QT: Overall Trends are Fine, but Remember that N=1

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I hadn’t planned on doing some sort of scientific research series, but here we are.

After listening to the last couple of episodes, it just didn’t feel quite like I got the point across that I ultimately wanted to.

And maybe that says something about the complexity of taking scientific research and applying it to your specific situation.

With a little luck, maybe I’ll make my point clear today.

Third time is a charm, right?

Studies and Statistics

Once again, just so there’s no confusion, I’m pro-science.

But unlike in politics and religion, I’m not so blinded by my pro-science stance that I’m blind to its shortcomings.

You know how you can make statistics say just about whatever you want them to say?

Well, you can do the same thing with scientific studies.

Brittany What?

Need an example?

Whatever dietary preferences or beliefs that you might have, you can find legitimate scientific studies supporting that way of eating.

I’m not trying to say that the caliber of scientific rigor is necessarily equal across all these studies, but there’s scientific backing for eating carnivore, paleo, vegan, gluten-free, vegetarian, Mediterranean, and whatever other diets are out there.

I’m not saying to discredit all scientific research, so don’t get it twisted, just keep in mind that the conclusions of scientific studies are not always as black and white as we’d like them to be.


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So. Many. Variables.

The point I don’t think I’ve made yet, though not for lack of trying, is that there are so many variables at play that it’s really hard to isolate any single factor in the real world.

When it comes to the research, obviously this is something that the study designers try and account for.

But even then, it’s far from perfect.

Just because people are eating the same things or training the same ways or whatever the study is trying to test, there is still a lot of variation going on under the hood.

Genetic makeup. Hormone levels. Sleep quality/quantity. Training history.

All of these factors, and many others, may influence the results.

When you’re exploring health science, it’s virtually impossible to control every conceivable variable in the testing subjects.

And when you’re trying to implement the findings of a quality study into your own training?

There is no way to ensure that most of the variables will be in alignment.

Broad Lessons, But Ultimately N=1

I think (hope?) this is the point I’ve been trying to make for the past few weeks:

Humans are similar enough that broad lessons from science probably apply, to a point, but ultimately we are all our own N=1.

So when it comes to learning about our bodies and how they work, embrace the science!

Just don’t blindly assume that it will apply perfectly to you.

You have to test.

You have to be willing to experiment within the margins to determine what is the best solution for you.

Yes, this requires a bit of effort. And some trial and error will be involved.

My hunch is that you’ll find the extra effort more than worth it, because you’ll be moving from one-size-fits-all territory to N=1 territory.

And from where I sit, that’s never a bad move to make.

Running in the Summer Heat? Totally Worth It!


Whatever the scientific studies conclude, don't forget that you are your won N=1! #runchat Click To Tweet

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