We need to talk about the menstrual cycle. This dynamic, awe-inspiring phenomenon which influences various aspects of a woman's life, including mood, energy levels and productivity is probably one of the most under-utilised 'tools' women have when it comes to optimising our wellbeing.
I bet growing up, you, like me, didn't really talk about it with anyone. Sure, we got the low-down from Mum when our first period arrived, were taught how to put on a pad or tampon at school or by an older sister but then we shied away from discussing it with friends, considered it a nuisance and dreaded Aunt Flo's monthly visit because it meant cramps, pimples, bloating and bad moods.
Only now is that narrative beginning to change. Only now are we starting to talk about our cycle as something that deserves to be honoured, celebrated and embraced a powerful reminder of the incredible capacity of the female body to create and nurture life.
Honouring the menstrual cycle means acknowledging its significance and reframing our perspective. It means recognising that menstruation is not something to be hidden or dismissed but rather a source of strength, resilience, and connection to our bodies.
One of the ways to do this is cycle syncing - a holistic approach to optimising your lifestyle by aligning your eating habits, exercise routines, and daily activities with the four phases of the menstrual cycle. By understanding and working in harmony with these phases, you can optimise your mood, energy, and productivity.
A growing practice, the term 'Cycle Syncing' was originally coined by Functional Nutritionist, HHC, AADP, MyFlo app creator and WomanCode author, Alisa Vitti.
When implemented (and I can speak from experience), cycle syncing allows us to honour the ebb and flow of our energy, harness the creative power of our minds, and cherish the moments of rest and rejuvenation.
When I began cycle syncing, within a few months, I saw some pretty drastic improvements to my overall wellbeing, including lighter and more regular periods, no more PMS, more energy and improved fitness. It was also a way for me to prepare my body for pregnancy.
What are the benefits of Cycle Syncing?
Cycle syncing offers numerous physical, mental, and physiological benefits. Here are some key advantages:
Hormonal Balance: By aligning your lifestyle with the different phases of the menstrual cycle, you can support hormonal balance. This can contribute to more regular and manageable menstrual cycles and potentially reduce symptoms such as cramps, bloating, and breast tenderness.
Increased Energy: By understanding and working with your body's natural rhythms, you can optimise your energy levels throughout the month. This may result in increased stamina, productivity, and overall vitality.
Improved Sleep: Cycle syncing can help regulate sleep patterns by adapting your routines and self-care practices to align with the varying hormonal influences during each phase. Better sleep quality enhances overall wellbeing and cognitive function.
Mental and Emotional Benefits:
Enhanced Mood Stability: By embracing cycle syncing, you can better manage mood swings, irritability, and emotional fluctuations associated with different phases of the menstrual cycle. This leads to improved emotional wellbeing and a greater sense of self-awareness.
Heightened Creativity and Focus: Each phase of the menstrual cycle offers unique cognitive strengths. By recognising and leveraging these strengths, such as heightened creativity during the follicular phase or increased focus during ovulation, you can optimise your performance and productivity in various areas of your life.
Improved Self-Care and Body Awareness: Cycle syncing encourages self-care practices tailored to the specific needs of each phase. This cultivates a deeper connection with your body, fosters self-compassion, and promotes a positive body image.
Reproductive Health: By nourishing your body with appropriate nutrients during specific phases, you can support reproductive health. Cycle syncing encourages the consumption of foods rich in essential vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that promote fertility and hormonal balance.
Stress Reduction: Adapting exercise routines, incorporating relaxation techniques, and prioritising self-care activities based on the menstrual cycle can help reduce stress levels. This supports overall mental wellbeing and resilience.
Increased Libido: Experiencing estrogen dominance and high testosterone levels, which are common in conditions like PCOS, can diminish your libido. Optimising estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone levels throughout the cycle, can play a crucial role in sexual desire and arousal.
Overall, cycle syncing empowers women to tune in to their bodies, embrace their unique cycles, and optimise their physical, mental, and physiological well-being. It fosters a deeper understanding and appreciation of the intricate interplay between hormones, energy levels, and emotions throughout the menstrual cycle.
And so without further ado, here is the cycle syncing framework.
Phase 1: Menstrual Phase (Day 1-7):
During this phase, the body sheds the uterine lining, leading to menstruation. It is essential to honour your body's need for rest and nourishment during this time.
