Okay, I know I’m late to the hormone game, but I’ve recently discovered cycle syncing, and I will never look back for as long as I live.
If you don’t know what cycle syncing is, let me introduce you to probably the biggest game changer for those of us who have menstrual cycles.
Cycle syncing is when you intentionally line up your lifestyle to work with the different phases of your menstrual cycle (I only recently learned you have more than one.) You have four: Period, Follicular, Ovulation, and Luteal. I, a 25-year-old woman, just learned about the full spectrum of my fcycle, and it has answered so many problems I’ve had with mood, consistency, diet, and more.
Menstruating people deserve to know more about their bodies! My blood is boiling because I wasn’t taught about the menstrual phases earlier in my life. I was told that you PMS, bleed, and move on until the next month.
Exactly How to Start Cycle Syncing (& How It Changed My Life!)
There’s so much more magic to it than just that. I was denied a comprehensive understanding of my health for too many years, and so for the young people who haven’t been taught this in school or those older who are sick and tired of letting their hormones run their lives, this article is for you.
With today’s tech and cycle syncing apps, getting started and staying consistent is easy. It’s 2023, and it’s time we knew more about their bodies and period cycle syncing!
So, let’s get into the nitty-gritty of how to start cycle syncing, like what to do during luteal phase, what’s going on in your body during each stage, and how you can track your mood to your hormone levels. Oh, and we’ll talk about the most burning question of all: does cycle syncing really work?
What Is the Cycle Syncing Method?
The cycle syncing method is when you track each phase of your menstrual cycle so you can optimize your routine to help alleviate symptoms and connect better with your body.
People use the cycle syncing method in various ways. Some people use it to get into the best exercise routine, while others do it to regulate their diet and understand cravings.
It’s also a potential way to balance hormones for people with polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) and reduce symptoms of premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD).
I use it to understand my mood swings and better connect with my body so that I can always remain graceful with myself.
But what is it? Here’s the official rundown on what it means to cycle sync.
Starting With the Basics
Okay, for people with an internal reproductive system, you run on a 21 to 35 day cycle. To put this into perspective, people with external reproductive systems’ cycles only last 24 hours. So if you’ve ever wondered why some people in your life can keep such consistency in their workouts or routines, it might just be because they reset every day.
Menstruating people have a longer reset time. Within about a month, we cycle through the four phases I mentioned earlier: Menstrual (bleeding), Follicular, Ovulation, and Luteal.
Each phase comes with its perks and drawbacks including varying energy levels. Here’s a breakdown of each phase:
- Menstrual (or Period): The first day you bleed is the first day of your menstrual cycle, and hormones like estrogen and progesterone levels are at their lowest resulting in symptoms we all know including low energy. It lasts for on average about 5 days.
- Follicular: For about 2 weeks after your period, you’re FULL of energy and power. while your luteal phase is more sluggish with energy levels lowering.
- Ovulation: A two day period where energy is at its highest. You’re feeling GOOD! Confident and ready to take on the world!
- Luteal: Energy dips big time, and your cravings kick in like crazy! It lasts about two weeks.
Learning how to track each of these phases and knowing what your body needs for each stage is a game changer.
For most of my life, I have never been consistent with exercise, healthy food, or lifestyle choices. This was because I felt I always needed to show up better than before. I needed to be on the rise and there was no falling back. There was no reason I shouldn’t be just as strong as my male counterparts every single day.
So, when I reached the more sluggish phases of my cycle, I felt like I wasn’t good enough and gave up completely. Once I learned about the four phases of a woman’s cycle, my eyes opened. We live in a patriarchal society. We run on a 24-hour timeline each day, each week, each month. We do not thrive in this kind of timeline.
When I began allowing myself room to be slower during certain areas of the month and more powerful other times, I became consistent. I became happier and I became more confident. I no longer run on a 24-hour cycle and you don’t need to either.
