Care / Sexual Health

Can Cycle Syncing Help With Your Period?

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Written by Mona Freund
Reviewed by Naika Apeakorang, ND, LAc.

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Raise your hand if you’ve ever felt personally victimized by your period. Whether it’s ruined your favorite pair of underwear, caused debilitating, crampy pain, or appeared out of nowhere when you thought you still had a few menses-free days left—it’s very possible that you’re ready to stop feeling victimized by your period.  

How, though? Some claim a process called cycle syncing could be the solution. 

According to devotees, this method can help you understand what’s happening in your body and take back control so your hormones don’t run (or ruin) your life. Here’s what to know about cycle syncing, how you can incorporate the practice into your lifestyle, and how it can impact your period and the rest of your cycle.

What Is Cycle Syncing?

Cycle syncing focuses on adjusting your lifestyle depending on the menstrual cycle phase you’re currently in—you know, from menstruation to follicular to ovulation. (And if you don’t know, we’ll get into it.) This includes your diet, exercise regimen, work, and even social interactions. Alisa Vitti, creator of the period-tracking app My Flo, coined the term in her book “In the Flo.”

On her website, Vitti describes the practice as a “revolutionary roadmap for women to help balance their hormones and care for their bodies, so they can feel their best all month long.”

Did You Know?

The term “cycle syncing” is also often used to describe two or more people whose menstrual cycles synchronize. For the longest time, people believed (and likely still believe in summer camp cabins all across the country) that this was due to female pheromones interacting, then syncing up.

Sorry to be the one to tell you, but this is a myth. If you and your bestie sync up, it’s pure coincidence icon-trusted-source Cleveland Clinic “Does Your Period Really Sync With Close Friends’?” View Source !

What Can Cycle Syncing Help With?

You should talk with your doctor before implementing any big lifestyle changes, especially if you have a diagnosed medical condition. However, cycle syncing may be worth trying if anything listed below applies to you. 

  • You experience painful periods or extreme premenstrual syndrome (PMS).
  • You’ve been diagnosed with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) or endometriosis.
  • You’re overweight and struggle to maintain healthy eating habits and exercise routines.
  • You’re trying to conceive.
  • You have low libido.

There aren’t any peer-reviewed studies on cycle syncing itself, but there’s plenty of anecdotal evidence from people who’ve tried it and love it. Cycle syncing is also more about common sense than any huge lifestyle changes, so it’s relatively low risk to try out (but, again, it’s a good idea to chat with your doctor before trying it out).

Keep in mind that if you’re on hormonal birth control or have a hormonal IUD, cycle syncing won’t work for you because these contraception devices impact your menstrual cycle. (You can still cycle sync with a copper IUD icon-trusted-source Mayo Clinic “Copper IUD (Paragard)” View Source .)

How Does Cycle Syncing Work?

Adjusting your lifestyle to your menstrual cycle phases may make you feel more balanced and in charge of your life. It can also provide insight on how your hormones influence your body every day.

But before you can achieve this, you should know about the sex hormones that trigger the different cycle phases.

If you’d rather dive straight into the lifestyle changes you can make by trying out cycle syncing, jump to that section here.

What Are The Menstrual Cycle Phases?

Your body goes through four phases during a menstrual cycle, which lasts 28 days in total. Some of the phases overlap here and there, as you can see in the visual below:

