Cycle Syncing for Optimized Cycles with Kela Smith
In this interview, Laurie and Kela Smith discuss Cycle Syncing.
Kela is the CEO and program director of the Hormone Puzzle Society, a woman’s health hub for fertility, hormones, and the business of coaching. Through this platform she works with women all over the world who are struggling with infertility and hormone imbalance and coaches them to get pregnant naturally and eliminate symptoms of hormone imbalance as well as runs a fertility coach certification program.
Kela brings over 20 years of experience as a professional fitness trainer, wellness educator, and author. To date, she has published multiple books on fertility and hormones as well as four distinct online courses. She also hosts, The Hormone P.U.Z.Z.L.E Podcast.
This is a transcription of an Instagram live conversation. You can find the full video on Laurie’s IGTV tab on Instagram and on soon on YouTube.
Hi, everyone. I’m back today with Kela Smith. We’re going to talk about cycle syncing and optimizing your cycle. It can do so much for us women and help us optimize our health as well.
So Kela, what it is you do in your practice and how do you help women, especially as you’re a fertility specialist. Today we’re going to be talking about optimizing our cycle, but I’m sure that comes up all the time with the women that you work with.
So I am coach Kela Smith and I am the CEO and program director of a company I created called the Hormone Puzzle Society. It’s a women’s health hub for fertility, hormones and we’re adding in pregnancy now.
My team and I work with women all over the world. We help them learn how to optimize their cycles so that they can have boosted fertility. We also teach them all about hormones. We do a lot with hormone testing, because we like to see what the root cause of the issue is. We work to heal that holistically. So your body can do what it was made to do naturally, which is get pregnant, stay pregnant and have a healthy baby. So that’s a little about me.
I love it. The first thing that comes to mind when we started talking about this is that when women go to their doctors with any kind of hormone issues, and they’re not trying to get pregnant, the doctors usually kind of push them away. It’s more like, “We’ll check out your hormonal situation and help you optimize things if you’re trying to get pregnant.” But if you’re not, they sort of make you go away.
Sometimes they act like it’s in your head, or they test your hormones and tell you that you’re normal. But that doesn’t mean you’re optimal. Maybe you’re subclinical, meaning you’re just a little bit off, but you’re still having symptoms.
It’s super frustrating. That’s why I do the work that I do. So we can fix this problem.
So we know that in order to get pregnant, optimizing hormones is important. Yet it’s important at any time in our lives, as women whether you’re trying to get pregnant or not.
Even if you’re maybe planning pregnancy down the road, optimizing your hormones right now can help you in the future and not just with fertility.
Exactly. It will help you with your period. It will help you if you want to get pregnant now or in the future, and it’ll even help you as you go into menopause.
Even though your cycle stops, it doesn’t mean your hormones stop. They just lower. So even going into menopause and perimenopause, you want to make sure that your hormones are balanced and they’re working the way that they should. So that you don’t have to suffer with all those menopause symptoms that we’re told are just part of being a woman. It’s just not true.
Right. In my practice so many women are struggling with energy, really struggling with fatigue and mood issues, and maybe also cravings and just not feeling their best. So bringing in more of an optimized cycle can definitely help with all of that as well.
So let’s dig into it. What does it mean when you say optimizing your cycle?
It means really intuitively eating certain foods and doing certain activities that are going to benefit you for where your hormones are at. So it’s either giving your body the food and activity it needs to make certain hormones or doing the same thing to detox certain hormones.
You’re creating this balance within your body, homeostasis. So everything’s working the way that it should. Your body has all the materials that it needs to do what it needs to do.
To eliminate these symptoms, have pleasant periods, to have a boosted sex drive and even with your mood, having more focus and creativity and just that mindset shift. So it affects so many things.
It’s really about living in sync with your body, your hormones and your cycle.
It sounds easy enough. How do we do that? How do we start to apply cycle sinking? Where do we even begin?
So the first thing you want to do is track your cycle. You can’t sync your cycle or optimize it unless you actually know what it is. I am shocked at how many women do not track their cycle. They don’t know if they ovulated, don’t know what day of the month they’re on in their cycle, any of it. So track your cycle.
A normal cycle should be 28 to 35 days. If it’s shorter than that, or longer than that, then usually there’s something going on with your hormones. It should be about three to five days of a bleed and start off with spotting, then get a little bit heavier and then taper off into spotting again. You should have bright red blood and not a lot of symptoms. Cramping, bloating, fatigue, all of that is your body saying that something’s going on and something’s wrong?
That’s your body’s report card. So knowing how long your cycle is, how long your period is, and kind of knowing what phase you’re in is super important.
