What is Cycle Syncing? The Link With Hormones & Productivity
Fun fact: there are more than 50 hormones in the human body. Our hormones can affect everything from our metabolism and sleep habits to our sex drive, blood pressure, and reproduction. They can also impact our moods, and our growth and development. But the idea that we must simply remain at the mercy of our hormones at all times is an outdated one. Just like we needn’t let our emotions control us (rather, we can learn to be more in control of our emotions), we can also take a more proactive approach to handling the way we react to – and impact – our hormonal cycles, and the effects they can have on the rest of our lives. This idea has even been given a name in the modern day: cycle syncing, which is when individuals tweak different aspects of their lives – from their working habits and exercise schedules to dietary choices – to flow more naturally with the phases of these cycles, and the ways they can affect the body.
First things first: both men and women are affected by their hormonal cycles. Even before we add in the fluctuating effects of how our bodies may react to hormonal changes within us (be that from a direct supplement, or as a side-effect of a medication, for instance), whether you’re a biological male or female, our bodies naturally go through hormonal cycles on the regular. They just happen on a different timeline in male and female bodies, with different key hormones going through these cyclical ups and downs for each.
The Female and Male hormonal cycles
Typically thought of or described as a monthly cycle, the female hormonal cycle varies from woman to woman, and generally occurs within a range of between 23 to 35 days, with the average being 28 days. This cycle consists of four main phases, each of which may, again, be different for each individual woman.
The first is menstruation. Lasting about 1-7 days, this is when the body recognizes that the egg released in the previous cycle was not fertilized. In other words, pregnancy has not occurred – so the body sheds the excess lining of the uterus, which had grown thicker in order to support a potential pregnancy. At this time, the hormonal shifts chiefly occur through a drop in estrogen and progesterone. This stage can come with physical effects including cramps, bloating, breast tenderness, increased tiredness, body aches, and headaches, as well as emotional effects such as mood swings, irritability, or anger.
The next phase is the follicular, which usually takes place between an 11- to 27-day timeframe, with an average of around 14 days. Technically, it actually begins during your period (on the first day) so there is a bit of crossover between the follicular and menstrual phase. During this stage, your brain instructs your body to release a follicle-stimulating hormone, which the ovaries produce within around the next 24 hours. These follicles are small sacs, of which there are hundreds in the ovaries – although the number of ovarian follicles does decline with age, usually from the age of 30 and upwards. Each of these follicles produces one immature egg. Not all of these will mature – only the healthiest or strongest will, while the rest become reabsorbed by the body. The quality of these eggs can also begin to decline from the age of around 30 onwards. Once this “chosen one” egg matures, the follicle bursts, releasing the egg, which is then ready for potential fertilization. This is the ovulation or ovulatory phase. Meanwhile, your hormones shift yet again as your estrogen level spikes, indicating that your uterus can once again begin thickening its lining in order to provide a safer space in which the embryo to grow, if the egg is indeed fertilized. This is the luteal phase. It ends when menstruation occurs (if pregnancy did not happen), as the whole cycle begins again.
In a male hormonal cycle, however, the chief hormone fluctuation is with testosterone – and in male bodies, this cycle typically ebbs and flows over 24-hour cycles. Both men and women have testosterone, progesterone, and estrogen within them, but the amounts can vary greatly. In a male body, testosterone levels can naturally be 10-20 times as high as they are in female bodies, while the progesterone and estrogen levels are considerably lower. These 24-hour hormonal cycles are usually from morning to night, at least on a basic natural level – disruptions or changes can occur due to lifestyle factors or changes to the circadian rhythm, for instance. Within this standard 24-hour cycle, the morning is when testosterone levels are the highest, falling to its mid-range levels in the afternoon, and dropping to the lowest levels by the evening, before repeating all over again the following day,
So how do these hormonal cycles affect our lives and lifestyles?
The growing trend of cycle syncing suggests that paying attention to these hormonal shifts – and in doing so, tweaking our lifestyles and habits to suit the emotional, physical, and mental changes that may come with them – could be a great way of optimizing our lives. The idea is to work with these natural patterns, rather than forcing ourselves to conform to an existing structure or routine that might not actually be the best, most efficient, or effective for us. Experts on the subject have suggested ways to reconsider everything from our exercise to our nutrition habits, to flow in line with these cycles.
Basing our exercise and eating habits around the hormonal cycle
For female bodies experiencing this hormonal cycle, the menstrual phase can be an exhausting and trying time in multiple ways. This is a great time for letting go, metaphorically and physically (while it occurs internally too), so it’s wise to be gentle with oneself at this stage. If we were to consider the female body to be going through “seasons” with each stage of this hormonal cycle, this would be the equivalent of winter. It can be harsh and brutal, and moving with light movements that conserve energy is wise. Going for a walk, or doing slower flows of yoga for instance, are calming and soothing activities that still allow the body to move without placing it under too much additional stress. While the body moves less and has to face the physical challenges of menstruation such as cramps or bloating, it’s wise to opt for nutrition that is soothing and gentle on the body, such as calming herbal teas (like ginger or chamomile), and avoiding caffeine, as well as foods that are overtly fatty, spicy, or salty.
During the follicular phase, the body is getting stronger and feels more vibrant – and much like the season of spring, it’s a time for replenishing. Testosterone levels tend to be lower at this time, which means less stamina than usual, but it is a great time for light or lower-impact cardio such as hiking or swimming, and nutrient-rich foods such as cruciferous vegetables, leafy greens, and gut health-supporting fermented foods.
