What is Cycle Syncing?
Popularized on social media, cycle syncing is the practice of changing your lifestyle habits to align with the different stages of the menstrual cycle
. People change their diet and exercise to match and help manage the different stages of the cycle.
Menstrual Cycle Overview
The menstrual cycle consists of four different phases that lasts about 28 days: menstrual, follicular, ovulatory, and luteal phase. The cycle begins with menstruation for about five to seven days. During menstruation, estrogen and progesterone levels are low. Once menstruation is over, estrogen and progesterone levels start rising around day six and seven. Estrogen reaches its peak level, and testosterone and progesterone levels rise during ovulation on day 14. The luteal phase begins around day 18. Estrogen and progesterone levels are high during this phase, while testosterone levels return to their previous levels (Cleveland Clinic, 2022
; UCSF Health, n.d.
). Next, the body enters the menstrual phase, and the cycle begins again.
Cycle Syncing Program
Someone practicing cycle syncing aligns their diet and exercise with the body’s ongoing hormonal changes.
- Menstrual Phase: During the menstrual phase, exercise should be light to allow the body to rest. Light exercises, like barre, pilates, swimming, walking, and yoga, are suggested during this period. For diet, people may find warm foods comforting during this phase. The body also releases prostaglandins during this phase which results in period cramps. Consuming anti-inflammatory and iron-rich food is recommended to help reduce cramping and replenish the iron stores lost during menstruation (Mayo Clinic, 2022).
- Follicular Phase: Energy levels rise as hormone levels rise during the follicular phase. High-impact activity, such as weight lifting and HIIT, is recommended during this phase. Estrogen levels are on the rise during this period as well. To manage the rising estrogen levels, fill the diet with antioxidant-rich cruciferous vegetables (like broccoli and cauliflower) and protein. Cruciferous vegetables have detoxifying properties, and a study found that intake is associated with a reduced risk for breast cancer in postmenopausal women due to a shift in estrogen metabolism (Liu and Lv, 2012).
- Ovulatory Phase: Estrogen levels reach a peak during ovulation. Some people may notice an increase in their energy levels and libido during this period. High impact activities like heavy weightlifting and HIIT are perfect during this high-energy period. B vitamins are important for reducing the risk of ovulatory dysfunction, which describes a disorder in which the egg fails to release from the ovary (Chavarro et al., 2008). To support ovulation, vitamin B rich food, like whole grains and eggs, should be consumed to help support the egg.
- Luteal Phase: During the luteal phase, the body’s energy may reach low levels in preparation for menstruation. The body benefits most from moderate exercise during the beginning of the phase when energy levels are high and light exercise like yoga as energy levels decrease. Additionally, PMS symptoms begin to rise during the luteal phase. Adding foods rich in fat and magnesium to the diet may help the body produce progesterone and manage PMS symptoms (Mumford et al., 2016; Fathizadeh et al., 2010).
Does it Work?
While it’s true that the female body follows a 28 day old menstrual cycle, little research exists on the effects of cycle syncing. One research study followed 60 healthy, overweight, premenopausal women undergoing a weight-loss and exercise program based on the menstrual cycle. Those who followed the weight-loss program lost 14.3% of their body weight during the 24-week study compared to those who did not follow the program (Geiker et al., 2016
). Although this study was successful, more research must be done to show the effectiveness of this program.
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