  • Days 1–6: Menstrual. Whether you call it shark week, Aunt Flo, code red, or simply your period—this is the most well-known cycle phase. It’s no surprise, as it’s easy to pinpoint. During this phase, the lining of the uterus sheds, causing bleeding. Hormone levels are at their lowest point during this phase.
  • Days 1–14: Follicular. This phase technically starts at the same time as menstruation, but continues after you’re done bleeding. As the follicular phase progresses, your estrogen (the steroid hormone that helps develop and maintain female sex characteristic, produced in both male and female bodies) and progesterone (steroid hormone that prepares the uterus for pregnancy) levels rise. We’ll talk more about what that means for your mind and body in a bit.
  • Days: 14–17: Ovulatory. During your ovulatory phase, estrogen peaks while testosterone (steroid hormone that helps develop and maintain male sex characteristic, produced in both male and female bodies) and progesterone continue to rise. The phase starts with the release of luteinizing hormone (LH), which triggers an egg to release and ends with ovulation (the release of the egg from your ovary).
  • Days: 15–28: Luteal. The last phase of your menstrual cycle is the luteal phase. Unless you’re pregnant or on birth control that manages hormone levels, your estrogen and progesterone levels will be high at the start of the phase. Over the next several days, these hormone levels will decrease, causing you to go back into the menstrual phase and bleed (again, ugh).
graphic showing hormone levels throughout menstrual cycle

Keep in mind that people go through the menstrual cycle in different ways. One person’s menstrual phase may last two to three days, and someone else’s may last for up to a full week. This doesn’t mean that anything is wrong with either person—our bodies are just different.

How Do I Know Which Menstrual Cycle Phase I’m In?

Because the length of each phase and cycle differs from person to person, figuring out which phase you’re currently in can be tricky. You’ll have to get in touch with your body by tracking your symptoms either manually (try our printable tracker) or with an app. The following symptoms are generally associated with each phase:

Menstrual: 

  • Bleeding: The first day of your period starts off your menstrual cycle. Depending on your body and your period, you’ll experience light to heavy bleeding for three to six days. You should talk with your doctor if you have periods that last eight or more days icon-trusted-source Cleveland Clinic “Why Is My Period Lasting So Long?” View Source .
  • Period symptoms: During your period, you may experience symptoms like cramping, headaches or back pain, bloating, or constipation.
  • Low energy: With your body going through all of these inconveniences and your hormone levels at an all-time low, you can expect to feel sluggish, tired, and exhausted.

Follicular: 

  • Rising energy levels: Because your estrogen levels are increasing during this phase, you may feel a spike of energy and productivity.
  • Glowing skin: Rising estrogen levels can also positively affect your skin icon-trusted-source Clinical Interventions in Aging “Effect of estrogens on skin aging and the potential role of SERMs” View Source .
  • Higher libido: Your sexual motivation icon-trusted-source Hormones and Behavior “Hormonal predictors of sexual motivation in natural menstrual cycles” View Source fluctuates with your hormone levels. Whether you’re ready to conceive or not, your body is doing its best to procreate by making you feel frisky. 

Ovulatory:

  • Confidence boost: Your skin is glowing, you feel energetic, and your testosterone levels are off the charts—it’s not uncommon to feel extra sexy in your skin during the ovulatory phase.
  • High libido: With your estrogen level at its peak, your sex drive is as high as it’ll get during your menstrual cycle.
  • High energy: Until you hit ovulation, your estrogen levels continue to rise—and so does your energy!

Luteal: 

  • Oily skin: Didn’t we just mention glowing skin? Well, once you’re done ovulating, your progesterone levels will start to rise and make your skin prone to bacterial growth icon-trusted-source Clinical and Experimental Dermatology “The menstrual cycle and the skin” View Source and—sorry!—zits. 
  • Decreasing energy levels: Your menstrual cycle is coming to an end, and so is your energy boost. It’s not uncommon to feel sluggish, tired, or unmotivated while your estrogen and progesterone levels fall.
  • PMS symptoms: With your period approaching, you may experience premenstrual syndrome (PMS) symptoms like cramping, headaches, back pain, or bloating.

How To Cycle Sync, Phase By Phase

Now that you know what cycle syncing is and how to identify your menstrual cycle phases, you’re ready to learn how to apply this system to your own life. Above all, you should listen to what your body is telling you it needs. 