How To Start Cycle Syncing
So, now that you have a better understanding of a woman’s four phases, let’s get into how you can start cycle-syncing and what you can do for each phase of your cycle.
Cycle Syncing Apps
The best way to start this is by downloading an app that can track each phase and give you daily reminders of where you are currently in your menstrual cycle.
There are a lot out there, but my top pick is Stardust. They’re a women-run app that has made it fun to track your cycle phase.
If you’re on a form of birth control that suppresses your period, like an IUD or implant, you can still track each phase with your basal body temperature. You can take your temperature every morning and record it. Planned Parenthood has a great article on how to do this properly.
You can switch to an app once you know when you’re supposed to be bleeding from the womb (as my mother likes to put it). Side note: If you are on hormonal birth control, cycle syncing may not work for you, but getting in tune is never a bad idea.
Now, we get into the phases and all the good things that come with them.
The Menstrual Phase
This is the blank slate stage (well, metaphorically.) The menstrual phase is when your body is shedding its uterine lining. You might know it best as your period.
(Oh, and THINX makes amazing period underwear I’ve been using for over a year. They are worth the investment, trust me.)
When you’re in this phase, it’s basically your body taking down the party decorations it made in preparation for a baby, but the baby never showed. This phase lasts anywhere from three to seven days, and it’s probably the phase you’re most accustomed to knowing.
Your energy levels in your menstrual phase are low as your progesterone and estrogen levels are low. So you’re going to feel like a slug. This time is also coined as the “inner winter” stage in your cycle because it’s a time for you to hibernate and rest up.
During this first stage, take it slow to optimize your well-being and mental health. Don’t push yourself. You deserve to let your body rest.
To break it down into a more digestible form, here’s a list of exercises, food, and habits your body will love during these three to seven days.
Keep your Exercise light and simple with these options:
- Nature walks
- Light pilates
Your body needs a lot of nutrient-dense foods as it’s fighting off inflammation and losing iron. Here are a few foods you can incorporate during this time:
- Brown rice
- Chamomile tea
This phase is about resting and taking up space for yourself, which means your habits get more relaxed. Here are a few habits I like to maintain during this phase:
- Watching Netflix
You don’t have to follow these period cycle syncing tips to a tee. They’re suggestions you might try and you can evaluate how they make you feel. Since everybody’s body is different, some things might make you feel good while others don’t.
The main thing is to listen to yourself and what your body is trying to tell you!
Okay, you’ve made it out of the trenches and entered the follicular cycle phase.
This phase in your cycle lasts anywhere from 6-15 days and during this time, you will slowly feel more and more powerful as you inch closer to ovulation. Also known as the “inner spring,” this is a time for you to get back into action slowly.
To keep your body and your mind happy, this is the time to kick it into a higher gear for exercise as your hormone levels rise.
Here are a few exercises to try out:
- Strength training
- HIIT workouts
Creating a weight loss program adapted to my cycle has allowed me to maintain a consistent weight, and I couldn’t be happier! My body and mind are finally in sync.
During this phase, your estrogen levels are rising, so taking in vitamin E rich foods can boost your metabolism is essential. Here are a few options to add to your cycle-syncing diet:
- Leafy Greens
- Fermented food such as yogurt or kimchi
Finally, your habits for this phase could include:
- Arts & crafts
- Planning adventures
- Going on said adventures
During this phase, you may also notice that you feel more attractive. I don’t know what it is exactly, but I swear I look like a supermodel during my follicular phase.
Well, well, well. Welcome to ovulation.
The ovulatory stage is your spiciest phase when your egg is being delivered via the fallopian tube. It’s a quick turnaround at about 24 hours. It’s also coined “inner summer.”
During the ovulatory phase, you’ll be feeling amazing. Libido is skyrocketing (hello, sex drive!), energy is bouncing off the walls, and you’re ready to tackle a bear. Your blood sugar levels are climbing a building during this period.