So the four phases of the cycle, for those of you who don’t know, it starts with day one of your menstruation phase. That’s your period, usually day one through five.
Then you go into your follicular phase. This is day six through 14 of a 28 day cycle. This is when your body is really growing those follicles and getting ready to ovulate. Everything’s kind of getting a little bit juicy or a little bit ready for ovulation.
About day 15 through 17 that’s ovulation, that’s when the egg is actually coming out of the follicle. If you’re trying to get pregnant, that’s one of the most important times, you gotta know when and if you ovulate.
As you go through ovulation, you’re going to go into your luteal phase, which is about day 18 through 28 of that cycle.
This is when your hormones are starting to come down, you’re starting to want to focus more on detox, trying to help those hormones to eliminate from your body.
If you don’t help your body to naturally detox, then the hormones get recycled, which can cause all the symptoms that we just mentioned before. So that’s really where you start looking at the four phases of your cycle, figuring out where you’re at in those phases and then eating certain foods and doing certain activities, which benefit you for where you’re at in your cycle.
Do you have some favorite ways that you would suggest to women to track their cycle?
It depends on if you are a pen and paper type of girl, or if you prefer an app. I like the flow app and clue.
You can also do just pen and paper or you can even do it the old fashioned way. Pull out a calendar and be like I started my period on this day. I ended my period on this day. So really there’s many different ways to do that.
I love the paper method, but I know it’s not for everybody.
So we’re tracking our period. And then what did we do? How do we start to bring in those different elements you were talking about?
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So all those are really quick. I actually have some free resources on my website.
Once you know where you’re at, you’re just going to be adding a couple of foods for each of these phases during that time.
During your period week, it’s all about warming foods, more soups, stews, root vegetables and red meat, if you’re a meat eater.
If you’re a vegetarian or vegan for religious purposes, I’m not going to change your mind, but if you’re doing it because you think it’s healthy, it’s really not that healthy for you. When you’re on your period, you need iron. It’s so hard to get iron from any other food. And it’s really hard to nourish your blood with that iron, that’s super important. So if you’re a vegetarian or vegan, I would love to talk to you about that, but you definitely want to get some red meat and some iron in your blood and in your body.
Then as you move into the follicular phase, it’s more about fresh, light fare. So think salads, colder items, fresh fruits and vegetables. You are growing those follicles, so you want to feed your body with lots of fruits and vegetables, giving your body as many nutrients as you can get. As your body’s metabolizing, these hormones you want to pay attention to a good probiotic. I recommend probiotics all month, but definitely during your follicular phase to help your gut metabolize these hormones.
Then as you hit ovulation, this is when it’s really important to eat antioxidant rich foods. So you want to protect those eggs from free radicals, because remember eggs are just cells. So we want to protect them from being damaged from free radicals and toxins. So eating a lot of antioxidants through dark colored fruits and vegetables, lots of leafy greens, berries and different things like that.
Then as you go into the luteal phase, it’s all about detox. So you want to be eating foods that are going to naturally detox, think lemons, fennel, garlic, onions and high fiber foods. If you do eat grains, this is when you want to be having your grains, your quinoa, buckwheat, sweet potatoes and root vegetables are also good during this phase.
So those are really the foods that you want to pay attention to.
I also recommend doing cycle syncing for exercise.
So to do that, during the luteal pahse and your period, when your hormones are pretty low, is when you want to do low restorative gentle movements. Think walking, yoga, Tai Chi, stretching.
As you go through follicular and ovulation, your hormones are high. So you can do more high, intense activities like your classes, your bootcamp, your spin classes, running, all of those things.
I always have people ask me, “I love to do spin. Can I not do that all month?” You can, if you love to do that, do it all month, but just during luteal and your period go a little bit easier, don’t turn up the volume as much, don’t do as hard intensity, just kind of do it, but do it easier than you would during those phases.
You’ve touched on it when you were explaining the different foods of the different phases and also the different exercise, but could you go a little bit deeper as into how this is helping us optimize our cycles? Why are we doing it?
Definitely. So you’re giving your body the raw materials that it needs to make certain hormones. So during the phases, especially your estrogen and progesterone, you’re giving your body the raw materials to make those hormones or to detox those hormones.
Just think about it. You can’t build a house without bricks or wood, so you can’t build hormones without raw materials, which is food. So that’s why you’re giving your body these certain nutrients.
Also it’s not cut and dry. If I eat meat, when I’m ovulating, it’s not that I’m doing something wrong and I’m going to totally throw off my hormones and my cycle, it doesn’t work like that. All of this is whole food balanced nutrition. It’s just certain nutrients that are in these foods are going to benefit you more during that phase of your cycle.
