Tim Noakes

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Tim Noakes
Dr. Tim Noakes at West Point 13 Nov 09.JPG
Tim Noakes at West Point in 2009
Timothy David Noakes

1949 (age 72–73)
NationalitySouth African
Alma materUniversity of Cape Town
Diocesan College
Known forCentral governor Theory of Fatigue
Hyponatremia research
The "Noakes Diet"
Scientific career
FieldsExercise physiology
InstitutionsUniversity of Cape Town

Timothy David Noakes (born 1949) is a South African scientist, and an emeritus professor in the Division of Exercise Science and Sports Medicine at the University of Cape Town.

He has run more than 70 marathons and ultramarathons,[1] and is the author of several books on exercise and diet. He is known for his work in sports science and for his support of a low-carbohydrate, high-fat (LCHF, Banting) diet, as set out in his books The Real Meal Revolution and Lore of Nutrition: Challenging Conventional Dietary Beliefs.


Noakes was born in Salisbury, Southern Rhodesia (today Harare, Zimbabwe) in 1949 and moved to South Africa at the age of five.[2] His father had arrived in what was then Southern Rhodesia in 1946, establishing a successful tobacco exporting company that he sold in 1954. As a young boy his main sporting interest was cricket. Noakes attended boarding school at Monterey Preparatory School in Constantia, Cape Town.[2] One year was spent as a foreign exchange student at Huntington Park High School in Huntington Park, California. Prep school was followed by Diocesan College. He has earned an MBChB (1974), MD (1981), and DSc (Med) (2002).


In 1980 Noakes was tasked to start a sports science course at the University of Cape Town. Noakes went on to head the Medical Research Council-funded Bioenergetics of Exercise Research Unit, which was later changed to the MRC/UCT Research Unit for Exercise Science and Sports Medicine.[3]

In the early 1990s Noakes co-founded the Sports Science Institute of South Africa,[4] with former South African rugby player Morne du Plessis. His unit's physiological research has produced over 370 scientific articles since 1996.[citation needed]

He is a leading researcher on the condition now known as exercise-associated hyponatremia (EAH).[5] He first recognised this condition in a female runner during the 1984 Comrades Marathon, and published his findings in 1985 in the journal Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise. Noakes hosted the 1st International Exercise-Associated Hyponatremia Consensus Development Conference in Cape Town in May 2005.[citation needed]

In 1996 Noakes published his theory of the "central governor".[6] The theory proposed that fatigue is a "protective emotion" rather than a physiological state.[7]

In 2005 he undertook a series of experiments in the Arctic and Antarctic on South African (British-born) swimmer Lewis Gordon Pugh to understand human capability in extreme cold. He discovered that Pugh had the ability to raise his core body temperature before entering the water in anticipation of the cold and coined the phrase 'anticipatory thermo-genesis' to describe it.[8][9] In 2007, Noakes was the expedition doctor for Pugh's one kilometre swim at the Geographic North Pole.[10]

Opinions on health[edit]

Noakes is an advocate of a low-carbohydrate, high-fat diet, often referred to in South Africa as the "Noakes" or "Banting" diet. Noakes has characterised mainstream dietary advice as "genocide".[11]

In February 2014 a registered dietician complained to the Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA) that Noakes tweeted to a mother that she should wean her baby onto low-carbohydrate, high-fat foods, which he described as real foods. The HPCSA held a hearing about the allegation against Noakes over the next few years. Controversially, on 28 October 2016, the HPSCA incorrectly released a statement announcing that Noakes had been found guilty of misconduct. In a second press release issued over three hours later, the HPSCA apologised for the mistake.[12] Noakes was cleared of misconduct in April 2017.[13][14] The HPSCA lost its appeal in June 2018.[15]

In August 2014, Noakes sent a tweet to his 46,000 Twitter followers which said: "Dishonest science. Proven link between autism and early immunisation covered up?".[16] The tweet included a link to a video from disgraced ex-doctor and anti-vaccine activist Andrew Wakefield, in which Wakefield was repeating the conspiracy theory that the CDC is covering-up a link between vaccination and autism.[16] Subsequently challenged on Twitter, Noakes responded that he personally had "no opinion" on the matter.[16]

Noakes co-wrote the 2017 book Lore of Nutrition with journalist Marika Sboros.[17] In it Noakes describes his conversion to low-carbohydrate dieting, explores how the lipid hypothesis is the "biggest mistake in modern medicine" and details his struggles with the medical establishment.[17] In a review for Medical Brief, paediatrician Alastair McAlpine described the book as "an extraordinarily heady mix of conspiracy theory, bad science, bad writing, and persecution complex".[17]

Awards and achievements[edit]

