Cycle Syncing: How to Sync Your Diet, Workouts, and Productivity to Your Menstrual Cycle

One core memory of health class was watching a video of childbirth that showed e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g in 7th grade. Another core memory was when all of us 9th graders were sat down in the auditorium and shown a slideshow with countless pictures of sexually transmitted infections (basically creating shame and stigma). Do you know what would have been more helpful? Actually learning the different phases of the menstrual cycle so I knew what was happening to my body each month and the practice of cycle syncing.

People with periods experience different hormonal fluctuations each week that leave us feeling entirely different. Yet for some reason, we’re held to systems that are based on the 24-hour hormone cycle (which is relevant for testosterone-driven people). But estrogen-driven people operate on a (roughly) 28-day cycle.

Learning how to sync your diet, exercise, and productivity to your menstrual cycle is a life-changing activity. When you align your activities and nourishment with your hormone and energy levels, you’ll be able to find your balance. Let’s discuss how to sync your cycle for better periods, more energy, and spacious productivity.

What is cycle syncing?

Cycle syncing is the practice of changing your diet, exercise, and lifestyle habits to align with the stages of your menstrual cycle. The idea is that by changing these factors during each stage of your cycle, you’re able to meet the hormonal needs of your body making the menstrual phase easier to manage.

Benefits of Cycle Syncing

When you’re living in sync with your cycle, you’re working with your body not against it. Once you begin cycle syncing and living more in tune with your body’s natural rhythms, may feel more productive, energized, and experience fewer period symptoms.

Before we get into the ins and outs of cycle syncing, let’s review the phases of the menstrual cycle and what they entail.

Menstrual Cycle Phases

Your menstrual cycle is a natural bodily process that happens every month. It begins on the first day of your period and ends on the first day of your next period. The average menstrual cycle lasts 28 days but can vary from 21 to 35 days. The menstrual cycle is made up of four phases:

Menstrual Phase

Also known as bleeding or menstruation, this is the beginning of your cycle (first day of bleeding). This phase usually lasts between three to seven days and your body sheds its uterine lining which makes you bleed.

Follicular Phase

This is when an egg matures in one or more follicles, which are sac-like structures containing fluid that surround an immature egg in the ovary. At the end of this phase, one egg will be released from one follicle during ovulation.

Ovulatory Phase

On days 13 to 15 (assuming a 28-day cycle), if all goes well with the earlier follicular development, then ovulation will occur at this time (when an egg is released from an ovarian follicle). If pregnancy doesn’t occur within 24 hours after ovulating, the unfertilized egg disintegrates and estrogen levels fall signaling a return to menstruation in 14 days if pregnancy hasn’t occurred.

Ejaculated sperm can live inside a birthing person’s body for up to five days which means it could potentially fertilize an egg five days after sex has occurred. So even if you have sex two days before ovulation occurs there’s still a chance that sperm from that sexual encounter would be present during ovulation thereby resulting in fertilization and ultimately pregnancy.

Luteal Phase

After releasing an egg during ovulation, our bodies release another hormone called progesterone which helps prepare our uterus for pregnancy should conception occur during ovulation by thickening uterine tissue for implantation by a blastocyst (fertilized egg). Now that you understand what the different phases of your cycle are, let’s discuss how you can adapt your habits to support each phase.

You May Also Like: Reframing Your Menstrual Cycle with Raven Rose

How to Cycle Sync

How to Cycle Sync During Your Menstrual Phase

Your menstrual phase is considered the “winter” of the cycle – a time when we want to rest and go inward. This is considered the beginning of your cycle and occurs when your uterine lining sheds, known as the menstrual bleed. For most people, it can last anywhere from four to seven days. During this time, your body is shedding the lining of your uterus.¹

While menstruating, your energy levels are likely at their lowest due to your progesterone and estrogen levels being low, and the potential loss of nutrients from the menstrual bleed.

cycle sync menstrual phase

Menstrual Phase Workouts

Your period is the optimal time for rest, so it’s not recommended to do high-intensity workouts. If you’re wanting to engage in movement, try low-impact exercises such as walking, stretching, and gentle yoga.

Foods to Eat During the Menstrual Phase

You’ll want to replenish your body with comforting foods such as soups and stews, and mineral-rich food to supply the body with iron and zinc. Some foods to consider during this stage include:

  • Flax and Pumpkin Seeds
  • Sea Vegetables
  • Peanut Butter
  • Bone Broth
  • High-Quality Proteins
  • Spinach
  • Kale
  • Ginger
  • Red Raspberry Leaf Tea

Menstrual Phase Mindset

You may be feeling more reflective than usual during this stage. It could be a good idea to focus on your meditation and journaling practices to get in touch with yourself.

How to Cycle Sync During Your Follicular Phase

Known as the body’s “spring,” this phase begins on day one of your cycle and ends with ovulation. Your estrogen levels are low, which can cause lethargy and fatigue—you may find yourself feeling more tired than usual though your energy levels will rise as you approach ovulation.

cycle sync follicular phase

Follicular Phase Workouts

Your energy levels will increase as you approach ovulation, making it a good time for higher-intensity workouts that require endurance or strength training. Since estrogen is still low at this point in your cycle, you don’t need to worry about too much bloating or water retention affecting how much weight you can lift.

