Updated: Jul 31, 2021
So here’s a random question for you: do you remember Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs from your Psychology 101 textbook?
Yes? No? Maybe sort of?
Do students even use textbooks anymore??
Just in case, here is the basic summary: It’s a pyramid model of a human beings needs, with our basic physiological needs at the bottom (food, water) and the very top of the pyramid being self-actualization and fulfilling one’s full potential (whoa).
The idea being that unless the base levels of the pyramid are satisfied, you won’t be able to achieve the levels above it. So without food and water, good luck with accomplishing self-actualization.
A similar model exists for your health and wellness needs, and while it may not be quite as exciting as self-actualization, when it comes to your overall health it is quite important nonetheless. It looks like this:
Notice something interesting about this pyramid? Exercise is at the very top, the smallest piece of the puzzle, and thus the ‘least’ important or impactful when it comes to your health goals.
Obviously, exercise is awesome and has a ton of health benefits, so this is certainly not to say that you should forget about getting exercise and focus only on sleep and nutrition. But it does highlight the idea that if your sleep and/or nutrition practices are lacking, exercise is only going to get you so far in terms of helping you achieve overall health and wellness.
And these three components are synergistic – is your sleep is lacking, it will impact your food choices and your ability to exercise (and recover from exercise). If your nutrition habits are so-so, your exercise and sleep will be affected. And if you’re not getting any exercise, your sleep and nutrition are likely to suffer as well.
Imagine you’re building a house: if you start with an unstable foundation, the rest of the house isn’t going to be very functional or strong no matter how great the materials or building plan. The same is true for us humans; without the foundation of proper sleep and eating habits, our long-term health goals will be compromised, even if our exercise routine is spot on.
A strong foundation makes all the difference.
It’s not uncommon to feel that if you aren’t seeing the results you want from your workouts that you just have to work out harder. But oftentimes, simply getting more sleep and fueling yourself a little better can work wonders.
And improving your sleep and nutrition doesn’t have to be complicated - there are many simple strategies you can implement right now to make things a little bit better.
When it comes to sleep:
- Aim for at least 7 hours of sleep per night
- Have a consistent sleep and wake time as much as possible
- Create a sleep routine that helps you wind down before bed (eg: avoiding screens, doing relaxing activities, dimming lights)
- Keep your bedroom cool and very dark (blackout shades or an eye mask can be game changers!)
- Avoid caffeine in the afternoon (fun fact: caffeine has a half-life of about 5 hours, so if you drink a cup of coffee at 4pm, half of that caffeine is still in your system at 9pm. And depending on your ability to metabolize caffeine, it could take even longer! Even if it doesn’t affect your ability to fall asleep, it does still affect the quality of your sleep.)
When it comes to nutrition:
- Eat enough protein (~1-2 palm sized servings per meal)
- Eat a variety of colorful fruits and vegetables each day (~2-3 handfuls at each meal)
- Stay hydrated (one easy way to tell if you’re hydrated: keep an eye on the color of your urine, it should be pale yellow.)
- Eat slowly, chew well, and enjoy your food!
(Even though these are simple strategies to improve sleep and nutrition, that doesn’t necessarily mean they are easy. If you’d like help implementing changes, send me a message or schedule your free consultation call.)
If your sleep and nutrition habits are consistently supporting your needs but you’re still not meeting your health or fitness goals, then it may make sense to focus in on the exercise portion of this pyramid and see what adjustments can move you in the right direction.
But if you feel your sleep or eating habits are not as dialed in as you’d like, taking some small steps to improve those areas can provide a huge boost for your overall health and wellness - and may even be the missing link between you and your long-term health aspirations!
You're only as strong as your weakest link. Are your sleep and eating habits supporting your goals?
For more information on how sleep impacts health and tips for getting better rest, check out these articles:
...for your free 30-minute consultation, or visit https://calendly.com/meganfschall/consultation-call to get started!