Understanding Cycle Syncing:
Have you noticed a rise in content regarding how to train in alignment with your natural fluctuation of hormones? Cycle syncing, a concept gaining popularity through social media, revolves around adjusting your routines according to the phases of your menstrual cycle. (Before continuing, it’s important to consider that your cycle may not align with the information provided in this article if you use hormonal birth control or have a health condition affecting your natural hormone cycle. Always consult with a healthcare professional for personalized guidance.)
Psychologist Susan Albers, PsyD says, “Cycle syncing gives you permission to take care of yourself in a different way,” and really that’s the whole point. It’s important to note that when it comes to building and maintaining muscle mass, the process for men and women is the same, lift heavy and eat well. However, unlike men, who experience a hormonal cycle every 24 hours, women undergo a monthly hormonal cycle lasting 28 days. The monthly changes in your hormones influence your mood, energy, appetite, creativity, and even social engagement. That being said, cycle syncing doesn’t just apply to the kinds of physical fitness you implement throughout the course of your cycle. The more in tune you are with your body at different times in your cycle, the more effectively you can tailor your diet, social calendar, and creative endeavors to a time when you know you’ll feel at your best.
The Phases of Your Cycle:
- Menstrual Phase – This term is probably most familiar, this is when you have your period, and your energy levels are typically at their lowest. This is because the sex hormone, estrogen, is at its lowest level. Consider incorporating iron-rich foods to compensate for blood loss to support your body during this time. Additionally, foods containing omega-3 fatty acids may help alleviate cramps by reducing inflammation.
- Follicular Phase – The short phase in between your period and ovulation where your estrogen levels start to bounce back, and energy levels rise.
- Ovulation – Your estrogen and testosterone levels peak at this point, causing an increase in energy levels and sex drive.
- Luteal Phase – When there is an increase in the sex hormone, progesterone, as well as estrogen. It’s likely that this is the time in your phase when you feel the dreaded symptoms of premenstrual syndrome, also known as PMS (so if a man ever spits a passive-aggressive "Oh she must be on her period" you can say "She’s actually in her luteal phase").
Applying Cycle Syncing in Fitness and Diet:
If you follow fitness industry content on social media, you might have noticed discussions about how to tailor exercise to each phase of your menstrual cycle. While some recommendations involve low-intensity cardio, yoga, or Pilates during menstruation and high-intensity cardio and weight training during ovulation and the follicular phase, don’t let this lead you astray, it's crucial to remember that your fitness goals should dictate your approach. If your goals are significant muscle growth, changing your style of exercise may not be the most effective.
Finding What Works for You:
Regardless of your fitness and wellness approach, the important thing is listening to your body and doing what makes you feel good, and that’s what cycle syncing is all about. There’s no denying that hormones play a significant role in exercise, however, you probably don’t need to take your cycle into consideration, unless of course, you want to! Focus on activities that align with your goals and preferences while respecting your body's signals.
Embracing Your Cycle:
Historically, the fitness industry has been a male-dominated space, promoting a relentless "grind" mentality. For women, understanding their 28(ish)-day hormone cycle can be empowering and provide an opportunity for self-care. Whether you’re a proud woman in the weight room, or your approach to wellness is more diverse than strictly weightlifting, embracing your cycle is a phenomenal way to nurture your body and maximize your overall health and happiness. Remember that cycle syncing is a personal choice, and the most crucial aspect of any approach to wellness is doing what feels right for you and your body.
Cleveland Clinic. (2023, April 4). Nutrition and Exercise Throughout Your Menstrual Cycle. Cleveland Clinic. https://health.clevelandclinic.org/nutrition-and-exercise-throughout-your-menstrual-cycle/
Welcome to the Girl Gains Publication 💌
We highlight inspiring, educational, and entertaining articles written by women for women. Happy reading!