In 1996 he was honoured by the American College of Sports Medicine when he was asked to present the J.B. Wolfe Memorial Lecture, the college's keynote address at its annual meeting. In 2002 he was awarded a Doctorate in Science (DSc). In 2002 Noakes was awarded the International Cannes Grand Prix Award for Research in Medicine and Water, for his work on Exercise-associated hyponatremia (EAH). In 2004 Runner's World (USA) included this work as one of the 40 most important "persons or events" in the sport of running in the past 40 years. In 2008 he was elected an honorary fellow of the Faculty of Sports and Exercise Medicine (UK), the first foreigner to be so recognised. In that year he also received the Order of Mapungubwe (Silver), from the President of South Africa for his "excellent contribution in the field of sports and the science of physical exercise". In 2011 Noakes was awarded an honorary doctorate by the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, Netherlands.[18] In 2012 he received the Lifetime Achievement Award from South Africa's National Research Foundation for his contribution to sports science research. In 2014 the Southern Africa Association for the Advancement of Science (S2A3) awarded Noakes their prestigious South Africa Medal (gold) for his outstanding contributions to sport physiology.[19]

Selected publications[edit]

Noakes has written several books detailing his research in sports science and nutrition. A selected bibliography is given below.

  • Lore of Running (1986)[20]
  • Running Injuries: How to Prevent and Overcome Them (1990)
  • Bob Woolmer's Art and Science of Cricket (2008)
  • Challenging Beliefs: Memoirs of a Career (2012)[21]
  • Waterlogged: The Serious Problem of Overhydration in Endurance Sports (2012)
  • The Real Meal Revolution (2014)
  • Raising Superheroes (2015)
  • Lore of Nutrition: Challenging Conventional Dietary Beliefs, with Marika Sboros (2017)[22]
  • Real Food On Trial: How the diet dictators tried to destroy a top scientist, with Marika Sboros (2019)[23]


  1. ^ "RA024 Dr. Tim Noakes: A Lifetime of Running and Research".
  2. ^ a b "How Tim wants you to train". Archived from the original on 14 June 2011.
  3. ^ MRC/UCT Research Unit for Exercise Science and Sports Medicine Archived 24 December 2012 at archive.today
  4. ^ Sports Science Institute of South Africa
  5. ^ Speedy, DB; Noakes TD; Schneider C (2001). "Exercise-associated Hyponatremia: A review". Emerg Med. 13 (1): 17–27. doi:10.1046/j.1442-2026.2001.00173.x. PMID 11476407. Retrieved 6 January 2014.
  6. ^ Gifford, Bill. (8 December 2016). "The Silencing of Tim Noakes", Outside. Retrieved 23 January 2019.
  7. ^ Hutchinson, Alex. (12 December 2014). "What Is Fatigue?", The New Yorker. Retrieved 23 January 2019.
  8. ^ "Pugh will be the guinea pig", (2 March 2006). News24. Retrieved 24 January 2019.
  9. ^ Knott, Jonathan (29 November 2013). "Dipping my toe into cold-water swimming", The Guardian. Retrieved 24 January 2019.
  10. ^ Cramb, Auslan. (16 July 2007) "North Pole swimmer's unique body heat trick", The Telegraph. Retrieved 24 January 2019.
  11. ^ Child K (16 October 2017). "Noakes calls traditional food pyramid 'genocide'". Sunday Times. South Africa.
  12. ^ Etheridge, Jenna. "No ruling from Tim Noakes hearing, matter adjourned until April 2017". Mail & Guardian. Retrieved 25 April 2017.
  13. ^ Digital, TMG. "Tim Noakes cleared of misconduct over 'baby Banting' tweet". Times LIVE. Retrieved 25 April 2017.
  14. ^ "Noakes cleared of misconduct. Full HPCSA judgment". Medical Brief. 26 April 2017. Retrieved 5 May 2017.
  15. ^ "Noakes clears final hurdle, not guilty says HPCSA appeal committee" (9 June 2018). News24. retrieved 23 January 2019.
  16. ^ a b c Geffen N (27 August 2014). "Tim Noakes and the responsibility of experts". GroundUp.
  17. ^ a b c McAlpine A (10 January 2018). "Less lore and more science, please, Prof Noakes". Medical Brief.
  18. ^ "Honorary doctorates". VU University: Research. Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam. Retrieved 23 February 2016.
  19. ^ Plug, C. (2015). "The 2014 South Africa Medal (gold): Awarded to Professor Timothy Noakes", Rudolf Marloth Brochure 2015: 1–3.
  20. ^ Noakes, Tim. 2003. The Lore of Running. (4th edition) Oxford University Press ISBN 0-87322-959-2
  21. ^ Noakes, Timothy, 1949- (2012). Challenging beliefs : memoirs of a career. Vlismas, Michael. (New ed.). Cape Town: Zebra Press. ISBN 9781770224599. OCLC 785373938.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  22. ^ Noakes, Timothy, 1949- (22 January 2018). Lore of nutrition : challenging conventional dietary beliefs. Sboros, Marika. Cape Town. ISBN 9781776092611. OCLC 1013165315.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  23. ^ Noakes, Timothy, 1949- (2019). Real Food On Trial: How the diet dictators tried to destroy a top scientist. Sboros, Marika. Cape Town. ISBN 978-1907797651.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)