Gynecology, What's Up, Down There
During your menstrual cycle, fluctuations in our hormones estrogen and progesterone can affect everything from energy levels, to mood, physical symptoms, and nutritional needs. The idea of “cycle syncing” has been gaining buzz in recent months as a way to optimize your exercise routine to align to the various phases of your menstrual cycle. Here, we’ll explore the science behind this growing trend and uncover the facts about cycle tracking.
For starters, let’s understand the different phases of the menstrual cycle. A typical menstrual cycle lasts 28 days but can vary from person to person. It is marked by the first day of a period and ends with the start of the next period. There are four phases:
A quick search of the hashtag #cyclesyncworkouts on TikTok will show you hundreds of videos with more than 3 million views on the topic. But is the advice of these users really sound? Let’s dig into the origins and current research on the theory.
Cycle syncing originally gained popularity with professional female athletes in 2019 when the U.S. Women’s National Soccer team announced they had been using menstrual cycle syncing to prepare for the World Cup. They believed if they could work with their hormones, instead of against them they could optimize their training routines. The team tracked their periods for months using an app and specifically timed their training to align with their cycles.
While scientific research in this area is limited, some recent studies have found there may be a connection between hormone levels and energy, specifically the hormone estrogen.
The belief is that estrogen levels are highest immediately after your period (the follicular phase) and therefore you may have the energy to handle higher-intensity workouts such as high-intensity internal training (HIIT), heavier weightlifting, or running. Estrogen levels are typically lower immediately after ovulation (during the luteal phase) as well as during menstruation, and therefore you may have decreased energy and prefer lighter workouts like yoga, walking and Pilates.
Overall, experts agree more research is needed to verify these findings. It’s also important to remember that hormone fluctuations may not be the same for each person. In addition to personal biological differences, factors like taking certain forms of hormonal birth control, such as the pill, can also have an effect as it can prevent ovulation and reduce surges in hormones.
When evaluating trends on TikTok, Karen Tang, MD, an Axia Women’s Health gynecologist, offers her advice.
“There are definitely changes in how people feel physically and emotionally depending on the phase of the cycle because of hormone fluctuations around ovulation. And if anything that someone does makes them feel better and more attuned to their body, that’s great. But, I also don’t think that people should feel obligated to adjust their activities, relationships, diets, around their cycles in a highly regimented way if there’s no great evidence that it will make a major difference.”
When evaluating information online Dr. Tang adds, “If it’s not clear what someone’s credentials are, approach with caution. There are countless social media personalities that claim to be “hormone experts” or “weight loss experts” that have no actual, legitimate expertise in those topics.”
“If someone is making claims that seem to contradict what the majority of other health experts are saying be suspicious. Most experts will base their information on evidence-based sources, reliable studies, and professional society guidelines. Finally, no medical professional can or should give medical advice on social media – healthcare should always be personalized, and requires counseling and nuance.”
While cycle tracking shouldn’t be considered a prescription for how to plan your workout routine, it can offer other benefits. For example, tracking your menstrual cycle can help to identify irregularities or symptoms that could clue you in on other health conditions such as endometriosis or polycystic ovarian syndrome.
These days, keeping track of your menstrual cycle has never been easier with the rise of period tracking apps.
The key takeaway here is that listening to your body is key. Remember, if you feel tired during your period it’s okay to take a rest day! Rest and recovery is an important component of a fitness routine. Finding the routine that helps you feel your best and achieve your health goals is what’s most important. Just like our menstrual cycles, personal fitness routines can look different for each person.
If you have a concern regarding your menstrual patterns, don’t hesitate to speak up. Your Axia Women’s Health provider is here to help!
September 19, 2023
What's Up, Down ThereRead More
September 19, 2023
Exercise & Nutrition, GynecologyRead More