n=1

What is n=1?

In basic statistical parlance, the letter “n” denotes the sample size, ie how many people are measured within a study.  So in a study 100 people, the n=100.  Typically the larger the sample size, the more “statistical power” a study or experiment has, meaning the conclusions that they draw carry more weight.

While the conclusions from a high-powered study are more likely to apply to you, is this always the case?  No.

Here is where the true strength of n=1 comes in.  The 1 is you.  You are the entire sample size.  Whatever observations you make in your own self experiment are guaranteed to apply to you.

Self Experimentation

An example where this specifically worked for me happened when I decided to test the claims of a health bar.  It was advertised as being very low carb, by not using sugars or sugar alcohols as sweetener and having minimal effect on blood sugars.

Out of curioisty, I performed an experiment testing my blood sugars before eating a bar and then serially every 15 minutes for 2 hours after eating the bar.  I discovered that it raised my blood sugar from the 90s to the 150s.  I tried this multiple times, with different flavors and always had the same result.

When I contacted the company, they stated that this was not a typical response.  Since one of the goals for the diet I was following at the time, Tim Ferriss’ Slow Carb Diet, was to maintain a stable blood sugar, I returned the bars I had left and got a full refund.

My n=1 experiment showed me that despite what the company said and what their own experiments showed, it didn’t apply to me, and I wouldn’t have known this if I didn’t experiment on myself.  It turns out there were others that also reported unanticipated spikes in their blood sugars.

This experience showed me how valuable self experimentation could be and I wanted to create a section where can I log results of other ideas I want to test.

Experiments:

Nutritional Ketosis

Carb Nite Solution

Resistant Starch

Blood Work

Misc

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