Prof Tim Noakes’ shifting eating advice

Just four companies control the milling and baking of bread in South Africa, according to Jacklyn Cock. Cock is a Professor Emerita in Sociology at the University of the Witwatersrand and a member of the recently launched Food Sovereignty Campaign.
Written by Wilma Stassen

Renowned sport scientist and co-author of The Real Meal Revolution book, Professor Tim Noakes has given nutritional advice for decades. Health-e News takes a look back at Noakes’s changing nutritional stance.

In 1986, in his first book, The Lore of Running, Prof Tim Noakes dedicates a whole chapter to the importance of carbohydrates, promoting its benefits to runners and other athletes. Today, he only allows himself 50g or less of carbohydrates

Early in his career, Noakes promoted the use of carbohydrates, but recently changed his stance, and is now warning against it. Here is a look at how his eatig philosophy evolved from a high-carb, low-fat diet, to a low-carb diet, high protein and eventually to a high fat diet.

  • In 1986, in his first book, The Lore of Running, Prof Tim Noakes dedicates a whole chapter to the importance of carbohydrates, promoting its benefits to runners and other athletes.
  • In 2011, Noakes announces in an article that he has had a change of heart after losing 20kg by cutting refined carbohydrates (bread, pasta, rice, etc) from his diet and replacing it with meat and fish, indicating a high protein instead of a high fat diet. He particularly notes that he still eats fruit and vegetables.
  • By 2012, in addition to cutting out refined carbohydrates, Noakes has also cut bananas and potatoes from his diet and is allowing himself between 50 and 75g of carbohydrates a day. There is no indication of a restriction of protein.
  • Today, he only allows himself 50g or less of carbohydrates. The “Tim Noakes Diet” is known as a low-carb, high-fat diet and also has restrictions on protein intake. He advises cutting out most fruit because of their high sugar content, most starchy vegetables (eg butternut) and all legumes (eg. lentils, beans.)

But dieticians warn that you will be depriving your body of important nutrients if you cut fruit, vegetables and whole grains from your diet.

Fruit and vegetables are important sources of fibre, which is essential for a healthy digestive system. It also contains important phytochemicals, vitamins and minerals.

“Fruit and vegetables are the only food which collectively have been consistently associated with risk reduction in several diseases such as cancer, heart disease, diabetes, hypertension and age-related muscular degeneration,” said Maryke van Zyl, a registered dietitian and spokesperson for the Association for Dietetics in South Africa.

About the author

Wilma Stassen

Wilma Stassen is a reporter at Health-e News Service. She focuses on non-communicable diseases. Follow her on Twitter @Lawim


  • Just been listening to webcasts on The Detox Summit.Almost every lecturer promotes high fat low or no cabohydrates for optimum health. Fat must be of ORGAN origin.Grass fed is the best.Ketones stimulate the mitochondria,decrease the damaging free radicals and increase the production of ATP.
    Heart disease of course a concernbut lets look at other diseases on the increase-the cancers,Alzeimhers,MS and the list goes on…Quo vadis
    There is still a lot to be researched before Prof Tim Noakes is criticised.

  • If Noakes had done proper research 20 years ago he would not have advocated an unhealthy diet high in refined flour. He went straight from an unhealthy diet to a diet that is acid-forming and pro-inflammatory – another wrong move. Anyone cutting out refined wheat flour from their diet will lose weight and feel better!!! He is (by his own admission) an uncontrolled Type 2 diabetic on Metformin – he cannot even control his own diabetes so why should anyone listen to him? He could have reversed his T2D by simply removing the refined rubbish out of his diet and eating a more whole food, plant based diet. What people also don’t realise is that meat RAISES THE BODY’S REQUIREMENT FOR INSULIN!! Insulin is also involved in FAT METABOLISM, hence the danger for diabetics.

    Anyone who follows the ‘banting’ diet long-term is going to be putting themselves at risk of gallstones, cancer, osteoporosis, PMS, constipation, mood swings, hair loss, arthritis.

    Short term, yes, you’ll lose weight BUT a lot of that is water because of the increased need for water to excrete acidic keytones. Protein also requires more water for digestion and metabolisation. Oh, and also you’ll eat less calories.

    But he is right about cholesterol. The body needs cholesterol for bile production and hormone production as well as the uptake/conversion to Vit D. Cholesterol needs to be in balance. The real danger with cholesterol is oxidised lipoproteins (the carriers of cholesterol). Statins are probably going to prove to be the BIGGEST medical scam ever. What doctors don’t tell you is that you can balance your cholesterol by just getting some sensible sunshine exposure! Or increasing your intake of Omega 3 (flax oil, hemp oil, pumpkin seeds), or just cutting out smoking, or just quitting refined sugar, or stopping so much alcohol or just getting some exercise!!!

  • Tim Noakes emphasizes that the diet is especially effective in obese and insulin resistand individuals. Weit loss of even 5-10% has been proven to already be of benefit to reduce risk for diabetes and heart disease. LCHF diet accomplishes this in a relatively short time without doubt. Insulin is not needed for fat metabolism. It stimulated fat metabolism by its ABSENCE. The problem with insulin resistance and diabetes is defective glucose uptake into the cells. So, following a diet high in carbs provides more glucose (after breakdown) to the bloodstream. How can this ever be right.
    Fruit is high in sugars. Glucose and fructose are proven factors in causing IR. Too many fruits will increase glucose in the bloodstrem. Again a bad idea if already IR. Noakes does not villify all fruit – low carb/sugar fruit are allowed e.g. berries, which are high in vitamins and antioxidants. Also, most vegetables are allowed in the diet – filled with FIBRE, vitamins and minerals.
    Using the “fruit” line condemning low carb high fat diet is not valid, sorry.
    Also (and I’m not especially a Noakes fan, but a LCHF fan), Noakes makes it clear the this diet IS NOT A LICENCE TO BINGE. But somehow people miss that.
    If total cholesterol increases (and this very obviously does NOT include individuals with familial hypercholesterolemia) and the person does not have dyslipidemia (increased triglycerides, low HDL), or a family history of heart disease, a slightly increased (which happenes with LCHF diet) total cholesterol does not necessarily increases heart disease risk. The size of the LDL really IS importand and can be measured by labs in SA.
    Importantly, this topic is not closed, and studies still nedd to be done. But villifying this diet does no service to obese, IR and diabetic individuals.

  • You know what’s proven to be significantly healthier than the Harvey/Banting diet?

    A whole foods, plant-based diet.

    The only reason Noakes has a cult like following in SA is because of our braai addiction (who wants to just eat legumes, grains, greens etc..? Ewww!). And he knows it.

Leave a Comment