To sync or not to sync, that is the question. No, I’m not talking about your iCloud, I’m referring to your monthly menstrual cycle. Ladies, if you have no idea what I’m talking about: buckle up, I’m (hopefully) about to blow your beautiful minds.
What is cycle syncing?
Cycle syncing refers to living in harmony with your monthly hormonal fluctuations to optimize your health and well-being. This means adjusting your nourishment and lifestyle to honor the four phases of the female body’s monthly hormonal fluctuations: menstrual, follicular, ovulatory, and luteal.
Who came up with this concept?
Cycle syncing was pioneered by Alisa Vitti, author of WomanCode (a vital book that equips women with the knowledge and tools to take charge of their hormonal health) and founder of FLO Living, “a virtual online health center to help women solve their hormonal symptoms from anywhere in the world.”
Who is talking about it? And who is it for?
I was first introduced to cycle syncing via the oh-so-relatable Lee From America and have since heard it discussed on multiple podcasts (including Almost 30 and The Balanced Blonde Soul on Fire) and other blogs (ex. Free + Native). Many women are drawn or directed to cycle syncing to manage Polycystic Ovary Syndrome, acne, painful periods, amenorrhea a.k.a. missing periods (my experience!), or some combination thereof. That being said, this way of life is beneficial for any woman who wants to take charge of her hormones and feel her best at all times of the month.
What does it look like in practice?
Cycle syncing encompasses diet, exercise, productivity, and love/connection. It involves adjusting these areas of your life to correspond with each phase of your cycle with the ultimate goal of increasing your vitality and improving your quality of life – living in the “flo”!
I don’t know about you, but the amount of nutrition advice out there is enough to make me question my own sanity (and the contents of my grocery cart.) Up until I found cycle syncing, I dabbled in every diet under the sun (vegan, paleo, keto, etc.) but had failed to find peace and ease around my plate. Cycle syncing gave me a health-positive view of food and taught me how to support my well-being via specific nutrients every day of the month. I have noticed since adopting the cycle syncing lifestyle, I feel so much more empowered and intuitive about my food choices.
Below is a snapshot of WomanCode’s food recommendations:
Examples of meals in each of the phases:
- Menstrual: homemade ramen
- Follicular: avocado toast with eggs
- Ovulatory: spinach salad with tuna
- Luteal: turkey burger with baked yam fries
Alisa Vitti has a great PDF that provides sample days of eating for all phases!
Listen up all of you HIIT-addicted, gym-loving gals (I was one not so long ago!): our hormones play a huge role in our energy levels as well as our fat-burning (and storage) abilities, which means that we are best off tailoring our work-outs to respect the phases of our cycles. Unfortunately, the majority of exercise science and research (and resulting advice) is based on men’s 24-hour hormone cycles and doesn’t take women’s 28-day cycles into consideration.
So, what’s a gal to do!? Woman Code recommends doing high-intensity (cardio-based) workouts during the follicular and ovulatory phases of your cycle and gentler (strength-based) exercise in your luteal and menstrual phases.
Examples of optimal exercise for each phase:
- Menstrual: stretching
- Follicular: Zumba
- Ovulatory: HIIT class
- Luteal: Megaformer (during first half of this phase), pilates (during second half)
Ever get the urge to purge (your cupboards or closet)? Or perhaps one day you’re a creative powerhouse and the next you’re laser-focused on your to-do list? Are we women completely scatterbrained?!
I’m sure the men in our lives would like to think so; but if you’ve stuck with me this far, you’ll probably suspect what’s really going on: hormones! Yep, that’s right, they even affect how we think and work. Prepare yourself to tap into the power of the female mind!
Examples of ways to channel your best work in each phase:
- Menstrual: reflective journaling
- Follicular: setting intentions
- Ovulatory: teamwork!
- Luteal: organizing (any and everything)
Last, but definitely not least, is the area of love and connection; you got it, our hormones directly affect the way that we relate to (and interact with) other human beings! Have no fear, WomanCode has some great advice for planning your social calendar…
- Menstrual: alone time (Can I get an amen!?)
- Follicular: yes to invites, plan a date for your ovulatory phase (this could be with a friend!)
- Ovulatory: the most vulnerable and social time of the month – time for date night! Tip: use your vulnerability to strengthen intimacy/connection
- Luteal: intentional self-care
“This all sounds dandy, but what if I don’t have a (regular) period?”
I FEEL YOU. As mentioned, I stumbled upon cycle syncing during a 10-month period in which I had no period (pun intended). After a mere six weeks of implementing WomanCode’s cycle syncing suggestions (plus increasing my calories and toning down my exercise), I regained my flow! Pretty awesome, eh!? In the absence of a (regular) cycle, you can embrace your inner goddess and base your syncing on the phases of the moon: menstruation on the new moon, ovulation on the full moon.
“Where do I even start!?”
Tips for getting started:
1. Read WomanCode.
Especially if you have a specific medical condition and/or severe symptoms you are aiming to manage. I borrowed it from my local library! Note: you can 100% cycle sync without having read the book.
2. Get familiar with your cycle by tracking!
FLO Living has a fantastic app called MyFLO that not only allows you to record your cycle timing, but also includes suggestions for cycle syncing. It’s well worth $1.99. Other simpler free apps exist if you’re just looking to track the phases of your cycle, or a good ol’ agenda will do the trick. Work from the start of your last period to figure out where in the cycle you are today OR use the phases of the moon if you have amenorrhea.
3. Dabble in seed cycling
A great way to start supporting your hormones is by consuming specific seeds during the first and second half of your cycle. Specifically, flax and pumpkin seeds in the first two weeks and sunflower and sesame in the second half. It can be as simple as throwing a tablespoon of each onto a salad or smoothie, or what I like to do is make seed milks to have in my morning (decaf) coffee! (See image below)
Print out the food list (or save it to your phone). Refer to it when you grocery shop and/or eat out.
Check out this spreadsheet I have created to simplify all of the cycle syncing suggestions (and edit it to fit your personal needs and organization style.)
My #1 hope is to inspire women to befriend their cycles. In a world where we are often overlooked and/or told we are erratic, I challenge you to embrace the monthly fluctuations and dynamic energy that are inherent to the female body.
Cheers to life in the flow lane!