What is Cycle Syncing?
Have you ever heard of the idea of planning you life around your period? I can imagine that women with endometriosis plan their activities around their painful periods, but are women with relatively healthy periods doing this?
What is cycle syncing?
Cycle syncing is the practice of planning your life around all the phases of your menstrual cycle. While the scientific community generally believes that there are two predominant phases of the menstrual cycle, a few others believe that there are four phases of the cycle.
The Four Phases
Follicular Phase: 7-10 days long
Ovulatory Phase: 3-4 days long
Luteal Phase: 10-14 days long
Menstruation: 3-7 days long
Hormones and Cycle Syncing
As you can see from the above diagram, hormone levels change throughout the menstrual cycle. The cycle syncing method follows the same changes, but will attribute certain features (namely the ones below) to the monthly hormonal fluctuations.
Food and Cycle Syncing
Food choices seem to play a huge role when it comes to cycle syncing. Fresh and light foods are recommended during the follicular phase, estrogen-metabolizing foods during the ovulatory phase, B vitamin/calcium/magnesium/fibre-rich foods during the luteal phase, and lastly low glycemic foods during the menstrual phase.
Exercise and Cycle Syncing
Exercise and forming healthy habits are important foundations of cycle syncing. In the follicular phase it might be the perfect opportunity to try something new because it’s that time of the month to do so. Energy levels are the highest during ovulation, so it’s encouraged to take part in activities that are high impact. During the luteal phase there is a transition between high to low impact exercises as menstruation approaches. Lastly, during menstruation rest and relaxation predominate – and if you want to engage in some activity, try walking, stretching and yoga.
Self-Care and Cycle Syncing
The follicular phase appears the best time to be social and RSVP to many gatherings. It’s also the best time to start projects you’ve been working on. The ovulatory phase has you focus on community, and since this is the ‘sexiest’ time of the month, go on first dates as well. During the luteal phase, energy begins to wane, and you may want to turn your energy inward and stay at home. Lastly, menstruation is the best time to check in with yourself and see how things are going.
My Thoughts on Cycle Syncing
The Four Phases
A couple of things that I don’t necessarily subscribe to are: idea of the four phases of the cycle. Menstruation and ovulation in particular are considered part of the follicular phase of the cycle. They are events of that particular cycle. Also, menstruation is not considered the last ‘phase’ of the cycle. It’s the phase that kicks everything off!
I believe that switching up smoothie preferences can be more of a sustainable option compared to switching things up on a weekly basis. Maybe that’s just me know, when I’m preparing lunch or dinner, I’m eating things that both my partner and I like and are quick and easy (for the most part!). Moreover, all the general recommendations given during each of the four phases can realistically be applied during the entire month. It’s always important to be eating foods rich in iron and B vitamins. Fibre is necessary everyday, not only for 10 days of the month.
This is one of the features that I like the most, because exercise, energy and hormone levels really go hand in hand. First off, during the first couple days of your period, you’re likely not going to want to be running a marathon. Because estrogen and progesterone are so low, it is a good time to rest – especially if you tend to experience unwanted symptoms during your flow. As energy increases (as do hormones), getting back to your regular routine can be incredibly helpful to help maintain mood, and overall health. I don’t subscribe to the idea of saving high impact activities during ovulation – workouts like HIIT confer so many great benefits, that it would be a shame to do them only a couple days in a month. This is the same with yoga.
As I reflect on self-care and energy levels during the cycle, I do notice in myself that I am often more social around ovulation, and tend to relax at home during menstruation and towards the end of the luteal phase. That said, not everyone experiences this or has the luxury to start projects/go out when they please.
Mindful Periods vs. Cycle Syncing
To be honest, I’m not too sure if I’m a big supporter of cycle syncing. That said, I do believe that it’s important to pay attention to your body during the month and acknowledge what you’re feeling and experiencing. I think cycle syncing provides a good framework of how it’s possible to experience a healthier period, and integrate healthy practices. Instead of following every single practice to a T (ie. only doing house work during the luteal phase), you can pick and choose which practices to integrate into your daily routine.
You can start paying more attention to your period by tracking your flow, and any other symptoms that may pop-up during the month. This will give you an idea if any symptoms keep recurring, or if anything arises that is out of the blue!
Feeding your Flow
When it comes to maintaining a good diet for healthy menstruation, obviously fruits and vegetables are going to be the mainstay of the diet, limited amounts of dairy, and your choice of healthy protein (ensuring you’re getting all the essential amino acids). The B vitamins, magnesium, iron, and fibre don’t need to be only consumed during parts of the cycle – they need to be eaten all the time! This is important for menstrual flow, estrogen detoxification, and supporting all the chemical reactions going on within the body.
However, I will say that eating greens is particularly important for women because of estrogen detoxification, as well as for the TCM liver (which basically governs menstruation). Moreover, I’m also a big proponent of eating red foods (not red 40) to help build blood. Which is something most women need, as they are often iron deficient.
Do what you can. Seriously. If the first day of your cycle has you wiped out, rest. It’s as simple as that. You don’t need to pick up a new form of exercise each cycle (ie. zumba in July, spin in August) but you can if you’d like. Look at your other health goals and see which form of exercise is best for that. If you’re always stressed out, then something like yoga or walking will be just as nourishing as bootcamp.
Whether you’re out with friends for a ladies night or sitting on your couch rewatching New Girl, self-care is mandatory. With work stress, family stress, and the like – refilling our cup is necessary. This could tie into food, exercise, but is can also be practicing the word ‘no,’ only doing things that bring you fulfillment and even avoiding those toxic friends. A certain time of the month does not need to dictate what you do.
What do you think?
I want to hear what you think about cycle syncing? Is this something you practice? Do you find it to be effective? Let me know in the comments below.
If you are interested in joining a free community supporting women with periods, feel free to join Know Your Flow Toronto. I hope to see you there!