The magic of i+1 learning

    I want your feedback on this learning method.

    Have you ever met someone who thinks they know more about health science than they actually do?

    They’ll cobble together factoids and opinions, then staunchly defend their views despite the rickety foundations.

    The opposite of this method is called i+1 learning. Let me first explain what that means, then I’ll ask if you want to learn more from Examine using this method.

    What does “i+1” mean?

    The concept of i+1 comes from language learning. Specifically, from linguist Stephen Krashen.

    When you’re learning a language, you typically start with memorizing a bunch of grammar and vocabulary.

    An alternate method is to make sure you’ve mastered a simple concept (let’s call it “i”), and only after you’ve done that, tack on one additional small thing (let’s call it “+1”) to what you already know.

    Building on simple micro-concepts can help you avoid becoming overwhelmed, and help you avoid jumping to false conclusions.

    Could i+1 be used to learn about health and nutrition?

    Most likely yes, but let’s figure it out together. Here’s an example of i+1 in this context:


    We’ll use meat to refer to any animal flesh that’s eaten. Sometimes, the term only refers to land animals (so not seafood), but it often encompasses all animal flesh.


    If a microorganism (such as bacteria) decomposes an organic substance (like a dead animal), it’s called rot. Fermentation is a related word that will come up later.


    Your stomach breaks apart the food you eat and turns it into a slurry for further processing by the small and large intestine, among other functions.

    (Meat rots in your stomach?)

    Meat does NOT rot in your stomach. The stomach is way too acidic to host the bacterial counts necessary to rot meat. At a pH of 1.5-2.0, the human stomach is even more acidic than many other meat-eating animal stomachs. Instead, the low pH environment of the stomach favors the denaturing (unfolding) of meat proteins, ensuring rapid breakdown into peptides and amino acids by gastric enzymes.


    There is no one thing called “protein”. Different proteins serve an astounding number of different roles in the body, from providing structure for cells to regulating chemical reactions to fighting infection. Our genes contain blueprints for protein construction, and at least 20,000 different proteins are then created in our bodies using amino acids (the building blocks of protein) derived from the foods we eat.


    Ripped, jacked, swole. These terms all mean roughly the same thing: “having lots of muscle and a low body fat percentage.” The muscle and fat levels needed to achieve this state are widely debated. Some would call Fight Club’s Brad Pitt ripped, some would not. Everyone would agree that the Rock is ripped.

    (You can get incredibly ripped without protein from meat)

    While meat does contain more bioavailable protein than plant sources, trials have shown total protein intake is the deciding factor in muscle building. You don’t have to eat optimal amounts of each essential amino acid in one food or even one meal. That’s the muscle side of the “being ripped” equation — protein source is even less important for the fat loss side.

    I’ve never seen this i+1, “building block” method used to teach nutrition. Is it something you’d be interested in seeing more of?

    In the above example, we’d continue with other sentences containing “meat”, “stomach”, etc., and add in one new word each time while hyperlinking to previous term explanations along with relevant studies. Some cards would be shorter and some would be longer, but never more than a paragraph or two. You might be able to reach a “flow state” while learning, because there won’t be any big inscrutable roadblocks.

    Eventually we’d introduce more complex terms, like mRNA, ribosomes, and mTOR. Except instead of a bunch of dense text like in that linked mTOR page, you’d already have mastered the basic building blocks and only be introduced to one new term at a time.

    Our aim would be digestibility and accuracy. If we only build on single, simple concepts and repeat them in different contexts, maybe that would help learners who have limited time or struggle to read through long and jargon-heavy articles on complex topics.

    If you did ten of these hypothetical cards per day, you’d learn 3,650 connected concepts in a year. That’s a massive amount of interesting and useful science!

    Reply back to this article with your thoughts. If 80% or more of responses are positive, we’ll ponder this method some more. It wouldn’t replace anything on the site of course — this would probably just be an occasional teaching method. If the idea is a clunker, we’ll ditch it, and if it’s a winner, we’ll run with it!


    Kamal Patel
    Co-founder, Examine