Here they are: You cannot out-train a bad diet and you cannot out-diet bad sleep.
The first rule has been said for a while now. More people know it than practice it but the bottom line is this; if you eat poorly, you will not progress towards a fitness goal and your health will suffer. One reason this is true is that with bad nutrition comes bad feelings, not like when someone calls you a name (although low-fat diets can cause depression) but feelings of lethargy and weakness. When you don’t feel strong and energetic, you don’t want to workout, so either you will train with low (read ineffective) intensity or you won’t train at all. More than just working out in traditional exercise fashion, you won’t be as active in general, which brings its own consequences.
The second rule may be new to you, yes, it is probably broken even more often than the first. You may get by without adhering to it, but getting by is all you’re doing. Eating right and getting enough rest may seem cliche because you’ve heard it all before; realize that there is a very good reason you have heard it so many times, it is critical! Your grandmother may have said it to you again and again, that’s because in her day they knew getting the right food and rest would make you feel better. How sad that even with a lesser understanding of why nutrition and sleep were so important, they practiced them more than we do today!
Your body is a biological organism, not a machine. The human body is designed to function pretty much automatically based on hormonal signals. What your body does to itself is almost completely based on hormones, which signal to your cells what they should and should not be doing i.e. storing fuel as fat or burning it for energy. Prolonged inadequate sleep is a bad, bad thing. It creates hormonal shifts so significant that no matter how great your diet is, your progress marker won’t budge. Trying to lose fat? You might be frustrated when you plateau, even when diet discipline is superb. Here it is again: You cannot out-diet bad sleep.
Someone might prove me wrong. It’s true, some people are blessed with incredible genetics that allow them to get away with just about anything, or so it seems. They eat poorly, follow bad training plans if they train at all and they sleep just a few hours a night; yet they still walk around in apparently good health. It's hard not to envy these freaks of nature, just know that the rules still apply even when their bodies are less sensitive to them. If you are not one of them, there is absolutely, positively something you must do - admit that you are not! If you are not among the tiny minority who gets results on the bare minimum, you can’t act like you are and then grow frustrated when you don’t see results for yourself.
As you read this, you may be making a mental list of excuses for not obeying the rules of your body. Some things may be beyond your control, maybe you are a doctor or police officer or military service person and your schedule just doesn’t allow for healthy sleep patterns or regular control over your meals. It would still behoove a person with little control to recognize the rules and take responsibility for what control they do have.
Most importantly, be honest with yourself. If you are not blessed with super genetics don’t act like it. If you stay up late to watch TV, surf the internet or any other non-essential habit. If you are and adult who still eats like a child; candy, pop and fruity cereal. Admit it! Take responsibility for your nutrition and rest.