FYI, struggling with painful periods, low energy, and mood swings are all red flags of an underlying hormonal imbalance. Sound familiar? Research has estimated that as many as 80% of women will experience a hormonal imbalance at some point in their lives, and while there are a variety of ways in which you can balance your hormones, cycle syncing is the latest trending method.
Never heard of it? It's the simple act of syncing your nutrition and exercise according to where you are in your cycle. Think about it - if you're menstruating, you won't have as much energy as, say, the week after your time of the month.
So it makes sense, really, to tackle different workouts and eat different foods depending on where we are in our cycle. "From a young age, we've been led to assume that experiencing fluctuating levels of energy throughout the month is normal - that we need to keep going and push through," explains Olivia Brierley, founder of Mindfulsoul Pilates, who's been cycle syncing for the last few years.
But she shares that the technique has changed her life, the key being taking a few steps back, honouring your cycle and listening to your body. "Shifting hormones can impact how you feel day to day - if you adjust your lifestyle, exercise and diet with the four phases of your cycle, you can help balance your hormones and in turn, improve your sleep, boost your energy, reduce your mood swings and support your fertility."
A bit like piling your plate with foods for hormones and paying attention to blood sugar spikes, there's a whole load of factors to think about. Keep scrolling as the expert shares your need-to-knows, plus shares her own journey with cycle syncing.
Cycle syncing could change your life - here's how
What is cycle syncing?
As above, cycle syncing is the practice of adapting your diet, exercise, work and lifestyle habits to align with the four phases of your menstrual cycle.
The phases are as follows:
- Phase 1 – Menstrual
- Phase 2 – Follicular
- Phase 3 – Ovulation
- Phase 4 – Luteal.
A bit of background, first: women's health expert Alisa Vitti first coined the term “cycle syncing” in 2013. "The best-selling author wrote Woman Code, a book which explains how women can sync their lifestyle, exercise and behaviours with their menstrual cycles to boost their health."
What does cycle syncing actually look like?
Good question. In short, it translates to the following:
- Menstrual phase: Rest, reflect, and do lots of walking, gentle yoga flows, and meditation.
- Follicular phase: As your energy starts to build, begin taking action and initiating creative projects. In this phase, do your cardio and Pilates exercises to complement your energy levels.
- Ovulation phase: For this phase, be present and social. Attend work events and engage in HIIT, spin, and boxing.
- Luteal phase: Finally, in your luteal phase, aim to complete tasks, stay focused, and finish ongoing projects. Workouts wise, aim for Pilates and yoga.
Don’t have a bleed but would like to start cycle syncing? Brierly suggests syncing with the moon - menstrual being the new moon, follicular the waxing moon, ovulation the full moon, and luteal the waning moon.
"The average menstrual cycle lasts 28 days and the average moon cycle is 29.5 days," she explains. "The four phases of the moon cycle; new, waxing, full and waning represent the four phases of our cycle."
What are the benefits of cycle syncing?
Wondering why changing how you live at each stage of your menstrual cycle can be beneficial? Good question. "By changing different factors during each stage of your cycle, you're able to manage each phase more easily by meeting the hormonal needs of your body," the expert explains.
Tracking your cycle not only gives you a deeper understanding of what is going on with your body physically, but will share valuable insight into your emotions and feelings, too, she shares.
That said, how much you'll reap the rewards will depend on where you are on your journey. "Cycle syncing is suitable for all women who menstruate, whether you are looking to improve overall health, boost fertility, support hormonal imbalances such as PCOS or endometriosis, increase your sex drive, or improve energy levels," she goes on.
An extensive list of the benefits you might see from cycle syncing for a number of months includes:
- Improved mood
- Stable energy levels
- Less intense PMS pain
- Improved sleep
- Better workouts
- Fewer skin issues, such as acne
- Increased sex drive
- Support your fertility
- Support any hormonal imbalances, such as PCOS or endometriosis.
Do note, though - it's important to remember that every female body and cycle is different. "Most women don’t experience a 28-day cycle and others don’t bleed at all," explains Brierley.
Don't worry, if this is you, but if you would like to get on top of why you might be missing your period, do see a medical professional.
How do I start cycle syncing?
Similarly, Brierley is launching her new platform in a few weeks - which is 18 months in the making - to help women understand more about their cycles and movement. Users can track their cycle and select their workout based on what cycle phase they're in. Check out the space - which was 18 months in the making - on the Mindfulsoul website.
"Cycle syncing changed my life - I've never felt better."
Olivia, 32, suffered debilitating symptoms before adopting cycle syncing, which she shares has helped her reclaim her health.
"In March 2020, I stopped taking the contraceptive pill - I'd been pumping synthetic hormones into my system for years unaware that the pill was masking my endometriosis symptoms. As soon as I stopped taking the pill and got my first period, I was struck with debilitating pain."
"After seeing several doctors about my pain, I was diagnosed with stage 2 Endometriosis and PCOS. 18 months later, I had excision laparoscopy surgery which confirmed that I had stage 2 endometriosis, adenomyosis and PCOS."
"From here, my journey with women’s health really began. Endometriosis opened my eyes to the lack of information and support for this chronic yet common illness. Even though excision surgery is the gold standard for surgically treating endometriosis, it was just the beginning."
"I've always believed in holistic practices and so shortly after being diagnosed, I started cycle syncing after reading about it online. As I have PCOS, my cycles tend to be longer - between 33 to 34 days. After three months of syncing my diet, exercise and lifestyle to the four phases of my cycle - taking things slowly during my menstrual phase, and tackling more energetic workouts in my follicular and ovulation phases - I noticed big changes in my skin and mood. Not only were my cycles shorter, but I was also experiencing a lot less PMS pain during my luteal phase."
"While it hasn't all been plain sailing - I lost my period again around a year later - I continued to track and work with my cycle. Because I wasn’t bleeding, I cycled with the moon and paid extra special attention to my nutrition, seed cycling and different movement through the four phases. A few months later, my period came back."
"Cycle syncing has taught me that it's possible to take control and help you manage the constant changes your body goes through day to day. Learning how to start cycle syncing is your ticket to surviving and thriving any hormonal imbalances - I have more energy, higher productivity, fewer mood swings and most importantly, more effective workouts."
"I truly believe women can heal their PMS, hormone imbalances and period pain through cycle syncing - it's as simple as syncing their nutrition and exercise according to where they are in their cycle. The body knows how to heal itself - it wants to do so."
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Ally Head is Marie Claire UK's Senior Health, Sustainability, and Relationships Editor, nine-time marathoner, and Boston Qualifying runner. Day-to-day, she works across site strategy, features, and e-commerce, reporting on the latest health updates, writing the must-read health and wellness content, and rounding up the genuinely sustainable and squat-proof gym leggings worth *adding to basket*. She's won a BSME for her sustainability work, regularly hosts panels and presents for events like the Sustainability Awards, and saw nine million total impressions on the January 2023 Wellness Issue she oversaw. Follow Ally on Instagram for more or get in touch.
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