The Power of Your Cycle: Discover the Benefits of Cycle Syncing

From period cramps and migraines to increased stress and anxiety, changes across the menstrual cycle can significantly impact individuals who menstruate. But what if we could align our daily lives to enhance our overall well-being and productivity? That is the concept of cycle syncing, an increasingly popular concept where you tailor your habits and lifestyle according to each stage of your menstrual cycle. Here’s the truth about cycle syncing and whether it can really work for you.

What is cycle syncing?

The ebb and flow of hormones across the menstrual cycle is focused on preparing the body for pregnancy. However, a few other experiences are connected with these changes. These hormone fluctuations have been shown to affect mood, cognitive processes, sleep, energy demands, and metabolic conditions. As conversations around periods expand, many are looking at aligning their lifestyles to their menstrual cycle, also known as cycle syncing.

“The idea is to harmonize your lifestyle with the hormonal fluctuations that occur throughout the month, aiming to optimize your well-being and productivity,” says Jessica Boone, MPA, PA-C, Infertility PA, and CEO of a fertility consulting practice.

It is becoming an increasingly accepted practice, but does the science support this concept?

Science behind cycle syncing

Women are vastly underrepresented in scientific studies for various reasons, including the belief that the menstrual cycle introduces 'too many' complications and variables into a study. As a result, research on the menstrual cycle and cycle syncing is very limited. Thus, cycle syncing is not yet scientifically proven to have an impact on physical and mental health.

However, some healthcare providers do believe in the benefits of cycle syncing, especially as it encourages closely paying attention to and remaining in tune with the changing needs of your body across the menstrual cycle.

Phases of the menstrual cycle

Additionally, while data specific to cycle syncing is very limited, the impact of hormonal fluctuations on female biology has been observed across four phases of the menstrual cycle — the menstruation, follicular, ovulation, and luteal phases.

Menstruation

The menstruation phase marks the beginning of the menstrual cycle and typically lasts between two to seven days. At this phase, estrogen and progesterone levels are at their lowest, resulting in feelings of lethargy and moodiness (such as depression and irritability). Many may also experience aches and pains, such as tenderness in the breasts and joint pain, during this phase.

Follicular phase

During the follicular phase — beginning on day one until ovulation (around day 14) – rising estrogen levels lead to the release of follicular-stimulating hormone and luteinizing hormone for facilitating egg maturation within the ovaries. The rise in estrogen, which is believed to protect against psychiatric symptoms, may lead to a surge in energy and mood.

Ovulation

The next phase, ovulation, occurs around the middle of the cycle and is marked by the release of a mature egg from the ovary. This phase is tied to a peak in energy and mood thanks to high estrogen and testosterone levels. However, although inconclusive, a few studies suggest a link between ovulation and an increasing risk of sports injuries due to changes in ligament laxity, neuromuscular control, and strength.

Luteal phase

Next, a temporary organ, known as the corpus luteum, develops in the ovary, starting the luteal phase, which gradually increases progesterone levels. If the egg released during ovulation is not fertilized, these hormone levels decline (around seven days after ovulation), leading to the breakdown of the uterine lining and the start of your period. Hormonal changes during the luteal phase can lead to disruptive emotional and physical symptoms, manifesting as premenstrual syndrome (PMS) or the more severe premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD) for some.

Symptoms of PMDD or PMS could include:

  • Anxiety and/or depression
  • Panic attacks
  • Sudden/severe mood swings
  • Appetite changes
  • Fatigue
  • Anger and/or irritability
  • Concentration issues
  • Problems sleeping
  • Headaches
  • Body pain and aches

Does cycle syncing really work?

According to Boone, “While the concept of cycle syncing is gaining popularity, it’s important to note that scientific research directly supporting its benefits is still emerging. However, understanding and adapting to your body’s natural rhythms can potentially lead to several mental and physical benefits.”

Benefits of cycle syncing

Anecdotal evidence indicates that cycle syncing can be very beneficial for individuals experiencing menstruation. Boone states that the method can be especially appealing to individuals who are seeking a “holistic approach” to manage issues with their menstrual symptoms. “It is also helpful for anyone interested in deepening their understanding of their body’s rhythms and leveraging this knowledge to improve their quality of life.”

Additionally, Dr. Casavant an OBGYN with experience in women's health, minimally invasive surgeries, and holistic care — has seen his patients “significantly improve their symptoms and quality of life by following the principles of cycle syncing.” Furthermore, he believes that “women of reproductive age, especially those experiencing irregular cycles, hormonal imbalances, or severe PMS, can benefit from cycle syncing.”

Cycle syncing and diet

One such possible benefit can be realized by making positive changes in your diet. "Research has shown that adjusting physical activity and dietary intake to align with hormonal changes can lead to better hormonal balance and overall health,” says Dr. Casavant. This includes eating more healthy foods, such as vegetables, fruits, and whole grains, and limiting your intake of ingredients, such as refined sugar, salt, alcohol, and caffeine. Here’s a cycle-syncing food chart of a few recommended foods that may help.

