This wellness trend can help relieve some symptoms, but it isn’t for everyone.
Monthly cramps and lack of energy don’t have to be the norm. In fact, with a few changes, you might notice that you’re starting to feel like your best self and that you’re crushing your workouts easier than ever before.
“Your hormones fluctuate throughout your cycle,” says Kristina Reynolds, CNM, midwife at Geisinger Bloomsburg. “Cycle syncing claims you can improve your hormone health by adapting certain behaviors, through diet and exercise, so you can feel your best all month long. And while it might be worth a try, it isn’t always the answer for everyone.”
The phases of your menstrual cycle
Your monthly cycle has phases, and your hormones, and even energy levels, fluctuate as you move through them.
“Typically, we break the cycle into two phases, the ovarian cycle and the uterine cycle,” says Ms. Reynolds. “And within each of those phases, there are three additional phases. But according to the cycle syncing theory, there are just four phases.”
By aligning the cycle’s phases with certain activities — and even by eating certain foods — some people have found relief from period symptoms like cramping and bloating. Some even found they were able to lose stubborn weight or focus better at work.
Phase 1 - Cycle syncing’s follicular phase
Lasting between seven and 10 days, this is the time right after menstruation ends.
Early in the follicular phase, coming off your menstruation, your reproductive hormone levels are low. As this phase continues, the level of estrogen (the hormone responsible for sexual and reproductive development) starts to increase and your metabolism slows.
The increasing estrogen prepares your uterine lining to host an egg and your body sends hormones to your ovaries during this phase, preparing them to release an egg.
Due to the rising estrogen levels, you’ll have all the energy you’ll need to get through more challenging workouts. Now is the time for cardio like running, biking or brisk walking. It’s also a perfect time to try out a new type of exercise or use that energy to increase your productivity at work.
Cycle syncing suggests you focus on eating fresh, light foods to keep you feeling energized in your follicular phase.
Phase 2 - Cycle syncing’s ovulatory phase
Lasting just three or four days, this is the middle of your cycle.
Your estrogen levels continue to increase, and your uterus releases an egg. You’ll also get a surge of testosterone (the hormone that helps produce new blood cells and maintain bone health and libido).
When you enter your ovulatory phase, continue to focus on high-energy workouts. Exercising with weights and running are ideal during this phase since your energy levels will be at their highest. Eat lighter grains (think corn and quinoa), less carbohydrates and lots of fruits and veggies.
Phase 3 - Cycle syncing’s luteal phase
This period lasts for 10 to 14 days and is right before you menstruate.
Your estrogen levels keep rising and your levels of progesterone (the hormone that regulates your blood pressure, improves your mood and quality of sleep and gets your uterus ready for egg fertilization) start to rise. Your metabolism starts to speed up, too.
Throughout the luteal phase, your energy level will begin to shift. In the beginning, you’ll have more energy for higher-intensity exercises. Pay attention to when your energy begins to dip and shift to less intensive exercises, like Pilates, walking, barre and yoga.
Eat plenty of foods high in magnesium, fiber, calcium and B vitamins. Think leafy greens, complex carbohydrates like whole grains and legumes, fruits and veggies.
If the egg released in the ovulatory phase hasn’t been fertilized at the end of this cycle, progesterone production stops, triggering the start of your period.
Phase 4 - Cycle syncing’s menstrual phase
Rounding out your cycle, the menstrual phase lasts between three and seven days. Your progesterone levels decline and your uterus sheds its lining.
In the menstruation phase, you should focus on restorative exercise like yoga and light walking. This time of month, fill up on healthy fats — like avocados, nuts, full-fat yogurts and eggs — water-rich fruits and veggies — like kale, celery, mushrooms and sweet potato — and seafood to replenish your mineral levels.
Listen to your body, and know when to call your doctor
If you’ve signed up for a cycling class with a friend but are feeling sluggish, don’t be afraid to let your friend know you aren’t feeling up to it. Tune into your body and practice self-care when you need it most.
“However, if you try natural treatments or methods like this but are still living with pain, heavy periods, cramping or any symptoms affecting your life, call your provider,” says Ms. Reynolds.
If you have a medical condition causing these symptoms, they can help you determine a diagnosis and treatment to find relief.