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If you’re the kind of person who has to deal with period regularly, you’re probably well aware of how much your energy levels change throughout your cycle thanks to hormonal fluctuations. Not only does this sometimes make even the simplest daily tasks difficult, but it can also make it difficult to stay motivated to stay fit and stick to your regular exercise routine, especially when you notice a dip in your performance.
But according to some popular information on social media, a technology called “cycle sync” may help you avoid feeling this way.
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The premise of cycle synchronization is relatively simple. Instead of doing the same type of workout throughout the month, you can instead tailor your workouts to the current phase of your menstrual cycle. Some women also go a step further and adapt their diet to each stage as well. The claim is that by doing so, it can help “balance” your hormones – which in turn may lead to a host of health benefits, including improved energy levels, reduced PMS symptoms and improved health in general.
But while evidence shows that certain phases of your menstrual cycle may be optimal for different types of exercise, there’s currently no evidence that synchronizing your cycle has any benefits beyond making it easier to stay fit. Not to mention, actually managing to properly implement session synchronization may be easier said than done.
The menstrual cycle can be divided into four phases: menstrual, follicular, luteal, and premenstrual. The concentration of the sex hormones estrogen and progesterone changes at each stage.
During the menstrual phase (your menstrual cycle), estrogen and progesterone are at their lowest. But as you move into the follicular phase, estrogen starts to increase. In the luteal phase, which immediately follows it, progesterone concentrations also begin to increase. Both hormones peak near the end of the luteal phase, before declining significantly during the premenstrual phase (days 25-28 of the average cycle).
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Research shows that thanks to these hormones, certain phases of the menstrual cycle are optimized for different types of exercise.
For example, the luteal phase may be the perfect time for strength training thanks to the increase in both estrogen and progesterone. Research shows that there are significant increases in strength and endurance during this phase. Energy expenditure (calories burned) and energy expenditure are also greater during the luteal phase, along with a slight decrease in body mass. You may also find that you feel more energized and able to exercise during this phase. Hormone concentrations in the luteal phase may also promote the greatest degree of muscle change.
The folicular stage also shows some increases in strength, energy expenditure and energy expenditure – although less.
But when progesterone and estrogen are at their lowest during menstruation (the menstrual phase), you’ll likely notice fewer changes when it comes to building muscle. There is also a higher chance of feeling exhausted due to the drop in hormone levels, along with the loss of menstrual blood. This may be a good time to consider adjusting your training, focusing on low-intensity exercises (such as yoga) and prioritizing recovery.
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Depending on the way your hormones change during each phase of your menstrual cycle, if you’re looking to improve strength and fitness, you may want to plan your more intense workouts for the follicle and luteal phases for the biggest gains.
It all sounds so cool, you might be wondering why more women aren’t following the trend. But the answer is that all of this may be too good to be true.
While the reported responses do happen, putting all of this into practice is easier said than done. First, most research on the effect of the menstrual cycle on physical fitness assumes that the cycle has a regular 28-day pattern. But 46% of women have cycle lengths that fluctuate by about seven days – with another 20% showing fluctuations of up to 14 days. This means that the regular cycle varies from person to person.
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The second major assumption is that the progesterone and estrogen responses, which drive changes in physical fitness, are constant. But this is often not the case, as both estrogen and progesterone show significant differences between cycles and each person. Some women may also lack estrogen and progesterone due to certain health conditions. These responses make it difficult to accurately track cycle phases by monitoring hormones alone — and also make precise synchronization very difficult.
So while the idea of syncing up your period with your workouts seems logical, the results each person sees will likely be different. But if you want to give it a try, period-tracking apps — along with using ovulation test strips and temperature monitoring — can help give you a good idea of what phase you’re in in your cycle.
This article is part of a quarter of life, a series about the issues that affect us in our twenties and thirties. From the challenges of starting a career and taking care of our mental health, to the excitement of starting a family, adopting a pet or just making friends as an adult. The articles in this series explore questions and provide answers as we navigate this turbulent period of life.
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