There’s no sugar coating it: Our menstrual cycles can sometimes wreak havoc on our mood, energy and appetite.
For ages, women have been developing coping skills to manage the changes that come with their unique cycle. A more recent trend that promises to help is “cycle syncing” — the practice of altering your health routine based on your menstrual cycle.
On TikTok, users claim certain diet and fitness habits help them feel better during different phases of their cycle. One user shared that she enjoys walking and yoga during her menstrual phase, and strength training during the follicular and ovulatory phases. “I’m trying to listen to my body and do what I have the energy for,” she says in the video.
Another TikToker, who also happens to be a dietitian, shared a timeline of the most beneficial exercises to do during each phase of your period. Yet another person detailed how important it is to follow your body’s lead. “Now that I understand a little bit more about my hormones and how they can affect me throughout the month, I listen to my body a little bit better,” she says in the video.
Some fitness programs are developing workout plans using the menstrual cycle as a guide. For example, the popular Pilates workout Pvolve released a “Phase and Function” workout that tailors the type and intensity of exercise to your cycle — all with the goal of minimizing PMS symptoms and optimizing your body’s energy and strength during each phase.
But does this actually work? TODAY consulted several experts to learn more about the trend.
What is cycle syncing?
Cycle syncing is a practice that attempts to use lifestyle habits to combat the negative effects the menstrual cycle can have on mood, appetite and energy.
“Cycle syncing refers to lifestyle modifications based on the timing of one’s cycle. For those who practice cycle syncing, the thought behind it is that changing one’s behaviors during different times of the cycles can help reduce intensity of symptoms and stabilize their mood,” Dr. Asima Ahmad, board-certified reproductive endocrinologist, obstetrician and gynecologist, and chief medical officer of Carrot Fertility, tells TODAY.com.
The term cycle syncing can also refer to syncing your cycle with a life event. “For example, if somebody is planning to go on vacation and they don’t want to get their period at the time, or they’re planning to start fertility treatment, we might use a medicine, which is a completely different concept to delay a period,” says Dr. Khaled Zeitoun, a board-certified OB/GYN and reproductive endocrinology/ infertility specialist at New Hope Fertility.
How does the female hormone cycle impact mood, appetite and energy?
There are several phases of the menstrual cycle, and each one comes with its own unique set of symptoms.
“A ‘cycle’ (from first day of period to first day of period) is divided into two halves: the follicular phase, which is when an egg grows and the luteal phase, which is post ovulation,” Dr. Anate Brauer, board-certified reproductive endocrinologist and IVF director at Shady Grove Fertility in New York, explains.
The follicular phase often results in increased energy levels as estrogen rises, whereas there is “decreased energy levels and increased levels of anxiety in the luteal phase as estrogen plummets and progesterone rises,” says Brauer.
During your period, symptoms can also include fatigue, cramping and mood changes, says Ahmad.
Is there any benefit to adjusting our lifestyle based on our menstrual cycle?
Cycle syncing isn’t currently backed by scientific evidence, says Brauer. And although none of the experts consulted encourage their patients to practice cycle syncing, they do support tracking your cycles and symptoms.
Brauer explains that the menstrual cycle is hard to control if you’re not on a hormonal contraceptive, but acknowledges that getting to know the patterns of your cycle can’t hurt.
“Tracking a cycle or two could be helpful to better understand why you feel a certain way and when, but stringent tracking with vigilance to diet and activities could cause more stress and anxiety than it’s worth,” Brauer says.
Ahmad doesn’t practice or discuss cycle syncing with patients, but does recommend her patients spend time getting to know their unique cycle in detail.
“I do recommend that the individual track their symptoms and then discuss them with a doctor before considering cycle syncing to rule out any other medical issues or concerns that may be causing some of their symptoms,” Ahmad says.
The best workouts and foods to eat during each phase of your cycle
The question remains: Can certain foods and exercises help boost your health during your menstrual cycle? While there isn’t any scientific evidence to back cycle syncing, Zeitoun acknowledges that there are foods that may help ease symptoms common to specific phases in your cycle. “Women can change their diet and activity habits based on their menstrual cycle to help boost energy levels and ease hormonal symptoms,” Zeitoun says.
- Follicular phase: Your body is making more estrogen, so seek out foods that promote estrogen production like tofu, Zeitoun says.
- Ovulatory/luteal phases: Seek out fiber and foods rich in vitamin B to help ease gastrointestinal discomfort, like bloating and constipation, as hormones rise and progesterone kicks in, he says.
- Menstrual phase: “During the menstrual phase, the body is sort of in a cold state, losing energy,” Zeitoun explains. So it’s important to stay well hydrated and look for energy-rich foods that are high in electrolytes during this phase.
Your energy levels vary based on where you are in your cycle, so it’s natural to alter your workout routine based on how sluggish you’re feeling.
Zeitoun notes that energy levels are pretty stable during the follicular phase. They peak at the time of ovulation and most of us can be more active at this time, he adds. “At that time the energy levels go up, metabolism goes down a little bit and it is a good time to exercise and have an active lifestyle and get things done,” he says.
Do certain women benefit from cycle syncing more than others?
The experts we spoke to agreed that there still isn’t enough research on cycle syncing to tell who would benefit most from the practice. However, they did note that the concept of tuning into how your body feels during the various phases of your cycle is wise.
“The menstrual cycle experience is different for each individual. There are many variables including lifestyle, weight and other medical issues (such as hormone dysfunction) that can impact one’s cycle,” Ahmad says.
It’s important to note that some frequent side effects of the menstrual cycle can also be signs of a larger underlying issue, according to Ahmad.
“If someone is feeling ‘off’ or doesn’t feel quite right (for example, if they’re feeling sluggish), they know their body best and I think it’s always a good idea to bring up these symptoms with their OB/GYN or another health care provider,” Ahmad says. “Sometimes these symptoms can be secondary to hormone fluctuations like low estradiol or even anemia secondary to heavy bleeding from your period.”
Before embarking on a cycle syncing routine, each of the experts we spoke with suggested consulting your doctor. Seeking out the help of a nutritionist is also a good idea if you’re serious about adjusting your diet to help cope with menstrual cycle side effects.
“What I do tell my patients is to listen to their bodies and when these symptoms are occurring, modify their activities to limit the toll on their bodies when energy levels are low,” Ahmad says.
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