Foods to Eat During the Follicular Phase

Your follicular phase is a great time to have foods rich in iron and iodine to restore your body after menstruation. It’s also important to have adequate fiber during this stage to support the body’s metabolism of estrogen. Some additional foods you’ll want to consider adding during your follicular phase include:

  • Leafy greens
  • Citrus
  • Cruciferous Vegetables
  • Legumes
  • Fish
  • Flax and Pumpkin Seeds
  • Avocado
  • Olive Oil
  • Nettle Leaf Tea
  • Fermented Foods

Follicular Phase Mindset

During this phase, you may find yourself feeling more creative and able to solve problems. Use this time to dream big and brainstorm.

How to Cycle Sync During Ovulation

While only 15 percent of women experience symptoms during their fertile window (the five days before and including ovulation), some people will notice light spotting or cramping around the time they ovulate (midcycle).

During ovulation, your hormone levels are at their peak, so you will likely have your highest energy levels during this time. This is the phase when your body is preparing for pregnancy, so your libido may be at its highest. This phase is considered the “summer” stage.

cycle sync ovulation

Ovulation Phase Workouts

It’s a great time to engage in HIIT workouts that make use of both endurance and strength training since they will help boost your metabolism while also increasing muscle tone and definition—just be sure not to overdo it! If you hit the gym too hard around ovulation, it could impact fertility due to decreased sex hormone-binding globulin (SHBG). If you do decide to do high-impact workouts during this stage, give yourself time to rest and recover.

Foods to Eat During Ovulation

During this stage when your hormones are at their peak, you’ll want to focus on foods that will help your body maintain balanced estrogen levels.

  • Cruciferous Vegetables
  • Bell Peppers
  • Berries
  • Tomatoes
  • Flax and Pumpkin Seeds
  • Maca
  • Leafy Greens

Ovulation Mindset

During ovulation, you may feel more social and like a natural people person. This phase is a great time for communication, public speaking, socializing, and feeling magnetic. You may also notice your focus is highest during this stage.

How to Cycle Sync During Your Luteal Phase

Your luteal phase is considered the “fall” of your cycle and is typically the longest stage. This phase begins after ovulation until the first day of menstruation (day one of your next cycle). If during your cycle the egg released from the ovary is not fertilized, your body will prepare for menstruation. During this time, your estrogen levels will begin to dip. Progesterone peaks around day 21 but drops off quickly after that.

In the luteal phase, you may notice your energy levels begin to lower and your mood may fluctuate. This stage can be when pre-menstrual syndrome or PMS may occur.

cycle sync luteal phase

Luteal Phase Workouts

During your luteal phase, it’s a good time to start dialing back the intensity of your workouts. This would be a great time for movements such as walking, low-impact strength training, yoga, and pilates. During this stage, you’ll want to focus on movement that is restoring and calming to avoid putting any additional stress on your body as it prepares for menstruation.

Foods to Eat During the Luteal Phase

During this stage, you may find yourself feeling more hungry – for good reason! Your metabolic rate increases, increasing your caloric needs to maintain your energy levels. Make sure you consume adequate complex carbohydrates, B-vitamins, and magnesium. Here are some additional foods you may want to include:

  • Sweet Potatoes
  • Dark Chocolate
  • Lentils
  • Sesame and Sunflower Seeds
  • Apples
  • Whole Grains
  • Squash

Luteal Phase Mindset

During your luteal phase, you may feel a strong urge to get ish done. It’s a great time for organizational projects, mapping out plans, doing research, and crossing things off your to-do list.

How to Track Your Menstrual Cycle

To begin tracking your cycle, note the first day of your period and keep a record of how long it lasts, which is usually between 24 and 30 days. This will give you an idea of which phase you are in on any given day. If your period is irregular, you can also track other symptoms such as cervical fluid around ovulation, energy and mood changes as well as temperature to determine where you are in your cycle.

You can then use your body’s natural cues to determine when you move from phase to phase. During your ovulatory phase, you may notice the presence of cervical mucus which has the texture of egg whites. There are many apps available online to help with tracking this information, though data privacy regarding these apps has been brought into question. Many people like tracking basal body temperature to determine where they are in their cycle.

So many of us are used to pushing through fatigue and hunger signals, not even realizing there is another way to eat or move that honors our natural cycles. By syncing with your cycle, you can live more intuitively and give your body what it needs when it needs it.

Editor’s Note: This blog post is for informational purposes only and is not designed to be medical advice. Please talk to your doctor before making any dietary or supplemental changes.

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2 Responses

  1. Hi, thank you for this overview. I was wondering if you could share sources for additional information? I would like to learn more about this topic but don’t know where to begin.

    1. So glad you enjoyed it! The book “Woman Code” is very helpful for learning more about cycle-syncing.

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