1. Menstrual Phase: Lean on Warm Foods and Snuggle up

Let’s recap: Your sex hormone levels are low during this phase, but estrogen levels start to rise as your period goes on. The best way to support your body is by laying low and being kind to yourself.

menstrual phase graphic showing symptoms and instructions

Exercise

You can do any kind of exercise icon-trusted-source Office on Women’s Health “Physical activity and your menstrual cycle” View Source when you’re on your period. But if you’re feeling sluggish, focus on gentle movements, resting, and stretching your body. Go for short walks in nature, try meditating or a gentle yoga session, and continue listening to your body. By the end of the week, your energy will come back so you can start moving your body more—you know, if you’re into it.

Nutrition

Anything that soothes your bloated or cramping belly will help. Stick to hot soups like bone broth and soothing teas made with fresh ginger icon-trusted-source WebMD “Foods That Help or Hurt Tummy Cramps” View Source if your gut is acting up. Drink lots of water to stay hydrated and reduce muscle cramps icon-trusted-source WebMD “Foods That May Help with Muscle Cramps” View Source .

Protein icon-trusted-source Recommended Dietary Allowances: 10th Edition. “Protein and Amino Acids” View Source provides your body with amino acids that can help with hormone production, and cruciferous vegetables icon-trusted-source Evidence Based Complementary Alternative Medicine “Plant Consumption and Liver Health” View Source like broccoli or cauliflower will assist your liver in doing its job to get rid of any excess hormones.

Do your best to stay away from processed foods, refined carbs, and sugar. These can make your period symptoms worse icon-trusted-source Cleveland Clinic “11 Diet Changes That Help You Fight PMS” View Source , which is the last thing you’ll want. Also, limit alcohol intake and caffeine during this time so you can stay hydrated.

Mindset

During the menstrual phase, try to reprioritize work tasks and lighten your schedule as much as possible. Go to bed early so you can sleep as much as you want. Practice self-care—whatever that means to you—and don’t overextend yourself with social interactions if you aren’t feeling it. Whether that means inviting friends over for a movie night or going into full hermit mode, just take it easy.

Keep it simple and do a vibe check every morning. Check if it’s a bones or no bones day and treat yourself accordingly.

2. Follicular Phase: Slowly Ramp up Your Workouts and Get Creative

During the follicular phase, your estrogen and testosterone levels rise. You’ll feel an increase in your energy and a decrease in appetite icon-trusted-source Maturitas “Sex hormones, appetite and eating behaviour in women” View Source , which may make you feel more excited about hitting the gym.

The increase in estrogen is also linked to higher creativity icon-trusted-source International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health “The More Fertile, the More Creative: Changes in Women’s Creative Potential across the Ovulatory Cycle” View Source —what a great time to be alive!

follicular phase graphic

Exercise

The closer you get to ovulation, the higher your estrogen and testosterone levels rise. This will increase your stamina. Once you’re done bleeding, try some light cardio workouts like running or hiking.

Toward the end of this phase, you can turn the intensity up a bit and get into spinning or try some dance classes that get your heart pumping.

Nutrition

Your metabolism slows down icon-trusted-source PLoS One “Effect of menstrual cycle on resting metabolism: A systematic review and meta-analysis” View Source during this phase and makes you less likely to experience cravings. Your diet should focus on foods that metabolize estrogen. 

Eat lots of probiotics icon-trusted-source Journal of the National Cancer Institute “Effect of diet and Lactobacillus acidophilus supplements on human fecal bacterial enzymes” View Source like sprouted foods (cashews or beans) or fermented foods (kimchi or sauerkraut) and enjoy citrus fruits and berries for a vitamin boost.

Mindset

The closer you get to ovulating, the more creative you’re going to feel—both in terms of originality and flexibility icon-trusted-source International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health “The More Fertile, the More Creative: Changes in Women’s Creative Potential across the Ovulatory Cycle” View Source . Use this creative flow to focus on complex projects, get out and socialize, and complete anything you’ve procrastinated on during your period.

