Cycle Syncing 101, Pt. 2: How to Support Each Phase

In Cycle Syncing 101, Pt. 1, we started a two-part series on cycle-syncing—in which we covered what it is, how it works, and the basic tenets of each phase of your cycle. To conclude the series, we’ll discuss how you’ll most likely feel during each phase and how best to support them.

Again, let’s start with the MENSTRUAL PHASE and what it’s typically going to look/feel like: Hormones are at their lowest during this phase, and the main event is the shedding of your uterine lining that was built up during your cycle. A healthy period consists of bright red bleeding for 3-7 days, without much pain or other symptoms.

I’ve heard it said that your menstrual phase (aka your period) is like a report card of your overall health that cycle. If we struggle with low progesterone, excess estrogen, or high testosterone throughout our cycle—whether from stressors like undereating, over-exercising, imbalance blood glucose, emotional trauma, poor sleep, or some other factor—we can see brown spotting before or after our period, as well as excess fatigue, mood changes, pelvic cramping, low backache, and cravings. A few of us may also experience longer cycles (late periods) or even skipped periods as a result of anovulatory cycles (cycles in which we don’t ovulate at all). If you tend to see a short period (less than 3 days of bleeding), you may have low estrogen.

NUTRITION // Menstruation is an intense process that requires proper refueling and remineralization, so it’s even more important to prioritize nutrient-dense organ meats, bone broth, gelatin, and iodine-rich sea veggies during this time. Fruit and squashes are also a great option for blood sugar balance, as mild insulin resistance can occur more commonly during your period. Upping potassium and magnesium rich foods like potatoes, coconut water, cacao, and leafy greens can be especially helpful for proper insulin signaling.

LIFESTYLE // We have the greatest amount of communication between your two brain hemispheres—the left side (analytical) and the right side (more emotional). This makes menstruation a great time to reflect and make decisions. Self-analysis and introspection are key. And if there’s ever a time to prioritize self-care at the highest degree, this is it: Whether that looks like taking a mental health day from work or scheduling an evening (or two) all to yourself—you do you, sister. Other great habits to cultivate during this phase: journaling, meditation, course-correction and life planning (is your life heading in the direction you’re excited about, and if not, how can you change courses?), relaxing rituals, reading, and sleeping in!

MOVEMENT // It’s a good time to rest and rejuvenate! If it feels right for you, feel free to forego regular workouts this week for midday naps, luxurious baths, or full body massages. While not everyone enjoys taking a break from exercise, it’s important to give your body a time-out from the more intense sweat sessions while your energy is low so that your muscles can repair themselves. However, if you don’t care to switch to leisurely walks, stretches, and hatha yoga during this time, just try to get in a shorter or less intense version of your normal workouts. Obviously, how you feel will determine how hard or long to go.

As for your FOLLICULAR PHASE: Typically, your energy levels are high and your mental acuity is strong. But because estrogen is building up, if we have imbalances or don’t detoxify it well, it can lead to inflammation and symptoms like acne, mood changes, and just not feeling like yourself.

NUTRITION // This is where our recommendation of one carrot a day comes in: The fiber in raw carrots binds to excess estrogen and escorts it out of the body so that it doesn’t get recirculated into the bloodstream. We recommend one a day every day of your cycle—not just in your follicular phase.

LIFESTYLE // Get creative! Your brainpower is on overdrive this week, so try to schedule brainstorming sessions with your coworkers and tackle mentally challenging assignments within this period. You’re also probably feeling more outgoing and adventurous, which makes getting out of your comfort zone and trying new things incredibly fulfilling and rejuvenating. Want to pick up a new hobby? Now’s your chance! You’re forming new neural connections in the brain more easily during this time, so anything you start now is more likely to stick later.

