How A Hormone Expert Changes Her Morning Routine Throughout The Month
As a functional nutrition and female biohacking expert and founder of the world's first menstrual health care platform, The FLO Living Hormone Center, you could say Alisa Vitti knows a thing or two about women's hormones. She's also the author of the new book In the Flo, in which she helps women optimize their eating, exercising, and time management around their hormones.
Her extensive research on the topic makes her an expert, despite not having a medical degree. That's what's so interesting and inspiring about Vitti—she's used all the information already at her fingertips to reveal cutting-edge insights about how our exercise, diet, and lifestyle habits affect our biology (and vice versa!).
For Vitti, those lifestyle habits aren't so set-in-stone. "I have four morning routines, and they shift, based on where I am in the infradian cycle," she tells me on the mindbodygreen podcast.
The infradian rhythm is a monthly biological clock women experience (i.e., the menstrual cycle) that affects all key aspects of health: the brain, metabolism, immune system, microbiome, stress response, and reproduction. That said, it's important to take female biology into account when trying to optimize your health—and your morning routine, for that matter.
Here's why Vitti says you should tailor your morning routine to your biochemistry. According to Vitti, even the healthiest of lifestyles need some tweaks throughout the month.
You might need more rest throughout your cycle.
According to Vitti, women need more sleep than men (30 minutes, to be exact) in order for the brain to do its marvelous self-cleaning process. That's why Vitti encourages rest, especially during the second half of the infradian rhythm.
That's why her morning routines vary during the monthly cycle, as she notes there are certain times when it's actually healthier to stay in bed (or snooze that alarm). "In the second half of the cycle, I will wake up anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour later than in the first half of my cycle," she says.
If you simply can't add an extra 30 minutes of sleep in your schedule, don't fret. Vitti states that this 30 minutes of rest can manifest in a variety of ways: "You want to do things that decrease cortisol," she adds, "which could be things like jumping on a trampoline, having more orgasms, dry brushing your skin—anything that's going to flush cortisol from the body."
You might need a less intense workout some mornings.
HIIT has become the "golden child" of workouts as of late, with studies upon studies noting its benefits for benefits like weight loss and healthy aging. However, Vitti states that—like most activities—these purported benefits are entirely dependent on timing.
If you're in your reproductive years, according to Vitti, HIIT workouts are only effective during the first half of your cycle. "As soon as you cross past ovulation, stay away from high-intensity interval training or you will have the opposite effect," she says.
That said, if it's early in your menstrual cycle—feel free to hit the gym as early as you want! A fast-paced HIIT class will give you those benefits you've read so much about. But because women need more rest during the second half of their cycles, an early morning HIIT workout might not be the best idea. A more gentle form of movement (think yoga or a nice, long walk) might actually be more beneficial for your health during that time.
You might need more (or fewer) carbs throughout the month.
In your typical morning routine, do you eat breakfast as soon as you wake up? Do you practice intermittent fasting? What do you typically reach for—a piping hot bowl of oatmeal or a grab-and-go piece of fruit?
According to Vitti, it's important to address these eating habits when it comes to your morning routine. To best hack your biochemistry, you'd want to make sure you're eating more carbs during the second half of your cycle.
"Because your metabolism changes dramatically from the first half to the second, you don't need as much carbohydrate in the first half of your cycle as you do in the second half," Vitti says.
What she means is that your metabolism tends to speed up during the second half of your cycle. That's why you might have a craving for sweet potatoes or oats during that time period. On the other hand, you don't need as many complex carbohydrates to keep blood sugar stable during that first half of the month, so it might be best to indulge in a low-carb breakfast.
In order to have a truly optimized morning routine, you might want to think about making these tweaks according to how your hormones shift during the month. After all, even the healthiest lifestyles have the potential to lose their effectiveness without proper timing. Vitti agrees, as she notes, "It isn't so much what we do, anymore. It's when."