If you’re trying to conceive, make sure you keep your schedule as fun and stress-free as possible. People with higher stress levels from day one of their period until ovulation are more likely to report issues with getting pregnant icon-trusted-source Annals of Epidemiology “The impact of periconceptional maternal stress on fecundability” View Source .

3. Ovulatory Phase: Engage Your Heart, Mind, and Body

Whether you’re ready to conceive or not, your body sure is prepping for it! Your high hormone levels will make you feel energetic and more outgoing than usual.

ovulatory phase graphic

Exercise

You’re on fire! Or to be more accurate: Your estrogen and testosterone levels are. There’s a good chance you’ll feel better than ever at the gym. Channel your strength and energy into high-intensity interval training (HIIT) or weight lifting session.

Nutrition

Because your estrogen and basal body temperature peak during this phase icon-trusted-source StatPearls “Physiology, Ovulation And Basal Body Temperature” View Source , it’s important that you support your liver. Excess estrogen icon-trusted-source Drug Metabolism in Diseases “Estrogen-Metabolizing Enzymes in Systemic and Local Liver Injuries: A Case Study of Disease–Drug Interaction” View Source can cause liver strain, and anything that’s not broken down will go right back into your system. This can cause a hormone imbalance in your body. It’s unlikely that this will be severe enough to cause any serious issues, but it can’t hurt to eat foods that support optimal health.

You can support your liver with an anti-inflammatory diet icon-trusted-source Therapeutic Advances in Gastroenterology “The anti-inflammatory potential of diet and nonalcoholic fatty liver disease: the ATTICA study” View Source . Incorporate plenty of cruciferous veggies (think, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, and kale) and eat whole fruits like apples, oranges, and bananas. Nuts like almonds or pistachios can also be great for your body during this time.

Mindset

It’s not just your body that’s feeling jazzed up—your brain gets an estrogen boost as well, which means it’s the perfect time to have that challenging conversation you’ve been dreading, complete tasks that require teamwork, or attend events.

If you’re trying to conceive, now is the time! You’re most fertile icon-trusted-source Can Cycle Syncing Help With Your Period? “” View Source two to three days before your temperature rises, so if you’d like to be very specific here—use a basal body thermometer to track it every morning. (And if you’re not trying to conceive, be extra certain to use some form of contraception.)

4. Luteal Phase: Scale Back on Exercise and Social Interactions

As you approach the end of your cycle, tasks that seemed easy-peasy a few days ago may appear a bit more difficult. Because your estrogen and progesterone levels are falling, your appetite begins to increase while energy decreases icon-trusted-source Human Reproduction “Menstrual cycle and appetite control: implications for weight regulation” View Source . This can cause mental and physical exhaustion.

Knowing this doesn’t mean you have to wave your fitness goals goodbye—you can simply adjust your lifestyle.

luteal phase graphic

Exercise

Scale back your exercise intensity as your energy decreases. If you’re focusing on, say, weight training, you can keep doing it—just lower your weights and increase your reps if you’re not feeling so energetic. Same goes with running (you may want to keep your mileage the same but decrease your pace) or HIIT workouts (just take each interval a little easier). In other words, make your workouts work for you. 

The more your energy falls, the more you should lean into mobility exercises like Pilates, yoga, or meditation.

Nutrition

Counteract your PMS-induced mood swings with serotonin-producing foods like buckwheat, leafy greens, and quinoa. Magnesium-rich foods icon-trusted-source Cleveland Clinic “Feeling Fatigued? Could It Be Magnesium Deficiency? (And If So, What to Do About It!)” View Source like pumpkin seeds or spinach can help you fight low libido and fatigue.

Do your best to avoid red meat, dairy products, and carbonated drinks, as they can make you feel bloated and uncomfortable. Alcohol and caffeine should also go on your no-list toward the end of the luteal phase.

Mindset Your period, and everything that follows, is about to start all over again. (That’s kind of the thing about cycles.) Use this time to set yourself up by cleaning up your apartment and getting tasks out of the way that you likely won’t have the energy for once you start bleeding. You can think of it as the Sunday reset for your menstrual cycle.

