The human body ebbs and flows and experiences highs and lows. On some weeks, you may find yourself smashing personal records while working out, and on others, gravity seems to be heavier than usual. If this is the case for you, your menstrual cycle may have something to do with it. 

Syncing the types of workouts you do with the stage of your menstrual cycle is known as “cycle syncing”. And this concept of optimizing physical performance around the menstrual cycle respects your body’s abilities at specific times of the month.

But how exactly does it work?

We’ve spoken to gynecologists and registered dietitians to get the scoop on cycle syncing. Below, we dive into the specifics including how to do it, what specific exercises to do during each phase of the menstrual cycle, and how to best fuel your body throughout.

Let’s begin.

What Is the Cycle Syncing Method?

Cycle syncing is a method of adjusting your exercise routine, eating habits, and daily activities according to your menstrual cycle. The idea behind cycle syncing is that each phase of the menstrual cycle (menstrual, follicular, ovulatory, and luteal) is associated with different hormonal fluctuations that affect your body and brain.

By understanding these changes, you can adjust your lifestyle to optimize physical and mental health throughout your cycle.

Understanding the Phases

The menstrual cycle can vary in duration from 20 to 35 days, with an average of 28 days. During this time, your body goes through many phases.

There are four main phases of the menstrual cycle:

Menstrual phase

The menstrual phase, also referred to as menses, is the phase of the menstrual cycle when you have your period. It lasts for about five days but can range anywhere between three and seven days. 

Because estrogen and progesterone levels are at their lowest during the menstrual phase, menstruators usually experience a dip in energy levels.

Follicular phase

The follicular phase begins on the first day of your period and lasts for 13 to 14 days. This phase includes the menstrual phase and the days following your period up until ovulation. 

Estrogen levels rise during this phase until they reach their peak height during ovulation while progesterone levels remain relatively low. With the rise in estrogen, people who menstruate often experience a slow and steady increase in energy levels.

Ovulation phase

The ovulation phase, also known as the ovulatory phase, occurs when the ovaries release an egg. This phase occurs about 14 days before your next period and lasts for three to five days. 

Estrogen levels are at their highest during the ovulation phase and your basal body temperature increases (from about 36 degrees celsius to 37 degrees celsius). At this time, progesterone levels rise and remain high for about five days before steadily declining until the first day of your period. Energy levels are typically quite high during this phase.

Luteal phase

The luteal phase, also known as the post-ovulation phase, is the time after ovulation before your next period. This phase lasts for about 10 to 14 days. 

Estrogen levels drop drastically after ovulation as you enter the luteal phase; however, there’ll be a second increase in estrogen levels during your mid-luteal phase. Your body temperature remains high during this phase and goes back down (as does your progesterone) until the first day of your period. As hormone levels begin to decrease, energy levels tend to do the same as well.

How To Know What Phase You’re In?

There are many methods to understanding what phase of your menstrual cycle you’re in including fertility tracking apps and manual fertility tracking (which involves tracking your body temperature and the consistency of your vaginal mucus).

Note: if you’re on hormonal birth control, your body doesn’t go through the natural ebb and flow of hormones throughout the 28-day cycle.

Should You Sync Your Workouts to Your Cycle?

Like with anything when it comes to health and wellness, listen to your body and do what feels right for it and fits within your lifestyle. Planning workouts around your menstrual cycle can be a great advantage due to the natural highs and lows of hormones and energy levels. Customizing your workout routine to best match what’s going on in your body can have major benefits, allowing you to feel more connected to the ebbs and flows of your body.

It’s important to note, though, that while there are some benefits to varying workout intensities and types over the course of your cycle, this may also compromise your progress if you’re on a strict workout plan or training for a race, competition, or game. As an approach to general fitness and maintenance, however, cycle syncing can be a real hit.

What Kind of Exercises Should You Do While on Cycle Syncing?

You can do all exercises while on cycle syncing, it just depends what phase of the menstrual cycle you’re in and how your body is feeling at that moment. Examples of exercises you can do while cycle synching include strength training, cardio, yoga, Pilates, kickboxing, and more. We go into more detail on what specific exercises to do during each phase of your cycle below.

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Cycle Syncing Workouts

Menstrual phase workouts

This phase of the menstrual cycle can vary greatly among menstruators. Some may experience painful periods, while others have a less painful experience. This is where the intensity of the workout may vary and it’s important to listen to your body when it comes to exercise and intensity levels during this phase.

