Cycle Syncing 101, Pt. 1: The Different Phases of Your Cycle

I’m sure by now that most of you have probably heard the term “cycle syncing” thrown about once or twice, and if you’re big into the wellness scene, you might consider yourself an expert. This surprisingly ancient approach to women’s health is having a moment these days, something I couldn’t be happier about—I’m fascinated by how our bodies work as women and am constantly learning about how we can best support them for optimal health and function.

Whether you struggle with hormonal imbalances or simply want to feel your best, cycle syncing can be an excellent way to support your body’s natural hormone production and optimize your fertility (a good thing regardless of whether you plan on having kids).

What is Cycle Syncing?

Put simply, cycle syncing is the practice of planning your life according to the phases of your monthly cycle. When I say “planning your life,” I’m talking everything: This can include the foods you prioritize, the movement you focus on, the work projects you take on, the social activities you commit to, and so forth… We’re mainly going to be talking about the lifestyle/movement factors, as cycle syncing with foods can become tedious really quickly I tend to recommend the same nutrition principles for every phase. (If you’ve been with us for a while, you know which principles we’re talking about!)

If cycle-syncing already seems complicated, I can promise you, it’s a lot more intuitive than you’d think. And once you start getting the hang of it, it’ll easily become second nature!

How Does it Work?​

Speaking of nature, women are naturally cyclical creatures. Whereas men’s hormones remain static for the most part, ours are beautifully dynamic and ever-changing to sustain optimal fertility throughout much of our lives. There are four phases in a woman’s cycle: follicular, ovulatory, luteal, and menstrual. Certain hormones like estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone rise and fall at specific times during the month based on whichever phase we’re in, a pattern that repeats itself approximately every 28 days.

Have you ever wondered, for instance, why you are completely focused and ready to hit the ground running on some days and can barely motivate yourself to carry a conversation on others? Yep, that’s right: The drastic changes your mental and physical state undergo very much have to do with your body’s hormonal shifts throughout your 28-day cycle. Which is why it’s a total game-changer to actually be in tune with your body and know how best to support the fluctuations through diet, lifestyle, and exercise.

If you think about it, aligning your daily habits with the four phases of your cycle makes perfect sense: If your body’s functioning in different ways at any given time during the month, it’s going to need different things to perform well. By incorporating the right nutrients, movement, and lifestyle practices for each phase, you’ll not only be optimizing hormonal function, but you’ll also be making things a lot easier for yourself by working with your natural body chemistry—not against it. It really does give a whole new meaning to the phrase, “going with the flow.”

Now that you have a basic understanding of what cycle syncing is, let’s dive into the basics of each phase—and what that means for you!


Let’s start with the phase you’re probably most familiar with: your period! Bleeding occurs in this phase, obviously, but here’s why: If the body recognizes that it’s not pregnant, the corpus luteum becomes inactive, halting the production of progesterone and triggering the shedding of your uterine lining—hence, the blood! Estrogen drops off, signaling to the hypothalamus that it’s time to start gearing up for another round of ovulation.


During the follicular phase, several ovarian follicles (cyst-like “shells”) are swelling in preparation to release an egg. From a hormonal perspective, the brain sends follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) and luteinizing hormone (LH) to the ovaries, jumpstarting the growth of 15-20 eggs. (Only one of these eggs will go on to mature as the rest become suppressed and die off.) FSH and LH also trigger an increase in the production of estrogen, which continues to rise throughout this phase—all functions necessary to properly thicken your uterine lining, which will house the “chosen” egg. You won’t notice any vaginal secretions in the beginning, but toward the end of this phase, you should start to see white(ish) cervical mucus that is tacky or sticky in texture.


In the third phase, your body’s getting ready for the most important part: ovulation! After a sharp rise in FSH, followed by LH, an egg is released into your fallopian tubes for fertilization and travels to the uterus, where immune system cells are starting to grow. Estrogen levels continue to increase and testosterone surges and drops right around ovulation. You’ll notice as you get closer to ovulation day that your vaginal discharge is clear, slippery, and super stretchy—much like the consistency of raw egg white.


The last phase is characterized by a steady rise in progesterone via the corpus luteum, a fancy name for the follicle that produced the special egg. This progesterone production signals the body to do two things: 1) stop sending out FSH and LH so that no more eggs are released, and 2) keep the uterine lining intact. Estrogen begins to drop a little but then has a mini resurge around Days 6-9, and testosterone increases. (Sidenote: If the egg hasn’t been fertilized by the end of your cycle, the corpus luteum will be reabsorbed back into the body.) Vaginal secretions should have also declined or disappeared altogether by this point.

How Do I Know Which Phase I’m In?

The most comprehensive and accurate way to know exactly where you are in your cycle is to track it using the Fertility Awareness Method (FAM). There are several different ways to do this, but all of them observe fluctuations of one or more of the following physical signs:

  1. Your cervical mucus
  2. Your basal body temperature
  3. Your cervical position

Personally, I think the easiest way to track is with our basal body temperature. Here are some basic tips for getting started:

  • Get a basal body thermometer. We recommend TempDrop because you wear it on your arm and don’t have to remember to take your temperature in the morning. There are less fluctuations, but it is an investment (although you can use your HSA to purchase)
  • Take your temperature first thing in the morning before you get out of bed. Hold the thermometer in your mouth for a couple minutes to warm it up.
  • Track your temperatures in an app like Flo or Kindara. They will chart it for you so you can easily see changes.
  • You need 3 high temperatures that are higher than the previous 5 in order to confirm ovulation.
  • The average ovulation day is day 16, but it can vary. My ovulation is usually around Day 19 or 20, but it stays pretty consistent around there.

While FAM initially takes some adjusting to, the information you’ll receive about your body is invaluable. Of course, to be able to truly cycle sync, you have to actually have a cycle—which, sadly, excludes everyone on hormonal birth control. (The birth control pill prevents ovulation by shutting down your hormones, and therefore eliminating your cycle.)

Now you can identify the four phases of your cycle! Take a look at the FAM resources below for more information on this topic.

FAM Resources

Dig even more into FAM with the podcast episode I did with Nina Boyce on the Are Your Menstrual? Podcast and also check out my free starter period guide.

reminder: i’m currently taking on 1:1 clients. if you’d like to explore what it would be like to work together and if we are a good fit, fill out this form to get more details!​

Amanda Montalvo

Amanda Montalvo is a women's health dietitian who helps women find the root cause of hormone imbalances and regain healthy menstrual cycles.

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