How To Track Your Menstrual Cycle

If you’re the kind of person who still keeps a physical journal, try our menstrual cycle tracker. This printable comes in two versions: a regular US letter-sized one and an A5 version for your bullet journal!

mockup of period tracker
Getty Images / Siege Media

If you’d like to track your menstrual cycle but prefer doing so on your phone or tablet, here are some of our favorite apps:

App NameWhat It DoesApple Store RatingGoogle Play Store Rating
FloUse Flo to get accurate cycle predictions, find patterns in your cycle, or track your pregnancy.4.8/54.6/5
ClueTrack your period, get PMS predictions, and add over 30 different tags (e.g., cramps, skin, sleep, etc.) to learn more about your cycle.4.8/54.4/5
WOOMUse this app to learn more about your menstrual cycle or maximize your chances of getting pregnant. The app was created and designed by women for people with periods.4.7/54.5/5

Glow
Track your period or use the fertility calendar. The app includes a daily health log and health insights. You can also share your data with your partner.4.7/54.4/5
Eve. by GlowThis app lets you track your cycle and helps you make the most out of your sex life with sexy quizzes, a sex and health log, and trusted information about sexual health.4.7/54.4/5

All apps are available for free but offer additional in-app purchases.

Always check the app’s privacy settings before using it to ensure your data is safe.

Cycle Syncing Myths Debunked

There is a lot of misinformation out in the world when it comes to menstrual health—especially regarding your hormone levels during the different phases of your cycle and how they impact your mind and body.

We came across so many of them while researching this article, in fact, that we feel compelled to debunk them:

“The follicular phase starts right after you’re done bleeding.”

  • That’s not true. Your follicular phase starts at the same time as your period icon-trusted-source Endotext “The Normal Menstrual Cycle and the Control of Ovulation” View Source and even overlaps with the ovulatory phase. The luteal phase also overlaps with the ovulatory phase but ends on the first day of your period.

“Your body is more insulin-sensitive during the follicular phase and utilizes carbs better.”

  • Much research has been done on this topic, but unfortunately, “the results of human studies designed to investigate changes in insulin sensitivity through the menstrual cycle have proved inconclusive icon-trusted-source Can Cycle Syncing Help With Your Period? “” View Source .” So we don’t know for sure how insulin sensitivity is related to your menstrual cycle phases.

“Cortisol is going to be lower than estrogen in your body during the follicular phase allowing you to build muscle quicker.”

  • While it’s true that cortisol icon-trusted-source WebMd “What Is Cortisol?” View Source is catabolic and helps you build muscle quicker, we don’t know how high it will be in your body compared to estrogen. All we know is that cortisol levels icon-trusted-source Frontiers in Endocrinology “Higher Circulating Cortisol in the Follicular vs. Luteal Phase of the Menstrual Cycle: A Meta-Analysis” View Source may be higher in the follicular phase compared to the luteal phase.

“The keto or paleo diet may help cool down your body during the menstrual phase.”

  • First off, neither diet has been proven to cool down your body temperature. You may experience keto flu symptoms icon-trusted-source Harvard Health “What Is The Keto Flu?” View Source , but they’re not going to change your basal or resting body temperature. Also, your body temperature varies slightly during your menstrual cycle icon-trusted-source StatPearls “Physiology, Ovulation And Basal Body Temperature” View Source , you need a special thermometer to pick up on the changes. Lastly, if anything, your body temperature will be lower during the beginning of your cycle anyway, making this “tip” truly a moot point.

The only thing that we know for sure is that there’s still a lot of research to be done on why and how hormones fluctuate and how they impact our bodies.

If you’re struggling with painful periods, conceiving, or mood swings during your menstrual cycle and want a natural treatment, give cycle syncing a try. And remember, Ness is here for you if you make purchases like a heating pad, fish oil, or just some good ol’ pads and tampons to help with your symptoms. 

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