That’s why the red meat during your period and the antioxidants during your ovulation. You’re just kind of giving your body those resources to do what it needs to do during that phase. The same with exercise. You are working with your hormones instead of against your hormones. So when they’re low and your energy’s low, if you try to push against that, it’s stress in the body. You’re going to add more stress, more cortisol, more adrenaline to the body. If you’re working out really hard during the times when your hormones are low.
The same when your hormones are high. You have the energy, you want to use that energy to push you through these workouts, so it’s working with your hormones instead of against your hormones.
Yes, absolutely. When you’re working with your hormones, you’re not disrupting other hormones. You’re not exactly creating an imbalance.
Where do we go, when we’re trying to incorporate that into our everyday life as well, in terms of social and work?
So when your hormones are low during your period, this is when it’s time to look within. Think self-reflection, this is a time to sit by yourself and journal, to think about your whole mind, what you want to do, what you want to accomplish. Start thinking about your goals. You don’t want to put anything into practice yet. You just are thinking about it. It’s all about tuning into yourself.
Then you move into the follicular phase. This is when you want to start planning what you thought about last week. This is the week when you actually put the plan to paper. You start mapping out your month and all the things that you need to do, but you’re not doing it yet.
Then as you go into ovulation, this is when you want to start doing all of these things that you planned. So give the speech, ask for the raise, do the presentation, do the webinar, all of that.
Then as you’re in your luteal phase, this is when you’re right and your left brain are really aligned. This is a good time to do any big tasks. If you have a big project you need to complete and you need to sit down and focus for a long period of time, this is the time to do that. If you have anything that needs to be organized or cleaned, also do that now. So think big projects like organizing the fridge, cleaning out your car, doing a presentation, writing a book, that type of thing.
It kind of flows like that with your social life too. When you’re on your period and during your luteal phase is when you really want to be doing more things close to home, like watching a movie, watching Netflix by yourself, kind of relaxing and doing more inner stuff.
Where during your follicular phase and ovulation is when you’re more seen and heard. Think going out, you’re charismatic, you’re talking to people, you’re going on dates or being social, that kind of thing.
Again it’s all about using those hormones and either tuning into yourself or being outward in the scene.
Right. I like to think especially around ovulation is when you’re showing up your best and you’re the most magnetic and attractive. That’s a great time to think about presentations and anything. The rest of your cycle is kind of like the preparation and the recovery from.
Also sometimes you don’t have a choice. If you work for someone and you have to do something on a certain day, you don’t have a choice.
If you do have a choice, just know that you’re going to have better results, if you do it during a certain time of your cycle and work with your hormones.
I look at my calendar monthly and think this is what I’m going to do if I have a choice.
When you do have the choice and you are able to make those shifts, then that definitely affects your energy throughout that month, because you’re placing your energy in the right places.
Exactly. I and many of my clients find that things are easier when you’re working with your hormones. For example workouts can be super easy during ovulation and during other weeks it can feel like, “Oh my God, that killed me!”
Exactly. So why work against our hormones when we can just work with them? Things are so much easier that way.
The idea of cycle syncing can sound so radical to many people, especially when you’ve been doing everything the same more or less every day, every week on repeat.
I like to remind my clients of the difference between men and women’s hormones. Men have a 24 hour cycle that does repeat every day and women don’t. This is really about helping women to show up their best. You’re optimizing your hormones so that you’re feeling your best at every phase of your cycle. Your health is optimized throughout the month. Instead of pushing, pushing and pushing, and doing the same thing every day, not really taking into consideration how our hormones are different throughout the month.
I’ve found too that it will make your immune system work better. It’s less stress on your adrenal glands, less stress on all of your hormones. You’re really just allowing your body to be calm and relaxed and do what it needs to do naturally
Yeah. 100%. This has been great. Thank you Kela.
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This information is for educational purposes only and is not intended to diagnose, manage, or treat disease or serious conditions. Always check with your doctor before making any changes. It’s important to consult a well-informed health practitioner for personal advice about your situation before relying on general information — we’re all wonderfully unique.
Laurie Villarreal, FNLP, CHWC, FNS, LMC, CPT, RYT
Hi, I'm Laurie, a functional nutritionist and health coach, athlete, dog-mom, and biohacking adventure-lover. After having struggled for years to find lasting solutions for my own debilitating hormone-related symptoms, I created my online practice to begin helping other active, driven women get the support they need. I now help women around the world elevate their health, energy, business and life by optimizing their hormones with personalized nutrition and lifestyle tweaks. Together, we discover new tools and strategies that keep you showing up at your best so you can play even bigger in your life and work.
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