Cycle Syncing: How To Conquer Your Hormones & Feel Empowered
We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again; when it comes to your body, knowledge is power. It’s pretty simple when you think about it: the more you know, the more you can do to nourish, heal, and soothe. This is particularly true if you menstruate as your hormones can send you on a rollercoaster ride each month, so learning how to work with your hormones rather than let them control you is one of the most empowering things you can do.
Enter stage left… Cycle syncing. Cycle syncing is a practice that’s becoming increasingly popular as it allows you to pre-empt the impact of your hormonal changes, enabling you to look and feel your best at every stage of your cycle. For all the medical 411, we got in touch with Dr. Rebecca Booth M.D. OB/GYN and Co-Founder of VENeffect Skin Care, who explained EVERYTHING!
What Is Cycle Syncing?
“Cycle Syncing refers to the practice of aligning diet, exercise, habits, expectations, schedules and fertility management to your hormonal cycle.” Dr. Booth tells us. Although she prefers to call the practice cycle optimization, “In other words, taking charge of your physiology with the most important tool of all: understanding it.”
Dr. Booth says the rise in popularity of cycle syncing is thanks to our newfound ability to track our health data on apps and mobile devices. She explains, “Using tracking apps, a woman can evaluate her cycle much easier than the old-fashioned pen and paper technique, and the ability to graph and interpret can help any woman understand her hormonal ebbs and flows much better.”
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The Benefits of Cycle Syncing
“Understanding your hormonal cycle can help you anticipate how to recognize your optimal days and how to offset hormonal vulnerabilities. Your moods, metabolism, and your appearance are all strongly influenced by the ups and downs and ratios of the main reproductive hormones: estrogen, testosterone, and progesterone,” Dr. Booth explains. She also says it’s important to note that “if you are on the pill, your cycle tracking is not accurate, and even the IUDs or implants that contain progestins may alter your data,” informs Dr. Booth.
Understanding the Big Three
When it comes to your monthly cycle, understanding the three hormones that influence your cycle and the role they play in your body and mind is key. Dr. Booth explains, “each day of the menstrual cycle is a reflection of the different levels of the ‘big three’ hormones: estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone. Not only are we designed to have these levels fluctuate, but their relationship varies each day as well, influencing how we look and feel. The key is to understand why they fluctuate and what we can do to take charge of these variations.”
Be aware that health-tracking apps often refer to four phases of a menstruators monthly cycle, however, Dr. Booth says the better description of feminine physiology is these three phases. Here’s a breakdown of the three phases, how they’ll make you feel, and the best way to work with those feelings!
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Days 1-7: Menstruation, AKA the “Reset” of the Cycle
What your hormones are doing: According to Dr. Booth, on day one (the day that you start your period) “the three major female hormones (estrogen, progesterone, testosterone, what we call ‘The Big Three’) are all low.” However, on the third day of your period “estrogen and testosterone slowly will begin to rise.”
How it makes you feel: “The ‘Big Three’ support not only your mood, but your metabolism, and to some degree, your immunity.” Dr. Booth says this means you’ll tend to be “a bit weaker early in the period, and the days leading right up to it.” This also means that “Many women are more prone to colds and other viruses right before and early on in the period due to the low hormone levels, but this begins to repair itself by cycle day three.”
Your hormones will affect your skin too. Dr. Booth says, “estrogen is low at this point, particularly in days 1-3, which leads to less stimulation of collagen, elastin, and hyaluronic acid – that dewy substance that gives us the glow.” Oh, and expect to feel extra emotional, when the big three are in full force.
How to Hack Your Cycle
Nutrition tips: Try and stay away from sugars and simple carbs like white bread and pasta during this time as it’ll make you feel more sluggish and increase bloating. Instead, load up on leafy greens that are rich in iron like kale and spinach, as well as foods fueled with vitamin C, like kiwis oranges to boost your immune system. In fact, Dr. Booth suggests taking vitamin C and zinc supplements to boost your immune system before and during your period. As always, make sure to drink plenty of water to keep your body hydrated.
Exercise tips: As you tend to feel a little slower during this time, use this period to rest or stretch your body. Think gentle yoga, a light workout, or long walks.