As per the last phase, you can stick to these higher intensity workouts:
- HITT workouts
- Strength training
Food should be high in protein and fiber, as you may have some slight digestive issues today. Foods for this stage can include:
- Lean meats like chicken or turkey
Habits are similar to your follicular phase such as:
- Creative crafts
- Going on adventures
- Enjoying a night out
- Enjoying a night in with your boo (*wink* *wink*)
Keep in mind that the diet, exercise, and habits I suggest here are all up for interpretation and ultimately, you need to play around for the first few months you do period syncing before you know what your body needs.
As I write this article, I’m in the thick of my Luteal phase. You may recognize PMS symptoms at this stage (premenstrual syndrome) like bloating, irritability, and a slow gnawing ache for chocolate and salty foods.
What’s happening in your body is progesterone is rising and preparing for another baby party.
I give myself the most care during this phase and my menstrual phase because I need it the most, both nutritionally and emotionally.
So, to start off, eat foods that are nutrient dense foods as well as healthy fats. Below are some luteal phase foods you can test out on your next cycle:
- Dark chocolate
- Pumpkin seeds
- Salmon and tuna
This phase of your menstrual cycle increases appetite, so don’t be afraid to pack a little more to your plate.
Cycle syncing workouts during this phase are winding down. Usually, I can still get in some HIIT workouts at the beginning of the Luteal phase because it’s about 14 days long, but I need to slow it down by the end.
Here are a few exercises to test out for the Luteal phase:
- Strength training
- Light jog
Since my mental health is all up in the air during this phase, it’s important to stay as grounded as I can. These are the habits I like to maintain during this phase:
- Freewrite journaling (don’t think, just write)
- Reading before bed
- Rom Coms on repeat
- Reaching out to supportive people (especially if I need to vent and unload my hormonal frustrations)
All menstrual cycles vary, but these few tips and tricks should help to get you on track with knowing what your body needs while also reducing symptoms of PMS, cramps, and helping with your physical & mental health.
Being in tune with my menstrual cycle phases has given me a new kind of confidence and connection to the world, including spiritually. I highly recommend figuring out when your cycle is working with the phases of the Moon. It gives you total divine feminine energy.
Whimsy Writer Kerasa wrote an incredible article on how your cycle is tied to the moon cycle, so be sure to check that out! on what your cycle has to do with the Moon! Oh, and while you’re at it, you can start experimenting with Moon rituals outside of your regular cycle (just to add in more witchy vibes for fall)!
Cycle Syncing FAQs
So, now that I’ve given you the rundown on cycle syncing, let’s answer the bigger questions:
How long does it take for cycle syncing to work?
For me, cycle syncing took around two months to get the hang of. The first month, I was really just trying to escape the cycle of misunderstanding my emotions, hormones, and behavior.
By the second month, I could identify what I was feeling, why I was feeling it, and what to do about it. I would say once you reach month three, you’ll have a pretty good handle on how to proactively care for yourself in each phase of your cycle.
Does Cycle Syncing Actually Work?
Listen, it works for me.
The New York Times says it’s not very feasible for the everyday person. They analyzed a women’s soccer team whose coach performed a sort of randomized controlled trial where she had the players track their cycle and gave them specific routines for each phase.
They said it was too much work and inconsistent, but they did say that the benefit of a woman being more in tune with her body overall was a plus.
And that’s the whole point of it. No, it’s not a perfect plan or a perfect system, but it does help. Especially for those who struggle with hormone imbalances like Polycystic Ovary Syndrome, it can help foster hormonal balance.
It provides more explanation into why you’re feeling the way you are every day of the year, and with this, you can remain consistent with good things in your life.
While the goal of cycle syncing isn’t weight loss, but rather tapping into what your body needs and your overall well-being, it did help me to reach some related goals.
The main thing was I didn’t beat myself up every time I “fell behind” on routines/schedules. With this system, you can have an explanation for why you couldn’t run up a hill as fast as you could last week or why you wanted In-n’-Out three times in one day.
Have you tried cycle syncing? What did you think? Let me know in the comments below!