To be honest, I don’t remember much from health class. Most of the learning I’ve done regarding the health of my body has been done on the internet and with the help of doctors and naturopaths. But we certainly did not dig deep into the biological rhythms of humans.
I’m sure most of you are familiar with the circadian rhythm, the 24-hour body clock which is reset by levels of light. This sleep-wave cycle dictates when humans and animals should be asleep and awake. This happens with the help of light (from the sun or bulb), which is why after a certain time, humans are instructed to turn off devices and start dimming the lights in their homes – this way they can start to wind down for the night.
But that’s not what we’re here to talk about. We’re here to talk about a different pattern of behavior that women go through every month but of which you may not know the name or purpose. I’m talking about the Infradian Rhythm.
You may have learned a little bit about this in Alexia’s blog about Cycle Syncing. If you haven’t read it yet, go there give it a read! Otherwise, let’s take a dive into the Infradian Rhythm and how you can maximize your health and wellbeing.
What is the Infradian Rhythm?
For women, this is your second biological clock. It affects your brain, metabolism, immune system, microbiome, stress response, and reproduction. You can see how it would be important to honor this infradian rhythm so that we could function optimally. Men do not have this biological clock. They function well on the circadian rhythm, so finding a daily routine, waking up early, and repeating that sequence day to day can work really well for them. In fact, that’s the ideal for many men and once they find that routine, they usually find their version of success.
Alisa Vitti was the first person to bring this Infradian Rhythm to our attention. She’s the author of Woman Code, a book that equips women with the knowledge and tools to take charge of their hormonal health) and the founder of FLO Living, a virtual help center for women to go for help with their hormonal symptoms. You may recognize her for her period-tracking app, FLO.
If you read Alexia’s Cycle Syncing blog, you’ll know there are 4 different phases:
- Menstrual (approximately 1-5 days)
- Follicular (approximately 6-14 days)
- Ovulatory (approximately 15-17 days)
- Luteal (approximately 18-28 days)
If you’ve ever wondered why you find it hard to lose weight, or why you have brain fog for a week every month, or why you get moody, or why you feel super confident and sexy… a lot of it has to do with you not paying attention to your infradian rhythm and giving your body what it needs WHEN it needs it. Read on to learn more!
Exercise by cycle
This has been the toughest one for me. I tend to not listen to my body. I rest when I’m basically so burnt out that I need a week of stretching and sleep to bring myself back to life. This is definitely something that has helped put things into perspective for me.
Menstrual Phase: Rest, walk, yin yoga, meditation, and naps. Lots of naps!
Follicular Phase: Take advantage of your cardio-based workouts here. Run, dance, bike, swim!
Ovulatory Phase: Your body might crave HIIT workouts or something else that is intense, such as a Spin class, BootCamp, or boxing.
Luteal Phase: Slow things down a little, but keep it heavy. Lift heavy weights, try s apilates class, barre, yoga, and ease up a little as your period comes up.
Food by cycle
The great thing about eating for your specific phase of the month is that is it gives you lots of options. You will be able to come up with lots of different recipe combinations.
The tough part is you’re pretty much eliminating a lot of processed foods and sugars. However, once you eliminate those from your diet and go through the week or two of readjustment, you’ll notice there are so many options for optimal and delicious ingredients.
You’ll have your pick from a variety of different grains, vegetables, fruits, legumes, nuts & seeds, meats, seafood, and other condiments or seasonings.
The following list of food recommendations is found in Vitti’s book Woman Code.
For more meal ideas, check out this FLO Living Cycle Sync Recipes PDF.
My two cents: I’m just speaking from my background in personal training and nutrition, but I’m not sure how important it is to eat this way every month.
Hear me out. I think it’s important to eat a variety of all of these foods, unless you’re vegan, in which case you would eliminate the meat and seafood. However, I believe the list of foods above just happy to work well so that there isn’t too much overlap and you’re getting different foods from different sources throughout the month. Is it a bad thing to eat lemon in your menstrual phase? I have yet to read a study that says so, but I think Vitti is trying to let us know that these foods are optimal at these specific times for their specific nutritional components.
Supplements to consider
For those of you who cannot get your nutrients purely from your food, which is 99% of us, maybe consider taking supplements to fill those gaps!
Omega-3 Fish Oil: I personally take this one every day in the afternoon, but if you’re going to add more fatty fish or supplements, make sure you do it in the Menstrual, Follicular, and Luteal phases.
Zinc: Another staple, this one should be taken in your Follicular phase when you’re trying to boost your immune system after the Menstrual period.
Selenium: You should be getting enough Selenium from food alone. If not, eat a brazil nut or two. They’re also delicious… so you’re welcome! 🙂 Make sure you’re stocked up for your Luteal phase.
Vitamin C: If you aren’t already taking vitamin C every day, it’s a great one to add to your Ovulatory phase to help support your liver!
Vitamin B: This means all the B-vitamins. Take what you need if you have worked with a healthcare professional and have gotten blood tests done. If you are low in B-vitmains in general, this is a good place to start. These are great to take in the Menstrual, Ovulatory, and Luteal phase.
Magnesium: This is a daily staple for me. I take this in the morning with my coffee. If you don’t plan on taking it every day, tt’s best taken in the Menstrual and Luteal phase.
Before taking any of these supplements, I recommend speaking to a healthcare professional to make sure these are supplements you need in your specific regimen. For example, you may be taking a B-12 supplement because you read you might be low in B-12, but perhaps you don’t need it, in which case it is being excreted in your urine. Don’t waste your money! Find out what you need and then make an informed decision.
I believe that understanding your infradian rhythm is important so that you can cycle sync and honor your body all month. However, and this is a big however… take this information with a grain of salt.
I’ve done a good amount of research on this topic and I must say, I’m having a lot of trouble finding medical studies and scientific papers on the infradian rhythm. Now, it could just be that there are no medical studies conducted on women after they’ve reached their reproductive years, but it seems one person is talking a lot about this topic and not many other people are hopping on the wagon.
Does this mean it is inadmissible information? No, but this rhythm varies from person to person. Think about it: for years and years, we’ve been convinced that it’s normal to have painful periods, to feel cramps and soreness and headaches, and to crave junk food for a week before our periods. Sometimes, we’ve even had medical professionals tell us that not having a period is normal. Many of us have been on birth control for decades without knowing the implications this had on our health! We’re all going to be experiencing our cycles in different ways, so we may need to take different courses of action to restabilize.
The one great thing that Alisa Vitti and other professionals in the health field have done for women is to help us reclaim the autonomy of our bodies. What we do with this information is up to us. Now we know what may happen in each phase of our cycle and we can test out what works and what does not. Again, for some of us, certain methods may work while others won’t. Play around with your options and see what works for you! This is not an instant fix. Imagine how many years it took to get you to where you are today. Make little changes where possible and you’ll start to reap the rewards in the months to come!