This is a great time to strengthen your mind-body connection and engage in lower-intensity workouts. Gynecologist Dr. Brittany Robles of Postpartum Trainer explains that “if you’re experiencing bloating, cramping, and fatigue, it might be a good idea to keep your intensity low and to consider doing light cardio, yoga, and gentle resistance training.”

Exercises suited for the menstrual phase include:

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Some good news from Gynecologist Dr. Adrienne Rasbach is that menstruators who experience painful periods may actually get some relief from their cramps through regular exercise. 

Follicular phase workouts

With the rise of hormones and energy levels during the follicular phase, Rasbach explains that “the week after the menstrual period ends is a good week for more intense exercise” including high-intensity workouts with a focus on strength and/or more difficult cardio-based exercises. 

Exercises suited for the follicular phase include:

Ovulation phase workouts

Since hormones and energy levels are still high during the ovulation phase, workouts between the follicular phase and this phase won’t vary by much. You can still perform all the exercises you did in the follicular phase in the ovulation phase. You may even be able to increase the intensity of your workouts slightly during this phase.

Exercises suited for the ovulation phase include:

Luteal phase workouts

The luteal phase is a time that might be better suited to lower-intensity exercise. “Right after ovulation, [menstruators] often feel more tired or sluggish,” says Rasbach. She continues by explaining that staying active during this time may actually give you more energy.

Because the luteal phase also includes the week leading up to menstruation, people who menstruate may experience premenstrual syndrome (PMS) which can have “the most significant hormonal influence on athletic performance” explains Dr. Rashbach. 

Exercises suited for the luteal phase include:

Pro tip: If you’re experiencing PMS, lower the intensity of any of these activities to ensure you’re still able to get some movement and physical activity in during this time.

What Should I Eat During Cycle Syncing? 

During cycle syncing, you’ll want to eat foods that are specific to each phase of your menstrual cycle and help with hormone and energy levels, as well as nutrient replenishment. For example, during your menstrual phase, consider opting for more iron-rich foods to replenish any iron lost through bleeding. We dive into the specifics below with Registered Dietitian Grace Koeppen from Jugofeed who shares her recommendations on foods to eat throughout your menstrual cycle.

Menstrual phase foods

Eating plenty of iron-rich foods will assist in replenishing the blood loss you experience during your period. Vitamin B12 is also a key nutrient during menstruation as it helps produce new red blood cells and reduces feelings of drowsiness and fatigue.

Foods to eat during the menstrual phase:

  • Red meat
  • Poultry
  • Lentils 
  • Eggs
  • Salmon
  • Greek yogurt

Follicular phase

During this phase, reach for foods that contain phytoestrogens that help to balance levels of estrogen and progesterone. Koeppen says, “it’s not uncommon to feel less hungry during this phase and as you enter into early ovulation.” Adding more healthy fats to your meals and snacks will help regulate your appetite by supporting the production of leptin and ghrelin (the hormones responsible for hunger and satiety).

Foods to eat during the follicular phase:

  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Sprouted beans
  • Pomegranates 
  • Avocado
  • Nuts
  • Grass-fed butter 

Ovulation phase foods

During this phase, go for foods that are abundant in antioxidants like vitamin C. Vitamin C supports immune health and helps to calm any inflammation and stress on the body that can be brought on by ovulation.

Foods to eat during the ovulation phase:

  • Bell peppers
  • Berries
  • Citrus fruits

Luteal phase foods

Your metabolic rate is proven to be higher during this phase and the rise in progesterone can lead to dips in blood sugar levels, which plays a part in PMS. With that in mind, the luteal phase is a great time to eat slow-burning carbs with every meal to help stabilize blood sugar levels.

This phase is also a time for foods rich in zinc and magnesium which stimulate growth of the uterine lining, ready the body for its shedding during the menstrual phase, and help reduce cramping and achiness that may occur.

Foods to eat during the luteal phase:

  • Nuts
  • Seeds
  • Beans 
  • Whole grains
  • Roasted sweet potatoes
  • Quinoa

Cycle Your Workouts with lululemon Studio

lululemon Studio has a class for every stage of your menstrual cycle. From low-intensity exercise during your menstrual cycle to high-intensity workouts during your follicular phase, we’ve got something that’s perfectly suited for how your energy levels.