One day you’re happy, full of energy, and feeling on top of the world.. the next day you’re sitting on the couch with a bucket of Ben & Jerry’s feeling extremely irritable. As a woman, your hormones are constantly in a state of ebbs and flows, especially depending on which phase of your cycle you’re in. No, you’re not crazy, and yes, it is definitely normal to be feeling a variety of changes both mentally, emotionally, and physically depending on where you are at in the month. The good news is that there is more accessible information than ever before about optimizing and working with our hormones, not against them.
No longer do you need to be at the effect of PMS and have confusion around your menstrual phases, it’s time to take your power back and tackle your days with more control and empowerment. With that being said, this article is going to cover all things “cycle syncing,” by giving you a brief overview of the four phases of a menstrual cycle. We are also going to share suggestions of you can take care of yourself and feel your best throughout the entire month by optimizing where you’re at in your cycle.
What the heck is cycle syncing?
Some pretty major hormonal shifts take place inside of a woman’s body in preparation for ovulation and menstruation. It’s due to these changes that are occurring within the body that so many women have set out to seek answers about what’s really going on. We want to find the reasoning behind why we feel the way we do.
The term “cycle syncing” is coined by Alisa Vitti, the author of WomanCode. She essentially believes that women can sync their goals, behaviors, and lifestyles to align with their menstrual phases and hormones to feel better. Although it seems pretty straightforward, this isn’t the case for every woman. In fact, studies have shown that 14-25% of women of childbearing age experience irregular periods. This means that every month can be different and tracking where you are at in your cycle is a lot more difficult, although not impossible.
The four phases of a cycle
Menstruation is something that so many women view as a headache or a burden, but what if it didn’t have to be? What if we could learn to love and fully embrace the ability our body has to produce life? What if we had more knowledge about what was going on within? With a better understanding of the phases our bodies go through to prepare us for ovulation and menstruation, we can start to feel more empowered in the choices we make as a whole.
Phase 1- The Menstrual Phase
The first day of menstruation is considered the first day of your cycle. It is during this time that a woman’s uterine lining sheds and the hormone progesterone plunges. Progesterone is a hormone that is released by the ovaries. Lower amounts of progesterone can cause you to feel less productive and more tired than usual. During this time it’s important to really listen to your body and identify when you may need more rest. When you’re losing blood and iron it’s important to focus on eating nutrient-dense foods such as lentils, fish, and greens. You should also try to incorporate foods like walnuts, almonds, and pumpkin seeds which contain manganese and help to ease cramps.
During this time it’s best to make sure you’re drinking enough water and getting enough sleep.
One supplement that we recommend taking during this time is Magnesium. This fantastic mineral has been shown to help relax your muscles which is definitely key for when you’re bleeding. Menstrual cramps are the result of your uterus muscles contracting, this is what can cause pain from mild to severe for some women.
In terms of exercise, it’s probably best to focus on less intense workouts during this time, especially during those first couple of days of your cycle. Slower, more rejuvenating movement like walking, yoga, or pilates is great for this time of the month and phase of your cycle.
Phase 2- The Follicular Phase
This part of the menstrual phase is also the longest and actually overlaps with your period. This part of the cycle begins on the first day and lasts until ovulation occurs. During this time the body produces more estrogen and prepares to release an egg. The Follicular Phase usually lasts between 11-27 days and it is during this time that most women begin to notice a shift in how they feel. Higher energy levels occur, libido begins to rise, and a more positive mood will start to develop. This is definitely a feel-good phase and a time in which you should take advantage of your lifestyle!
Here are a few ways you can make the most of the way you feel during the Follicular Phase:
- Socializing and going out more with friends, family, and colleagues
- Focusing on more deep work and complex projects
- Tackling to-do lists
- Allow your creative juices to flow
To support your estrogen levels during this phase, it’s a great idea to eat nutritious foods that complement what is going on within. Cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, kale, and cauliflower are great choices at this time since they contain DIM, a phytonutrient that helps to balance estrogen. It’s also a good idea to stay away from alcohol as it can cause imbalanced hormones among other side effects.
