Use the Placebo Effect to Fuel Fitness Motivation

Everyone has heard of The Placebo Effect. You know these experiments where you have at least two controlled groups, and one group takes a substance designed to illicit a certain effect. Meanwhile, the other group is given a sugar pill. Both groups are given the same expected outcome. In most cases, the group that is given the placebo experiences at least some of the desired effect. What if you could use the placebo effect to fuel your motivation towards your fitness goals. Well, you can.

Here’s a technical definition:

[box type=”info” ]”The Placebo Effect: Also called the placebo response. A remarkable phenomenon in which a placebo — a fake treatment, an inactive substance like sugar, distilled water, or saline solution — can sometimes improve a patient’s condition simply because the person has the expectation that it will be helpful. Expectation plays a potent role in the placebo effect. The more a person believes they are going to benefit from a treatment, the more likely it is that they will experience a benefit.”1 ~[/box]

So, as long as the person has the expectation of the desired effect, it can help This reminds me of my favorite quote:

[box type=”shadow” ]“Whatever your mind can conceive and believe the mind can achieve regardless of how many times you may have failed in the past.” ~ Henry Ford[/box]

How You Can Use The Placebo Effect

I use The Placebo Effect as part of my fitness motivation, but if you know me you know that I’m really not a big supplement proponent. Sure, I use whey protein on a regular basis, but I truly believe nothing is better for you than a good diet containing real food combined with exercise. However, I have used vitamins and other items like BCAA’s as placebos. Let me explain.

I take something that is known to not have a negative impact on your body, and, in fact, arguably a positive impact (like vitamins). When I take them before I workout I tell myself, “This will give me focus and intensity in today’s workout.” Notice I stay small with the expectations and not go overboard. I would not say, “This will get me down to 10% body fat.” Make it something that is not so much of a stretch to believe unless you’ve become an expert at doing so (if so, please call and teach me).

This does two things: 1. Psychologically, repeating this out loud every time I take the vitamin reinforces the belief that I will have focus and intensity in the day’s workout as if it were an unsafe fat burning pill containing ephedrine. 2. It helps to provide consistency in working toward my goals, because I’ve added something new to my daily fitness routine. You see, by making a change and committing to that change, you have told yourself that you are in charge.

[box type=”info” ]”The placebo effect is not deception, fluke, experimenter bias, or statistical anomaly. It is, instead, a product of expectation. The human brain anticipates outcomes, and anticipation produces those outcomes. The placebo effect is a h2self-fulfilling prophecy, and it follows the patterns you’d predict if the brain were, indeed, producing its own desired outcomes.”2 ~Psychology Today[/box]

Use The Placebo Effect in All Parts of Your Life

The placebo effect offers the best of all possible outcomes: therapeutic effects without the risk of negative side effects.

So, help fuel your fitness by adding vitamins, fish oils, or something you don’t currently take to your routine. This is a fitness blog, so I focused on fitness. However, I strongly encourage you to use this technique in all parts of your life as I do. If not a supplement, maybe a small change to your daily routine. For example, meditating 15 minutes upon waking and getting yourself to believe you will be more focused on work as a result. That actually is a realized benefit for me, but the point is you need to believe it will provide the desired effect.

In my book, “Fat Burning Secrets“, I have an entire chapter focusing on getting the mindset for success in fitness. I also wrote a related blog post, Begin with the End in Mind.  Go ahead and preview my book by clicking here.

Remember, where the mind goes the body will follow.

As always, I encourage you to join the conversation, so please comment and/or forward this blog post to others.

Good health is the Greatest Wealth,



  1. Medical Definition of Placebo Effect
  2. Psychology Today-The Placebo Effect: How It Works. 
  3. Wikipedia: Ephedrine

Richard Webb is an entrepreneur, fitness author of Fat Burning Secrets, bodybuilder, blogger of fitness & technology, and a digital nomad working mainly from Mexico and travels frequently to Texas and California. He has 25 years experience working in software technology, so he truly considers himself as an unusual combination of bodybuilder-tech nerd.

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