- The Origins of Cycle Tracking and Cycle Syncing
- Understanding How Your Body, Cycle, and Periods Work
- Using Cycle Tracking and Cycle Syncing To Live Your Best Life
- Exercise, Nutrition, and Lifestyle For Each Phase
- Making Your Cycle Your Superpower
Cycle Syncing — An Introduction
Period tracking apps have changed the lives of people who menstruate. With the help of technology and our mobile phones, we are able to correctly estimate the day our period starts and ends. Not only that, but we can also understand when we are most likely to ovulate (and get pregnant), identify the changes in our bodies, and also plan vacations around our periods!
But did you know that the 3-7 days of bleeding (normal range) is your period cycle, not your menstrual cycle? In fact, it is only a small part of the overall menstrual cycle that has 4 different phases — the follicular, ovulatory, luteal, and menstruating phases. The cycle lasts between 28 to 35 days for healthy menstruators. Think back to the unexpected dips in your moods, acne breakouts, or even fluctuating energy levels throughout the month. These happen because of the rising and falling hormone levels during various phases of your menstrual cycle. Cycle syncing is a way to bio-hack your menstrual cycle to live in sync with your body as per the different phases of your overall cycle.
Myth Breakdown: Cycle syncing does not mean syncing your period with your friend. It’s only a myth! However, it might comfort you to go through your period with a fellow menstruator. By all means, enjoy the coincidental synchrony! Please note that in this article we will be talking about cycle tracking and cycle syncing in relation to your hormones and menstruation.
The Origins of Cycle Tracking and Cycle Syncing
The term cycle syncing was first coined by Alisa Vitti in her book Woman Code. She is an integrative nutritionist and women’s hormone expert. Cycle syncing involves adjusting aspects of your lifestyle that you can control, such as diet and exercise, as per the phases of your menstrual cycle to correct hormone imbalances. As your hormones become balanced, you start to see reduced symptoms and even manage chronic lifestyle conditions better. Experts have connected cycle syncing to having more effective workouts, increased energy levels, fewer mood swings, and being able to pinpoint the best time to conceive (or not to, if that’s what you prefer).
Think about it deeply: experts have used cycle syncing to enhance fertility for women who want to conceive. This means reducing hormonal imbalances using lifestyle inputs. Unfortunately, we have been accustomed to using this method only for fertility and conception. But you can use it to live a more fulfilling life! Cycle tracking and cycle syncing can help you not just become more fertile, but also have better sex all through the month, be more productive at work by scheduling your work according to your energy levels, or even gain or lose weight sustainably. No matter what your health goal is as a woman, cycle syncing can help you achieve it by helping you build a lifestyle that is in sync with your hormones. No more being disgusted by your periods — they can become your superpower!
Understanding How Your Body, Cycle, and Periods Work
The average length of the menstrual cycle lasts anywhere from 21 to 35 days for healthy individuals. However, a number of environmental and lifestyle factors such as stress, pollution levels, work environments, availability (or lack of) of fresh foods, hygiene habits, exercise, etc. can impact your individual cycle and menstruation.
In order to understand the 4 phases of the menstrual cycle, let’s do a quick anatomy lesson. A person who can menstruate (usually identified as a woman) has two ovaries where eggs are stored, developed, and eventually released when they come of reproductive age. Once an egg is fertilized, it will be implanted in the uterus wall and grow into a fetus. The fallopian tubes are thin tube-like structures that connect the ovaries to the uterus, through which the fertilized egg flows. The entrance to the uterus is the cervix from the vagina. If the egg is not fertilized in any given month, the endometrium lining of the uterus will shed in the form of your period. This shedding is called menstruation. This happens due to a rapid decrease in estrogen and progesterone hormones in your body. The contractions of the womb as the uterine lining sheds can cause cramping and normal periods progress. Some people who have hormonal imbalances can experience nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea along with other such symptoms.
Phase 1: Menstrual Phase
The menstrual phase starts on the first day of the menstrual cycle when you are bleeding. This is called your periods, menstruation, chums, and many other euphemisms in different societies and cultures. This is followed by the follicular, ovulatory, and luteal phases.
Phase 2: Follicular Phase
During this phase, the lining of the womb thickens in preparation for the egg to be fertilized. This period is accompanied by rising levels of estrogen and progesterone hormones. The follicular phase can last about nine days and mood and energy are often higher during this time. Ovulation occurs when there is a rising level of estrogen, which causes the ovarian follicles (or sacs full of eggs) to develop and release an egg.
Phase 3: Ovulatory Phase
The ovulatory phase is when the estrogen and progesterone levels peak and an egg is released from the ovaries. The egg travels down the fallopian tubes into the uterus to be fertilized. The period of ovulation usually leads to increased sexual desires (i.e. you get horny).
Phase 4: Luteal Phase
Finally, we enter the luteal phase. If the egg is fertilized during this phase, it will plant itself on the endometrium lining of the uterus. Pregnancy will be activated and there will no periods. However, if the egg is not fertilized, it will lead to a decrease in estrogen and progesterone hormones. Some people experience higher levels of anxiety and brain fog during this phase. During the late luteal phase, you can also experience symptoms such as bloating, changes in appetite, fatigue, depression, or mood swings.