The follicular phase is an ideal time to start incorporating more intense workouts into your routine again. Whether you enjoy running, HIIT training, lifting weights, or swimming, this is the right time to take advantage of your energy and put it to good use – for both your mind and body!
Phase 3-The Ovulatory Phase
Are you feeling confident, full of energy, and in the mood? It might just be thanks to the ovulatory phase of your cycle! During this time, a substance called the luteinizing hormone increases which will then prompt the ovaries to release an egg into your fallopian tubes for fertilization. If you’re looking to conceive or to avoid getting pregnant altogether, this is the time you must really pay attention to. Some key to tell you are ovulating include:
- Your cervical mucus changes: When the body produces more estrogen it can cause cervical mucus to become more clear and stretchy, almost like an egg-white consistency. This is something you can look out for if you suspect ovulation.
- Changes in your basal body temperature: During ovulation, your basal body temperature will rise and stay elevated. It is not something you may not notice out of the ordinary but it is something that you can track and monitor.
In terms of your lifestyle and how you feel during the ovulatory phase, it’s definitely a time of high alertness and more energy. Whether you’re scheduling an important conversation with a boss or looking to get frisky with your partner, now is the time you’ll be feeling the most confident and on top of your game. Get out with friends, network, go to events, and communicate more effectively, it’s your time to really shine!
In terms of your diet and nutrition, during ovulation, your body will be looking for more B vitamins and Zinc. Examples of some nourishing foods to eat during this phase include whole grains, meat, fish, legumes, eggs, and leafy greens. It’s also important to make sure you’re staying hydrated by drinking enough water. Water helps follicle development, transporting hormones around the body, and provides endless benefits for overall health and wellness.
During this part of the phase continue to channel your elevated energy into high-intensity workouts such as kickboxing, dancing, running, and any other workout of your choice! Embrace that ovulation energy and celebrate your body for all of the amazing things it’s doing.
Phase 4-The Luteal Phase
After all of that high-level ovulation energy, confidence, and extroversion, you might start to notice a shift in how you feel during the luteal phase. During the beginning of this phase, progesterone is on the rise and estrogen decreases. Your uterus lining begins to thicken in preparation for the implantation of a fertilized egg. If there is no conception that occurs, your hormones then prepare for a period to arrive. It’s during all of this fluctuation of hormone levels that results in feelings of PMS for many women, especially near the end of the luteal phase. Some of the most common PMS symptoms include:
- Mood swings
- Anxiety, irritability
- Breast tenderness
When you’re noticing that you begin to feel “off” it’s best to take the approach of adjusting your lifestyle accordingly. Do more things that help you to relax, prioritize sleep, focus on breathing deeply, and incorporate mindful movement/exercise.
In terms of your diet during the luteal phase, some of the modifications that might help you to feel better include eating smaller more frequent meals to promote the feeling of fullness and eliminate bloating, limiting sodium, avoiding caffeine and alcohol, and prioritizing more protein such as beans, lean meats, lentils, tofu, and eggs.
Supplementation that can also help you at this time includes magnesium, calcium, vitamin B6, omega 3 fish oils. Here are some of the products we recommend:
Not many women are taught about the intricacies of our cycles. We might understand the basics of what is going on within such as ovulation and menstruation, but there are definitely missing pieces of the whole picture. Since more information is at our fingertips and accessible, for one of the first times in history, women can finally be empowered and understand what’s going on within their bodies every month. Knowing where you are at in your cycle is important to better understand fertility, pregnancy, menstruation, your moods, productivity levels, physical changes, and so much more! Our bodies are truly incredible for what they’re capable of doing, it’s time we celebrate that a little more. Here’s to hoping that you feel more in control, wherever you’re at in your menstrual cycle.