Ever feel like you have endless energy one week, then the next, you can barely get out of bed? That's the result of shifting hormones within menstruation. Anyone who menstruates has four distinct menstrual phases. And through each one, everything fluctuates. Yup, hormones take the wheel and change energy levels, sex drive, mood, and cravings - to name a few. But there is a way you can take back control and help yourself ease with the constant changes. Learning how to start cycle syncing your health routine is your ticket to survive and thrive through any hormonal imbalances.
What is cycle syncing?
First introduced by Alisa Vitti, a hormone expert, and integrative nutritionist, cycle syncing involves adjusting your health routine according to your menstrual cycles. This adjustment is an effective way to assist in correcting hormonal balances and feeling better through each phase of your monthly rotation. Sounds great, but what are the benefits? Experts believe cycle syncing provides increased energy, higher productivity, fewer mood swings, more effective workouts, and fertility support. In fact, getting ahead of your hormone fluctuations trains your body for prime fertility - you learn the best time to conceive.
What are the four menstrual cycle phases?
Anyone who menstruates experiences four distinct cycles within a month - it's a lot! Yet, strengthening your understanding of how your body reacts to each one is key to cycle-syncing.
- The menstrual phase. The first day of vaginal bleeding is day one of this phase. Estrogen and progesterone levels plummet, causing the uterus to shed its lining (your period). Pain, general discomfort, and other symptoms such as headaches, nausea, diarrhea, and vomiting may occur. This phase lasts between two to eight days.
- Follicular phase. This phase occurs during the first half of your cycle. The pituitary gland releases a hormone called the follicle-stimulating hormone, which develops in your ovary, giving way to its name. Estrogen and progesterone levels begin to rise and provide you a little more pep in your step.
Ovulatory phase. This phase lasts about three days and lays the foundation for prime ovulation. Several things happen; your estrogen peaks, progesterone levels increase, and an egg is released from a follicle in your ovary. As a result, your confidence and sex drive skyrocket.
- Luteal phase. The beginning of this phase feels similar to the ovulatory phase; your estrogen and progesterone levels are high. But if pregnancy doesn't occur, your hormone levels drop again, causing symptoms like brain fog, difficulties concentrating, and PMS. This phase lasts around 12-14 days.
How to start cycle syncing: 4 Tips
1. Track the changes
The first tip to learning how to start cycle syncing is tracking your cycle. It will increase your body awareness and familiarize you with every change happening in each distinct phase. Using a calendar or an app is a simple way to track hormone fluctuations and energy changes.
2. Sync your exercise
Everything should be tailored to your menstruation, and exercise is no exception. As your body progresses through each cycle, ask yourself how you feel and prioritize what you need.
In the menstrual phase, you may not have the energy to exercise. You may want to hibernate - this is perfectly fine. Therefore, tune into your body and move in a way that is loving, caring, and nurturing. If you feel inclined to move, choose gentler forms of exercise such as swimming, long walks in nature, or light yoga.
In the follicular phase, estrogen levels will rise, increasing your energy and desire to move. Inch away from your hibernation cave and choose a higher-intensity class or workout that feels good. Yet, if you’re still feeling ill, try working out at home.
While you have more energy in the follicular phase, you'll feel even better in the ovulatory phase from your boosted sex drive and confidence. Don't hold back and enjoy a lot of physical activity. Have you ever wanted to try Crossfit or kickboxing? This phase is the best time to get the most power, so try new workouts and push yourself.
During the last phase of your cycle, the luteal phase, your hormone levels start to decline again. Your body is preparing for menstruation, and you may feel conflicting energy levels. You may feel anxious, tired, or depressed. Therefore, prioritize mobility and recovery workouts like yoga, pilates, and meditation.
Remember to listen to your body through each phase. If you want to push yourself, go for it. But if you want to hold back, it's okay. Don't punish yourself. And instead, give your body the love it needs.
3. Foods to enjoy in every phase
Similar to exercise, your body has different nutritional needs within each phase. While you may want the same meals every day to save time (life can get busy), your body needs adjustment as you progress.
During menstruation, your iron levels are typically lower, and your body needs certain foods to combat blood loss and inflammation. Therefore, eat iron-enriched foods like greens, nuts, and meat - depending on your diet. And for omega-3 and B-12, eat eggs, walnuts, seeds, and fortified cereals.
In the follicular phase, prioritize foods that support the follicle development in the ovary and ones that metabolize estrogen. For example, Alisa Vitti recommends eating foods with prebiotics, such as kimchi, sauerkraut, and broccoli sprouts.
When you enter the ovulation phase, your estrogen levels are at their peak. Therefore, choose nutritional foods that support your liver to protect it against rising hormones. Antioxidant-rich fruit like berries, sweet potatoes, avocados, asparagus, and kale, including fiber-rich veggies like greens, brussel sprouts, and okra, will do the trick. Many of these foods also support fertility.
Lastly, the luteal phase requires more energy from foods that will aid in repairing your uterine lining. Therefore, eat foods high in healthy fats like walnuts, seeds, avocado, fish, and magnesium/calcium-rich foods like beans, yogurt, greens, and whole grains.
While these nutritional recommendations are important, the biggest takeaway is to eat well-balanced meals regardless of your cycle. Protein, fiber, fats, and antioxidants will benefit your overall health and wellbeing.
4. Sync sex and fertility
Shifting hormone levels even affect sex drive. Anyone who menstruates will experience peak estrogen levels during the ovulatory phase and increased libido, making it the best phase to sync with fertility. Conversely, estrogen levels plummet during the menstrual phase, making it the least fertile time. If your goal is pregnancy, knowing which phase you’re in makes a difference. However, keep in mind that it's possible to get pregnant during any phase, but factors may affect the chance.
Cycle sync with Oova
Are you ready to practice what you learned about how to start cycle-syncing? These tips will prepare your body for each phase and increase your mind-body awareness. But remember to prioritize what makes you feel good. If you’re craving certain foods, go for it - we all deserve a treat. Or, if you don’t feel like working out, go easy on yourself. And if you’re in the ovulatory phase and want to discover the best time to get pregnant, we recommend using the Oova kit, which tracks hormone changes and makes your ovulation journey easier.
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