MOVEMENT // If you’re experiencing heightened energy levels, now may be the time to hit the gym with zeal, but take caution not to overdo it. You still have the rest of the month to go! If you’re stuck in a rut with your current routine, try mixing it up a bit with something new. Surrounding yourself with people during your workouts will also keep you extra motivated to push your edge and get the most out of your exercise.

During your OVULATORY PHASE, the harmonious symphony of hormones present serve to boost your energy, adorn you with a feminine glow, and rev up your sex drive. While some of you will feel on top of the world these next few days, the release of the egg may bring about pelvic pain, light brown or pink spotting, a headache, or mild fatigue in others. Either way, you’re most likely more resilient to stress during this time.

NUTRITION // Again, don’t forget the fiber. Similar to the follicular phase, a surplus of estrogen is floating around your insides right now, and fibrous foods will ensure it’s being metabolized and eliminated properly. Stay hydrated with potassium-rich beverages like coconut water and add sea salt to your water for a boost of sodium. Our bodies can handle a little more stress during this time, so don’t stress a glass of wine or night of takeout during this phase.

LIFESTYLE // Community defines the ovulatory phase, when your mood is stable and your communication skills are on point. Don’t shy away from engaging in difficult conversations (like asking your boss for a raise, perhaps!) or initiating a heart-to-heart with a family member. Receptivity to others will come more naturally now, too, so focus on quality one-on-one time with a family member, partner, or best friend.

MOVEMENT // Go for the gold during this 3-4 day window! If you’re feeling up to it, commit to a few high-impact workouts and more strenuous exercises—like weight lifting, running, and plyometrics—before your physical endurance begins to decrease for the month. Not feeling so great? Tweak your current workout regimen to include more low-impact moves.

Lastly, in your LUTEAL PHASE, you’ll notice a decline in energy starting about halfway through. This is mostly due to the relaxing effect of progesterone, as well as the fluctuations in estrogen. The shift in hormones can sometimes cause PMS, breast tenderness, headaches, bloating, irritability, mood swings, and carb/sugar cravings about a week before your period—but as you start to focus on estrogen detox and boosting progesterone throughout the month, we start to see improvements in these symptoms.

NUTRITION // Your body uses up a good amount of B vitamins to produce progesterone, so it’s a good idea to replenish your stores with foods like red meat, beef liver, seafood, poultry, eggs, and dairy products. Help stave off stress with magnesium-filled dark chocolate and leafy greens (or a magnesium supplement), and load up on serotonin-boosting root vegetables (like sweet potatoes and parsnips—which naturally caramelize when baked) to combat mood swings.

LIFESTYLE // The particular ratio of estrogen to progesterone during the luteal phase calls you to a keener sense of awareness and attention. You might notice things now that you were happy to ignore before—like, for example, the little administrative or housekeeping responsibilities that have slowly piled up over the month. The nesting instinct is fierce, too, so take these two weeks to catch up on domestic tasks like cleaning/organizing your place or cooking soothing soups and stews. It’s important to start preparing for your period, simplifying your schedule, and prioritizing sleep.

MOVEMENT // During the final week of this phase, scale back on the intensity of your exercise. Water retention, PMS symptoms, and sluggishness may make it hard to push yourself—so back off a little and give your body some grace.

Can every woman benefit from cycle syncing?

As much as I personally love cycle syncing, I don’t necessarily think it’s for every personality type, and even I’ll admit that some of it should be taken with a grain of salt. (For example, filling your plate with nutrient-dense foods is always important, not just for several days out of the month.)

That said, if you’re like me, and enjoy having loose parameters to direct your daily habits, you’re probably going to thrive on the given guidelines. I like to think of it as #biohacking my menstrual cycle.

Growing up—like most girls my age—I considered my period the ultimate curse, but rather than treating my monthly cycle like an obstacle to overcome, I now see it as an opportunity to leverage my hormones for greater performance in every aspect of my life.

Want to learn more about your period? Check out my free period starter guide and sign up for my weekly feminine periodical newsletter to get more info on hormones and health.

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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