There is plenty of value to be found in self-experiment. But there’s ways to do it right, and ways to do it wrong.
Action Over Theory
A self-experiment is putting theory into practice. It is all well and good to ‘know’ things through theory, but you can’t truly know whether they work until you’ve put it into practice.
You need skin in the game.
If you’re going to tell people that weightlifting is a superior fitness system to cardio, it helps to have actually done both. Otherwise, you’re only arguing one side, without personal knowledge of the other side.
A well-designed self-experiment lets you experience results for yourself. It provides answers where before there were none.
How To Self-Experiment
A successful self-experiment is one that answers a question you didn’t know the answer to. You might have read theory on a question from people, but many things work in theory and don’t work in practice. At a minimum, a self-experiment teaches you how things work for you. We’re all different, and what works for some won’t work for others. For example, some people advocate GOMAD (Gallon Of Milk A Day) as a weight-gaining diet program. But you’ll struggle with that if you’re lactose intolerant at high doses.
If you know the answer, it’s not an experiment. This is a simple thought, but one that people ignore all the time. Often, we just look to confirm what we already know. Look to answer new questions.
A well-designed self-experiment is one that controls inputs and records outputs. The more you treat the experiment scientifically, the more valid your results will be.
So a successful self-experiment is:
- Looking for an answer to a question
- Looking for an answer other than what you already know
- One that controls inputs outside of what’s being tested
- One that records outputs before, during, and after
What To Experiment With?
You can experiment with almost anything. But it works best with things you can quantify.
For example, I’m now a committed low-carb, high-protein eater. I’m also not high on vegetarianism and veganism. But I’ve been both vegetarian and vegan for 3 months or more. I learned that I felt lethargic, unmotivated, less strong, and less healthy on those diets. But I know people with different goals that seem to do fine on those diets – so I learned that they don’t work for me. Quantitatively, I saw increases in my weight and bodyfat percentage, and decreases in strength.
Likewise, I’m constantly experimenting with new supplements. I can track my output for mental supplements, and sports/exercise performance for physical ones. I test supplements one at a time, learning what works for me.
If you’re lucky, you’ll discover something totally new in your self-experiment. I’m doing this all the time, and sharing the results with you here whenever possible.