Nourishment: Focus on consuming iron-rich foods such as spinach, lentils, and lean meats to replenish lost nutrients. Incorporate foods high in omega-3 fatty acids like salmon or flaxseeds, which can help reduce inflammation and alleviate menstrual cramps.
Movement: Engage in gentle exercises like walking, stretching, or yoga to relieve cramps and promote relaxation.
Productivity: During the menstrual phase or when experiencing lower energy levels, manage your time effectively by breaking tasks into smaller, manageable chunks. Use techniques like the Pomodoro Technique (working in focused bursts with regular breaks) to maintain focus and productivity while still allowing time for rest and self-care.
Phase 2: Follicular Phase (Day 8-14):
The follicular phase is characterised by the growth of ovarian follicles and an increase in estrogen levels. It is a time of renewal and creativity.
Nourishment: Emphasise a diet rich in cruciferous vegetables like broccoli and cauliflower, whole grains, and healthy fats to support hormone balance. Include a variety of fruits and vegetables for antioxidants and fibre.
Movement: As energy levels increase, incorporate more cardiovascular exercises like running, dancing, or cycling to take advantage of higher stamina and endurance.
Productivity: The follicular phase is associated with increased energy, creativity, and focus. Take advantage of this phase to tackle more demanding or creative tasks that require concentration and innovation. Plan brainstorming sessions, strategic planning, or work on new projects during this p
Phase 3: Ovulation Phase (Day 14-16):
Ovulation marks the release of an egg from the ovary and is a period of heightened fertility.
Nourishment: Focus on nourishing foods that support reproductive health, such as avocados, nuts, seeds, and berries. These foods contain nutrients like vitamin E, zinc, and antioxidants that promote hormone balance and fertility.
Movement: Capitalise on increased energy levels by participating in high-intensity workouts, strength training, or trying new activities that challenge your body.
Productivity: Tackle more demanding or complex tasks that require concentration and creativity. Prioritise projects that require strategic planning, brainstorming, or innovative thinking.
Phase 4: Luteal Phase (Day 17-28):
The luteal phase is characterised by hormonal changes, including an increase in progesterone levels. Many women experience PMS symptoms during this phase. Prioritise self-care and support your body's needs during this time.
Nourishment: Increase your intake of magnesium-rich foods like dark chocolate, leafy greens, and bananas to help stabilise mood and reduce bloating. Consume complex carbohydrates such as sweet potatoes and whole grains to regulate blood sugar levels and minimise mood swings.
Movement: Focus on moderate-intensity exercises like pilates, swimming, or hiking, which can help reduce bloating and promote stress relief.
Productivity: Self-care is crucial throughout the menstrual cycle, but especially during the luteal phase when PMS symptoms may arise. Prioritise self-care activities that help alleviate stress, reduce discomfort and promote overall well-being. This may include practices such as meditation, taking breaks, engaging in hobbies, and getting enough sleep. By nurturing your physical and mental health, you can enhance productivity across this phase.
Where to start with Cycle Syncing?
The journey begins with curiosity and self-awareness. Take the time to observe and track your menstrual cycle, noting the start and end dates of each phase and paying attention to any physical or emotional changes you experience throughout.
This awareness lays the foundation for understanding your body's unique rhythms. Next, educate yourself about the different phases of the menstrual cycle and how they can impact your mood, energy, and productivity. Armed with this knowledge, start making small adjustments to your lifestyle to align with each phase.
Begin by incorporating specific foods, exercises, and self-care practices that support the different stages of your cycle. It's important to remember that cycle syncing is a personalised journey, so be patient with yourself and embrace the process of experimentation and self-discovery. You can also consult with healthcare professionals for personalised guidance and support.
Stay open to the cues your body provides, listen to your intuition, and adapt your approach based on your individual needs. With each cycle, you'll deepen your understanding and connection with your body, unlocking the profound benefits that cycle syncing can bring to your life.
Enjoy the Journey
Embracing cycle syncing allows you to work with your body's natural rhythms, enhancing your overall productivity and happiness. Experiment with these practices, listen to your body and make adjustments that align with your individual needs.
By embracing the natural rhythms of our bodies and living in alignment with our cycles, women can create supportive environments both personally and professionally. So, let's embrace this phenomenon and harness its power to enhance our lives.