Anyone who takes their fitness seriously understands the importance of diet and exercise. You know that you can have the most disciplined, intense workouts, but if you aren’t monitoring your nutrition you will never reach your fitness goals.

It seems that even the most serious athletes act as though fitness were a triangle, with diet and exercise propping up their fitness goals. If they are disciplined in both of these aspects nothing can stop them from getting where they want to be.

If that is the case, then why do so many people fail to achieve their goals? What could they possibly be missing?

The answer is more simple than you think.  Sleep. Sleep is the underrated 3rd key to fitness. In reality, fitness is not a triangle, but a pyramid, with sleep as the third leg giving it a solid base.

You may be thinking, is sleep really that important? The answer is, Yes! Think about it, why do so many workout programs fail? Physical exhaustion, mental exhaustion, and injuries. Let’s take these on one-by-one.  

Physical exhaustion: If your body is getting proper nutrition why do your muscles still feel drained? Probably because your body doesn’t have the time to divert that nutrition to muscle recovery.  During deep sleep, your body releases growth hormone and focuses on muscle recovery and regeneration.

Next, mental exhaustion. The best workout program in the world won’t yield results if you don’t have the mental discipline to get to the gym.  When does your mind recover from the stresses of day-to-day life? During REM sleep, and adults need at least 4 or 5 sleep cycles per night to get enough of it.  If you aren’t getting 6 to 9 hours of uninterrupted sleep then you aren’t putting yourself in the mental headspace you need to get results.

Last, injuries.  Even if you have the willpower to push through your physical and mental exhaustion, your workout program will come to a catastrophic end if you injure yourself. It doesn’t take a biologist to figure out that a fatigued body is more likely to give out and a fatigued mind is more likely to slip up.  It only takes 1 misstep to derail your fitness goals.

Sleep isn’t just important for exercise, it is essential on the nutrition side of fitness too.  Diet requires discipline, and discipline requires mental energy. Not only that, but the more hours you are awake the more likely you are to cheat on your diet.  No one has a protein shake or kale as a midnight snack.

It’s time to start taking sleep as seriously as you take diet and exercise.  That means prioritize it, plan it, and, if needed, take supplements to enhance it.

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