A pad with flowers on it and surrounded by flowers to showcase female cycle synching.

The Power of Cycle Syncing: A Holistic Approach to Women’s Health

Liadan Gunter
February 22, 2024
January 25, 2024

Finding balance amidst a hustle culture that prioritizes productivity above all else can be challenging. There’s a plethora of misinformation and wellness trends that seem to hold the keys to finding this balance. Still, there’s one big problem with these trends; so many of the discoveries that underlie these trends were conducted on men, not women, making creating this balance with a woman’s physiology in mind incredibly difficult.

In fact, it wasn’t until 1986 that the National Institute of Health encouraged the involvement of women in research studies. “Women are not small men,” is often a phrase used to describe this concept because oftentimes prior to 1986 drug studies were run on men, excluding women. Drug doses were then calculated on the premise that “women are just small men”.

In a famous drug study conducted in 1977, the FDA recommended excluding women of childbearing age who used contraception, who were single, or whose husbands had a vasectomy during Phase 1 and Phase 2 testing of the drug Thalidomide. Unfortunately, once it hit the market, thousands of women ended up taking this drug while pregnant (even though this demographic was excluded during the testing of the drug), which led to the women giving birth to babies with terrible limb deformities. 

This isn’t the only example of how dangerous it is to exclude women from scientific research and clinical trials. There are many, many more examples, but what this highlights is how so much of the modern world is still geared towards men. That means, even with the best intentions of wanting to better one’s health, women need to take it with a grain of salt as many wellness, fitness, and health trends are catered to the male 24-hour testosterone cycle versus the average female 28-day menstrual cycle. 

Now, luckily, there is a solution to this known as cycle syncing, where a women can align her diet, activities, and lifestyle to the different phases of their menstrual cycle. By understanding the intricate interplay of hormones throughout the month, women can better optimize their productivity, mental health, and overall wellness. 

In this blog post, we will delve into the various aspects of cycle syncing, exploring how to organize, schedule, and nourish the body in harmony with its natural rhythms.

The Four Phases of Your Menstrual Cycle and What Activities Are Best

The menstrual cycle is broken down into four distinct phases: menstruation, follicular phase, ovulation, and luteal phase. Each phase comes with its own set of physical and emotional changes. Once you understand what each phase is accompanied by, you can organize your life accordingly, allowing you to be more productive, socialize when it feels best for you, rest when you need it, and push it when you can. All of which translates to more balance and enhanced well-being.

Menstruation (Days 1-5):

During this phase, the body is shedding the uterine lining. You’re more likely to feel tired, sore, or wanting to curl up in a quiet, cozy place. Indulge this! If this phase were a season, it’d be winter - treat it accordingly.

It's a great time to prioritize rest and reflection. I suggest organizing your schedule to allow for more downtime, less activities, and extra self-care. Movement is also important during this phase, but movement that is restorative such as yoga or a walk in nature until you feel you have your strength again. Towards the end of this phase, or as you feel more strength, feel free to engage in strength training. Additionally, meditation and breathwork can be a great way to help calm down your body and promote deeper rest. 

Utilize this slower period - in particular the middle to end of this phase - for monthly calendar planning. 

Follicular Phase (Days 6-14):

During this phase, your estrogen levels are on the rise, and so your energy levels increase. If this phase were a season, it would be Spring. This is an ideal time for tackling challenging tasks, taking on new projects, and engaging in more strenuous physical activities. Schedule high-energy workouts, social events, and important work commitments during this phase.

Ovulation (Days 15-17):

Ovulation marks the peak of fertility and energy - our summer season! This is an excellent time for networking, socializing, and taking on leadership roles. If you’re organizing your schedule, this is a wonderful time to plan social events, important meetings, and creative endeavors during this phase. You may notice an extra zest for life during this time. 

Luteal Phase (Days 18-28):

The luteal phase is characterized by a rise in progesterone, which may make you begin to feel your energy levels slow. If this phase were a season, it would be Autumn. During this phase, you may experience premenstrual syndrome, PMDD, lethargy, irritable, emotionally dysregulated, and/or physically sore. Not everyone will experience these symptoms - it varies from woman to woman. 

During this phase, it’s a good time to focus on detail-oriented tasks, complete ongoing projects, and to prioritize self-care. Adjust your schedule to allow for more quiet evenings and activities that promote relaxation, preparing your body for menstruation. 

