What is cycle syncing?
Cycle syncing involves adjusting your health and lifestyle habits based on the natural fluctuations of hormones during your menstrual cycle. The concept was recently popularized by Alisa Vitti, a functional nutritionist and women's hormone expert.
In her book WomanCode, Vitti introduced the concept of aligning your lifestyle, diet and routines with your menstrual cycle phases. The concept has become popular on social media with supporters saying tailoring their diet and exercise to their menstrual cycle helps them feel their best all month long.
While cycle syncing is becoming more popular, it is not evidence-based and more research is needed to understand the benefits. For those interested in how it works, here’s a look at the general concept of cycle syncing and potential benefits.
How to get started: demystifying your menstrual cycle
The menstrual cycle is guided by the rise and fall of sex hormones in your body including estrogen, progesterone, luteinizing hormone (LH) and follicle stimulating hormone (FSH). These hormonal fluctuations affect your mood and energy levels to food cravings and more. For those interested in cycle syncing, it’s important to understand your menstrual cycle.
"Many people think of their cycle only in terms of their period, but there is much more complexity that comes with the different phases,” according to Irene Cheung, a family nurse practitioner and clinical lead for Labcorp OnDemand.
Cheung says resources like Ovia’s Fertility period tracker can help people track their missed periods and learn more about their cycle, which on average lasts around 28 days (about four weeks) and has four phases.
Here are the four phases of the menstrual cycle
- Menstrual phase (Around days 1-5): This phase starts on the first day of your period. Estrogen and progesterone levels are low while your body sheds the uterine lining. You may experience cramps, bloating, lower back pain, fatigue and changes in bowel habits.
- Follicular phase (Around days 6-13): Estrogen begins to rise while the uterine lining starts rebuilding and follicles mature in the ovaries.
- Ovulation phase (Around day 14, but may vary by person): Estrogen peaks during this phase, and your energy should be at its highest point.
- Luteal phase (Days 15-28): Progesterone increases to thicken the uterine lining preparing for potential implantation. Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) symptoms like headaches, anxiety, fatigue and food cravings may surface during this phase until menstruation begins again.
Support your health during your cycle with a healthy diet
According to cycle syncing, your nutritional needs may fluctuate during different phases of your cycle.
In general, eating a nutritious, balanced diet is key to maintaining good health. Focus on eating plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, low-fat dairy and healthy fats. Try to limit added sugars, saturated fats and sodium.
Meal planning can help you plan and prepare healthy meals and snacks for the week ahead. Overall, listen to your body, notice how different foods make you feel and find an eating pattern that provides you with energy and nourishment. Small, sustainable changes to your diet can have a big impact over time.
How do I start cycle syncing?
Cycle syncing takes trial and error to find the right balance for your body. Be patient, pay attention to your symptoms and to what makes you feel your best in each phase. Cycle syncing does not apply to those on hormonal birth control.
What if I have an irregular menstrual cycle?
Cycle syncing may not be appropriate or effective for everyone. For people who want to learn more about their menstrual cycles, especially those experiencing irregular cycles or have any questions or concerns, you should reach out to your provider for support.
Here are three Labcorp OnDemand tests to help understand your menstrual cycle and to provide insights into your hormone health:
Progesterone Test: Progesterone levels can help you track ovulation cycles. Progesterone is essential for regulating menstruation and supporting pregnancy. Measuring progesterone can help you monitor ovulation, as low levels may indicate irregular cycles and difficulty conceiving. Elevated levels often signify recent ovulation.
Estradiol (E2) Test: Estradiol is the primary estrogen hormone that regulates the female reproductive system. Low estradiol can impact reproductive health, bones, brain and cardiovascular system. Symptoms like hot flashes, mood changes and menstrual irregularity may signal low estradiol.
Follicle-Stimulating Hormone (FSH) Test: Follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) stimulates ovarian egg growth, supporting ovulation and menstruation. As ovarian function declines with age, FSH levels typically rise. Changes in FSH may lead to irregular cycles, low libido and weight fluctuations.
These Labcorp OnDemand hormone tests can empower women to understand their menstrual cycles and reproductive health. Note that hormone levels can fluctuate and vary widely by individual throughout the menstrual cycle.
Regardless of where you are on your journey, maintaining a healthy diet and exercising regularly can help you feel your best. If you want to learn more about your health, check out Labcorp OnDemand and speak with your healthcare provider to get personalized advice, especially if you have specific concerns related to your cycle.