Using Cycle Tracking and Cycle Syncing To Live Your Best Life
Now you know the big-picture about what’s going on in your body during your menstrual cycle. Now let’s understand how to actually cycle sync through the different phases of your menstrual cycle.
The first step is to start cycle tracking. You can use
the calendar on your phone
personal messages on WhatsApp
one of the period tracking tools
a planner or notebook
If you’re only just tracking your periods, that’s a great place to start. Once you’re comfortable with this, you can also start documenting any changes you notice in your body throughout the whole month. As you are seeing by now, the foundation of cycle syncing is listening to your body.
Exercise, Nutrition, and Lifestyle For Each Phase
One thing to note is that these lifestyle recommendations will help you manage and reduce hormonal imbalances, and also prevent any future imbalance. In case there are certain aspects of these recommendations that don’t fit you perfectly, please speak to your medical expert.
Exercise: Light exercise during the menstrual phase could help reduce cramping by increasing blood flow. However, most menstruators have low energy at this time so walking, yoga, or light stretching would be a good alternative to a heavy sweat sesh.
Nutrition: During the menstrual phase, we see low iron levels so replenishing that with leafy greens, nuts, cereals (poha, oats, corn flakes) lentils, and red meat could help. Also eating foods with B12 and taking omega-3 supplements to combat inflammation and blood loss could counteract feelings of fatigue and low energy. Foods with Vitamin C such as red pepper, broccoli, and oranges can further aid in iron absorption.
General Life: The menstrual phase is when you are the least fertile due to the drop in estrogen levels. You’ll also feel the need for more self-care and recovery. Be conscious of who you spend time around since you will be lower in energy and don’t want to feel further drained.
Exercise: The follicular phase leads to increased estrogen which in turn means higher energy and desire. This would be a good time to take a Zumba class or cardio-heavy exercise.
Nutrition: The follicular phase is a great time to eat foods high in zinc and fermented foods. Zinc helps by nourishing the ovarian follicles as they develop. Try implementing vegetables such as sprouts, cauliflower, spinach, and kale.
General Life: This is a great time to indulge your creativity. You will feel stronger and more motivated to get going. There are lower chances of pregnancy during this phase since the egg is not yet released.
Exercise: The ovulatory phase is usually when we feel our best due to estrogen peaking. Therefore opting for a dance class, high-intensity workout, or strength training would be a smart choice. It’s time to push your body toward high performance.
Nutrition: Once we move into the ovulatory phase, a high sex drive can sometimes lead to low appetite so eating foods high in quality that will sustain you throughout the day is important. Also, vitamin-packed foods such as citrus and berries can help boost serotonin. Couscous and quinoa can help promote a healthy gut microbiome to support hormone balance. You want to keep food light yet packed with energy-boosting properties.
General Life: The ovulatory phase is when you are the most fertile due to the peak in estrogen levels and libido. You will probably feel the most social and in a good mood during this time.
Exercise: The luteal phase can lead to increased feelings of anxiety and fatigue due to dropping estrogen and increasing progesterone. So yoga, pilates, or meditation is a good option. Since your body is not able to retain as much water as the other phases, avoid heavy cardio or hot yoga.
Nutrition: The luteal phase demands foods with healthy fats such as avocados, seeds, and walnuts to support higher energy as the uterine lining rebuilds. Slow-digesting carbohydrates such as sweet potatoes and beans are also a great option for this time. Make sure to eat full meals and stay hydrated as your body needs more energy at this time.
General Life: A peaking progesterone means you will need more rest and sleep during this phase. Don’t push yourself to the brink — use this time to slow down and let your body get comfortable.
The exact meals you have will be unique to your individual requirements. But you can start implementing small changes to the ingredients you use. Remember that adding conscious ingredients doesn’t mean you should forget about maintaining an adequate amount of protein, fiber, healthy fats, and other nutrients throughout your meals.
Of course, cycle syncing is extremely helpful when it comes to tracking fertility. But we urge you to think of your life beyond fertility. What if you could live your best life using your period data? Your cycle can really become your superpower if you learn how to live in sync with your body, instead of against it.
Making Your Cycle Your Superpower
Cycle syncing can be a great way to ease your body into the various stages of your menstrual cycle without experiencing the major effects of hormonal fluctuations. It takes about two to three months to start to feel a difference and get an idea of the various stages. However, with that being said, it’s always important to consult your doctor about any concerns regarding your menstrual cycle before trying to self-soothe with cycle syncing. Being honest about your concerns and keeping a log of your cycle and symptoms can be a great way to bring up any questions with your medical expert.
Disclaimer: We do not provide medical advice. The information, including but not limited to, text, graphics, images and other material contained on this booklet are for informational purposes only. No material in this booklet is intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health care provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment, and before undertaking a new health care regimen, and never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.