Examples of cycle-syncing diet recommendations:

Recommended foodsCould be most helpfulHighest impact on
Leafy greens
During bleeding (especially heavy menstruation)
Luteal phase
Protein
If exercising for extended lengths of timeFollicular phase
CarbohydratesIf exercising for extended lengths of timeFollicular phase, luteal phase
CalciumFor generally improving PMS symptomsLuteal phase
Vitamin DFor generally improving PMS symptomsLuteal phase
MagnesiumMay help prevent dysmenorrhea, PMS, and menstrual migraineLuteal phase
Vitamin B6For reducing anxiety in older individuals; reduces premenstrual stress when used in combination with magnesiumLuteal phase
Thiamine (B1)For generally improving PMS symptomsLuteal phase
Riboflavin (B2)For generally improving PMS symptoms
Luteal phase

Additionally, foods like curcumin and garlic may potentially have an impact on reducing the severity of PMS.

Cycle syncing and exercise

While no differences have been observed in your ability to exercise throughout your cycle, significant findings have been observed regarding decreasing endurance after ovulation but before your period has started. In addition, exercise has been shown to help reduce painful cramps. Thus, cycle-syncing workouts may be helpful in tailoring your exercise routine across your menstrual cycle. "For example, one study found that women who exercised according to their hormonal phases experienced fewer PMS symptoms and increased exercise performance,” noted Dr. Casavant.

Energy considerations for exercising across the menstrual cycle:

Cycle phaseWhat to considerTypes of exercises
MenstrualEnergy is the lowest here but will start increasing as you approach the next phaseLow-intensity exercises, such as yoga, pilates, and stretching
FollicularIncreasing energy level, nearing peak levels as you approach ovulationHigh-intensity exercises, such as HIIT and plyometrics
OvulationAchieving peak energy levels followed by a noticeable dip; a few studies reveal a possible increased risk of injury during this phase
Low-impact resistance training, such as bodyweight training, swimming, planks, and core workouts
LutealEnergy levels continue to decrease, particularly if no egg is fertilizedLow-to-moderate intensity cardio, such as casual biking, outdoor walks, and hiking

Cycle syncing and mental health

One of the most important potential benefits of cycle syncing is to support mental wellness. As poor or degrading mental health is often an “invisible illness,” it is important to be proactive in supporting this core part of your well-being. According to Boone, "It's okay to slow down, rest, and practice self-care" when at certain stages of your cycle. But also, you can leverage cycling syncing to tackle projects and goals that require a lot of energy in your personal and professional life.

Here are a few recommendations to consider across each stage of your menstrual cycle for both supporting and leveraging your mental well-being.

Mental wellness recommendations by menstrual phase:

Cycle phaseRecommendation
MenstrualKeep your schedule light, plan time for rest, lean into healthy habits, and enjoy your favorite self-care rituals
FollicularStart new creative or work projects or schedule and plan events for the next phase
OvulationEnjoy get-togethers with family and friends or other energy-demanding life or work pursuits
LutealPrioritize self-care and self-reflection; activities like journalling, meditation, and other mindful practices may help to reduce PMS symptoms while allowing you to keep tabs on your mood and emotions

How to implement cycle syncing

There are many different ways you can implement cycle syncing into your lifestyle. Keeping a daily journal recording your energy levels and mood in addition to tracking your period start and end dates can help you identify the changes you experience throughout your cycle. Various types of software are available to help as well. This includes menstrual wellness applications that are available through an app store, as well as fitness trackers or other trackers specifically designed to track your menstrual cycle.

Beyond cycle syncing

According to Dr. Casavant, cycle syncing provides a “structured approach to managing symptoms and optimizing overall health.” However, readers should always remain aware of signs it may be time to reach out for additional support to manage menstrual symptoms — which may actually be more easily identified by closely tracking the menstrual cycle and related symptoms via a method, such as cycle syncing.

If you experience increasing difficulties managing menstrual symptoms, especially if it interferes with your quality of life, be sure to reach out to your healthcare provider, who can recommend therapies to reduce menstrual symptoms. In some cases, antidepressants known as selective serotonin-reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) or therapies such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) could be prescribed to alleviate symptoms of PMDD. Additionally, birth control pills may be prescribed to some individuals to help reduce PMS symptoms or other medicines that suppress ovulation may be considered.

Despite the lack of scientific studies on cycle syncing, there are clear benefits to becoming more in tune with the ongoing changes in your body. Be sure to pay attention to your own needs and do your research to identify healthy changes in your diet and lifestyle that may best support you. Keep in mind that everybody is unique, and what may work well for one person may not work the same for you. It is always important to consult with a healthcare provider before starting a new diet or physical activity, so be sure to reach out to a professional for help determining if and how to incorporate cycle syncing into your lifestyle.

FAQ

Key takeaways:


Leave a reply

Your email will not be published. All fields are required.