For exercise, it’s a great time to engage in strength training, weights, walking, and yoga. Save high-intensity training for your follicular and ovulation phases. You may be able to continue HIIT workouts at the very beginning of your Luteal phase, but I recommend tapering off by the middle of this phase or as you sense your body’s exhaustion. 

While each phase has certain symptoms and experiences, engaging in cycle syncing regularly by exercising appropriately for your phase of the cycle, eating the right foods, and adequately resting can help lower these symptoms, too. 

“That’s great, but how do I know what phase of my cycle I’m in?”

Tracking your cycle isn’t as hard as it may appear. Though, unfortunately, it’s not something women are often taught, and many are left having to figure it out on their own. 

There’s a couple tracking options. Either you can track it manually in your calendar by noting down the first and last day of your period and then manually calculating what phase you’re in. Another way is to use an application called: Natural Cycles, which is an application that tracks your cycle by taking your daily basal body temperature measurements. Your basal temperature actually tells you what phase of your cycle you are in. Additionally, you can track your symptoms in the app. It can even predict when your symptoms may occur the following month. 

Those of you who have heard about The Ōura Ring, and use it, are also in luck! They have a partnership with Natural Cycles so you don’t have to worry about taking your own temperature - the ring will calculate that for you! Currently, these are the best wearable technology on the market and a great companion for keeping track of your cycle. 

Scheduling and Calendar Management During Your Monthly Cycle

There are many ways to go about scheduling your life in accordance with your schedule. The most important thing is to know which phase of your cycle you’re in. 

Once you have been able to track your cycle, I first recommend picking a day of the month in your cycle for planning. It can be any time, but during the middle to end of your menstrual phase is optimal because you’re in a period of healing, rest, and reflection. Put a monthly recurring meeting on your calendar designed to plan out your activities for the month. 

During this time, assess when you have certain deadlines, social events, or workouts and try to place them to occur during their optimal phase. For example, if you and your friends want to have a big get-together this month and everyone is flexible, I recommend trying to plan it during your follicular or ovulatory phase. 

Or, for example, let’s say you have a big work event, and after checking your calendar, you realize it will occur during the first few days of your menstrual cycle. This certainly isn’t the optimal time for socializing; however, sometimes these things are out of our control. What you can do is then plan the rest of your activities during this phase to be extra relaxing. Maybe it would be a good idea to book a massage, or have extra time at home, and take a few additional things off your to-do list to compensate. 

If you really want to go above and beyond, you may consider creating a color-coded system to visually represent each phase of your cycle on your calendar. This can serve as a quick reference guide for planning your activities, although it is not necessary. Additionally, set reminders for self-care practices, workouts, and important tasks based on your cycle phases. 

Foods That Support Your Menstrual Cycle

Nutrition plays a crucial role in overall health, and cycle syncing extends to the foods that can benefit each phase of the menstrual cycle. A Mediterranean diet is great for overall health and wellbeing; additionally, prioritizing certain types of foods during particular phases can help provide your body with what it naturally craves and needs at each stage. 

During menstruation, focus on iron-rich foods like leafy greens, beans, and lean meats to replenish lost iron. Incorporate comfort foods such as warm soups and herbal teas for added comfort.

During the follicular phase, opt for a balanced diet with a mix of whole grains, lean proteins, and fresh fruits and vegetables. Include foods rich in vitamin B and antioxidants to support increased energy levels.

For your ovulatory phase, I recommend prioritizing foods that support hormonal balance, such as omega-3 fatty acids found in fatty fish and flaxseeds. Include vibrant, nutrient-dense foods to sustain peak energy levels.

During your luteal phase, it’s important to support your mood stability and alleviate potential cravings by incorporating complex carbohydrates, such as whole grains and legumes. Include magnesium-rich foods like dark chocolate, nuts, and seeds.

Ultimately, cycle syncing is a powerful tool that allows you to embrace your natural rhythm and optimize your life and well-being. By organizing, scheduling, and aligning activities with the different phases of the menstrual cycle, you can harness the ebb and flow of your naturally fluctuating energies to enhance your productivity, mental health, and overall quality of life! Try embracing this holistic approach today!

Liadan Gunter
Liadan Gunter
Liadan Maire Gunter is a Coach, Behavioral Scientist, and Founder of The Rewiring Lens. She is trained in neuroscience, psychology, and anthropology, before creating her own path in the field of self-development. At Nivati, she works as a life coach and content writer where she bridges the gap between science and self-development. She also runs a company, The Rewiring Lens, aimed at bringing science-backed tools designed to rewire people’s brains so that they can create their best selves. There she co-hosts a podcast on the same subject.