The ovulation phase is a time of higher energy – the summertime of these cycle seasons – which makes it an ideal time to opt for high-intensity exercise such as HIIT, boxing, circuits, and the like, while munching on foods that pack a powerful punch of health benefits from anti-aging properties, protection from free radicals and environmental toxins, or inflammation, as well as those that support an increase in expended energy.
During the luteal phase – the autumn of the hormonal cycle’s seasons – the body starts to gently wind down again, preparing itself for the winter or menstruation that is to come. This is a time to allow the body to rest whenever needed so that it can be strong, and honor any lowered energy levels with more sleep, or less high-impact exercises such as yoga, pilates, jogging, or cycling. As the mood and energy levels start to dip, a boost can be had by consuming more serotonin- and magnesium-rich foods, helping to perk up one’s “happy hormones” and beat fatigue.
For male bodies experiencing the 24-hour male hormonal cycle, the high levels of testosterone in the morning suggest that this is a great time for more aggressive, independent, impulsive, and aggressive behavior. If high-intensity exercise is on the cards (or anything that involves solo competition) this is a great time for it! During the middle of the day, as testosterone levels start to dip, these energy levels are still bright and uplifted, but they’re a little less aggressive. This is a great time for anything that requires drive and focus, such as more endurance-based exercise (rather than the type that requires faster and shorter bursts of energy, like sprints), or more collaborative options, such as team sports. Once the evening rolls around, this is the time to recharge, honoring more relaxing and gentle activities, be that going for a walk, a slow and easy swim, taking a yoga class, or even just taking more rest.
On the dietary front, it’s harder to eat to honor a 24-hour hormonal cycle, and it can be wise to simply eat according to the body’s nutritional needs at that time. It is wise to note, however, that alcohol and caffeine can both affect testosterone levels (by making them spike), as can high levels of stress. This would therefore have an impact on the stage of this 24-hour cycle, which is why men choosing to have a drink in the evening, or a coffee in the late afternoon, may experience a surge in testosterone that fights this natural wind-down. This can have its benefits – such as if one wants to have a boost before an evening high-intensity workout that can only fit in his schedule then – but it’s also wise to take note of if it disrupts opportunities for some necessary rejuvenation.
How can the hormonal cycle affect our working habits?
Some say that the standard workday cycle is more geared towards male bodies. Indeed, we don’t often get to control how much productivity we are due to deliver at different times of the month, and many people simply have to fight the more draining effects of where they might be at in their natural cycle, and just power through.
If there is a choice in how one structures their work throughout the month, however, it could be wise for those with female bodies to follow the same idea of these “seasons” throughout this time period. For instance, during the menstrual phase, this would be a great time to catch up on basic admin and more automated tasks that require less intensive thought-processing or physical labor. This is also known as a great time for ideation, as we shed old thought patterns and create new ideas, making it an excellent period for brainstorming, or dreaming up new work that requires more creativity. The follicular phase could be seen as a good time to start setting plans in motion, such as beginning new projects, whether that’s placing orders or assigning tasks, or starting the initial phases of plans that are to be executed in the following week or so. The ovulation phase could be a great time to collaborate with others, produce a lot of work that requires intense focus, or complete anything that requires high performance or greater energy. Finally, the luteal phase would be an ideal time to wrap up any past projects, and begin planning, researching, reflecting and analyzing what has occurred in previous work, and laying the groundwork for the next project to come.
When following the 24-hour male hormonal cycle, it would seem that the morning would be a great time to take part in any work that requires a more competitive edge, higher levels of risk-taking, or a high level of energy in something that might be solo work. By the afternoon, as a more collaborative and easygoing level is reached, this could be an ideal time to set up meetings, brainstorming sessions, network, schmooze clients, or work as part of a team. And by the evening, as testosterone levels dip, this would be a time well-suited for restoration, during which one can unwind with more creative pursuits that offer some level of relaxation, reflection, or the chance to absorb new information that may require a slower and more calmly-digested pace, such as reading.
Hormones affect us all, but every body is still different
These guidelines are simply general timeframes and hormonal shifts for the standard “normalized” natural hormonal cycle of the male and female body. It’s important to remember that everyone’s body is different, so these hormone levels and their ensuing effects may not apply in exactly the same way to every individual. Lifestyle factors, too, have an impact, with physiological changes such as high stress levels, or dietary changes (particularly from food or drink that contain a lot of caffeine, salt, or sugar for instance) able to cause further changes to one’s hormonal state regardless of their biological sex. Keeping a diary of the shifts in your mood, behavior patterns, and diet and exercise habits can be a great way of finding out what your unique daily or monthly cycle of hormonal shifts may look like. It’s always wiser, too, to consult with a specialist or qualified medical professional, whether that’s a doctor, dietician, personal trainer, gynecologist, or endocrinologist, for instance, to see what works best for your unique body and lifestyle. But if you’re trying to find a way to flow with the natural rhythms of your body, then understanding your cycle and the way it affects your own energy levels, moods, and physical needs, could be a good place to start.
Trying to find a holistic approach to handling the shifts in mood and physical activity that can occur around the ebb and flow of the hormonal cycle? Try our unique “Flow With The Divine Feminine” guided meditation, which is designed to help with exactly that!
All of the content on our website is thoroughly researched to ensure that the information shared is evidence-based. For more information, please visit the academic journals that influenced this article: Hormones And Desire; The Menstrual Cycle And Exercise: Performance, Muscle Glycogen, And Substrate Responses; Female Work Capacity During The Menstrual Cycle: Physiological And Psychological Reactions; Sex Differences In Stress Response Circuitry Activation Dependent On Female Hormonal Cycle; Hormonal Cycles, Brain Network Connectivity, And Windows Of Vulnerability To Affective Disorder;
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