Skincare tips: Due to the dip in estrogen levels, which dehydrates skin during this time, Dr. Booth suggests upping your use of moisturizer and using “a moisturizer rich in phytoestrogens, which is a plant-based estrogen found in the nuts, seeds, and bark of the healthiest plants.” Dr. Booth also says this is, “the ideal time to get a facial or do an at-home facial to recharge your skin and offset some of the side effects of the drop in estrogen in your skin.” Check out how to give yourself a bomb DIY facial.
Days 8-15: “The Venus Week”
What your hormones are doing: Your “estrogen and testosterone levels are rising together just prior to ovulation (around days 14-15).” According to Dr.Booth, this time is often referred to as ‘The Venus Week’ as “the hormonal recipe is designed to encourage confidence and romance.” So basically you’ll be feeling sexy AF.
How it makes you feel: During this time “the power hormones: estrogen and testosterone, increase romantic and positive thinking, as well as confidence and desire.” Dr. Booth explains that the reason you feel like this is due to an “increase in dopamine and endorphins which boost your mood and energy.” Your metabolism is also boosted and your skin has a youthful glow.
Nutrition tips: Fill up your diet with protein-rich foods and magnesium-rich goods like greens, nuts, seeds, dry beans, whole grains, wheat germ, wheat, and oat bran.
Exercise tips: As you have higher energy levels, it’s the best time for high-intensity workouts like HIIT classes or running.
Skincare tips: Although you may be majorly feeling yourself, Dr. Booth reminds us not to get lazy with our skincare regimen, as “when skin is at its best, a good regime will help prolong it!” And, because our skin is bringing its A-game, you can “reserve your more intense beauty regimen for the Minerva and reset phases.” Dr. Booth also tells us that during the Venus stage, you can afford to indulge your food cravings as it’s “the only week in the cycle where you might get away with it from a skin standpoint.”
Days 16-28: The Minerva Phase
What your hormones are doing: “After ovulation, estrogen, and testosterone take a dip as progesterone, the hormone Mother Nature sends out to protect the assumed pregnancy, takes charge. Progesterone’s job is to encourage rest and eating,” which is why you feel like you could eat everything and anything in sight and your energy also decreases. Dr. Booth also says your “mood can be a little more inwardly directed” so it’s the ideal time for “focusing on individual goals and increasing meditation and organization.”
How it makes you feel: As your estrogen and testosterone drop so does your energy and sexuality, in contrast, Dr. Booth explains that “progesterone rises, and has a calming effect on sleep, but it makes metabolism a little sluggish, so the cravings and calories result in more bloating, a tendency to gain weight, and more breast tenderness.”
Dr. Booth continued that “as the cycle progresses even progesterone begins to fall, and the mood takes even more of a dive as in response to the “Big Three” dropping. Since the hormones support feel-good brain chemicals the sudden drop causes dopamine, endorphins, and serotonin to all fall as well.”
Nutrition tips: Stock your cupboards with earthy vegetables and foods high in vitamin C. Drink green tea to boost your energy levels and focus, and try not to eat everything in your cupboard (but no judgment if you do).
Exercise tips: Even though you may not be in the mood, Dr. Booth assures us that “the best solution for a negative mood and poor metabolism is exercise.” Dr. Booth recommends doing at least “22 minutes every day (2.5 hours a week) combined with meditation!” Thankfully, she assures us that “even brisk walking counts,” while pilates or core-focused yoga is great for both the mind and body.
Skincare tips: When it comes to skincare, you should “take extra care to prevent skin problems in the week leading up to menstruation, which is the time you’re most likely to experience breakouts and dullness.” If you’re acne-prone, this is a good time to use gentle AHA exfoliators (in your toner, cleanser, or exfoliator) to decongest your pores and reduce impurities in the skin.
Which Health-Tracking App Is Best?
When it comes to the best app, Dr. Booth says, “The reviews and utility of FLO look really good to me,” however, she does add “my patients use many different cycle trackers, and all have pluses and minuses.” She continues, “The challenge is for the physician to be able to read the data; it’s really helpful for your in-person provider visit to print out your cycle data, look for an app that will make that easy to do.”
While all of this information may feel like a lot to take in, understanding your cycle will help you feel empowered so we’d recommend downloading an app STAT – it’s the first step to getting to know your body better.
Would you guys try cycle syncing? Let us know in the comments below.
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