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
BornTimothy David Noakes
Salisbury, Southern Rhodesia
(today Harare, Zimbabwe)
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 is also a member of the National Research Foundation of South Africa, who list him as one of their highest-rated members.[1] He has run more than 70 marathons and ultramarathons,[2] and is the author of several books on exercise and diet. He is known for his support of a low-carbohydrate, high-fat (LCHF) 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.[3] His father had arrived in what was then Southern Rhodesia in 1946, establishing a successful tobacco exporting company that he sold in 1954.[4] As a young boy his main sporting interest was cricket. Noakes attended Monterey Preparatory School in Constantia, Cape Town. 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.[5]

In the early 1990s Noakes co-founded the Sports Science Institute of South Africa,[6] with former South African rugby player Morne du Plessis. His unit's physiological research has produced over 370 scientific articles since 1996.

He is a leading researcher on the condition now known as Exercise-associated hyponatremia (EAH).[7] He first recognized 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.

Noakes is also known for renewing and elaborating the idea first proposed by the 1922 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine winner Archibald Hill that a central governor regulates exercise to protect body homeostasis.[8][9][10][11]

In 2005 he undertook a series of pioneering experiments in the Arctic and Antarctic on South African (British-born) swimmer Lewis Gordon Pugh to understand the full range of 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.

In 2007, Noakes was the expedition doctor for Pugh’s one kilometer swim at the Geographic North Pole.[citation needed]


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

  • Lore of Running (1986) [12]
  • 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)
  • 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)


The low-carbohydrate, high-fat diet, often referred to as the "Tim Noakes", "Banting" or LCHF diet in South Africa, has gained considerable popularity in the country since 2010,[13] but has also drawn a significant amount of criticism. Noakes has claimed, among others[clarification needed], that high blood cholesterol is not a contributing factor to heart disease,[14] and he has been criticized for publishing a series of case reports as a scientific paper.[15]

In an open letter[16] (dated 22 August 2014) to the Cape Times, fellow University of Cape Town (UCT) academics argued against Noakes's dietary ideas. The letter was signed by Wim de Villiers (Dean, Faculty of Health Sciences), Bongani Mayosi (Head, Department of Medicine), Lionel Opie (Hatter Institute of Cardiology, Department of Medicine) and Marjanne Senekal (Head, Division of Human Nutrition). The letter was copied to Noakes and several others. In the letter the academics expressed, among others, "...serious concern that Professor Timothy Noakes, a colleague respected for his research in sports science, is aggressively promoting this diet as a ‘revolution’, making outrageous unproven claims about disease prevention, and maligning the integrity and credibility of peers who criticise his diet for being evidence-deficient and not conforming to the tenets of good and responsible science. This goes against the University of Cape Town’s commitment to academic freedom as the prerequisite to fostering responsible and respectful intellectual debate and free enquiry."

Noakes, also in the form of an open letter to the Cape Times, responded to the criticism by his colleagues.[17] He accused the UCT Faculty of Health Sciences of consistently misrepresenting his public message "...which is simply the following: a high carbohydrate diet is detrimental to the health of persons with insulin resistance whereas carbohydrate restriction in this group can be profoundly beneficial as it can reverse obesity and in some cases Type 2 diabetes mellitus, the two conditions that will ultimately bankrupt South African medical services unless we take appropriate preventive actions." He described the denial by the UCT Faculty of Health Sciences of peer-reviewed evidence in support of his views as "a classic example of cognitive dissonance.”

In February 2014 Claire Julsing-Strydom, President of the Association for Dietetics in South Africa (ADSA), reported Noakes to the Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA) for advising a mother on Twitter that she should wean her child onto low-carbohydrate high-fat foods, which he described as real foods. "By implication I was saying that the child should not be weaned onto the traditional high sugar, high carbohydrate processed cereals."[18] In response to the complaint, the Professional Conduct Committee of the HPCSA, chaired by Advocate Joan Adams, set up a hearing into the allegation of unprofessional conduct against Noakes. The hearing was scheduled for 4 June 2015, but following complaints from Noakes's legal team that the Committee was not properly constituted in accordance with the applicable regulations and the provisions of the Health Professions Act, its commencement was delayed until November 2015.[19] The first session of the hearing took place from 23 to 30 November 2015, after which proceedings were postponed to February 2016. The second session resumed on 8 February[20][21] and ended on 16 February 2016.[22][23] The hearing resumed on 17 October 2016. Controversially, on 28 October, the HPSCA mistakenly released a statement announcing that Noakes had been found guilty of misconduct. In a second press release issued over three hours later, the HPSCA apologized for the mistake.[24] The hearing was again postponed until April 2017. Noakes was cleared of misconduct on 21 April 2017.[25][26]

The HPSCA filed an appeal on 2nd day of August 2017. [27] 8 June 2018 the appeal was dismissed in a unanimous ruling.[28]

Awards and Achievements[edit]

Noakes has challenged some common and old paradigms in the discipline of exercise physiology.[citation needed] In 1996 he was honored 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.[29] 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.[30]


  1. ^ "University of Cape Town". 2015. Archived from the original on 10 January 2015. Retrieved 28 January 2015.
  2. ^ "RA024 Dr. Tim Noakes: A Lifetime of Running and Research".
  3. ^ "How Tim Noakes wants you to train". Archived from the original on 14 June 2011.
  4. ^ "Dear Editor: Tim Noakes replies". Noseweek. Retrieved 6 June 2014.
  5. ^ MRC/UCT Research Unit for Exercise Science and Sports Medicine Archived 24 December 2012 at Archive.is
  6. ^ Sports Science Institute of South Africa
  7. ^ Speedy, DB; Noakes TD; Schneider C (2001). "Exercise-associated Hyponatremia: A review". Emerg Med (Fremantle). 13: 17–27. doi:10.1046/j.1442-2026.2001.00173.x. Retrieved 6 January 2014.
  8. ^ St Clair Gibson, A.; Baden, D. A.; Lambert, M. I.; Lambert, E. V.; Harley, Y. X.; Hampson, D.; Russell, V. A.; Noakes, T. D. (2003). "The conscious perception of the sensation of fatigue". Sports Medicine. 33 (3): 167–176. doi:10.2165/00007256-200333030-00001. PMID 12656638.
  9. ^ Noakes, T. D.; St Clair Gibson, A.; Lambert, E. V. (2005). "From catastrophe to complexity: A novel model of integrative central neural regulation of effort and fatigue during exercise in humans: Summary and conclusions". British Journal of Sports Medicine. 39 (2): 120–124. doi:10.1136/bjsm.2003.010330. PMC 1725112. PMID 15665213.
  10. ^ Noakes, T. D.; Peltonen, J. E.; Rusko, H. K. (2001). "Evidence that a central governor regulates exercise performance during acute hypoxia and hyperoxia". The Journal of Experimental Biology. 204 (Pt 18): 3225–3234. PMID 11581338.
  11. ^ St Clair Gibson, A.; Lambert, M. L.; Noakes, T. D. (2001). "Neural control of force output during maximal and submaximal exercise". Sports Medicine. 31 (9): 637–650. doi:10.2165/00007256-200131090-00001. PMID 11508520.
  12. ^ Noakes, Tim. 2003. The Lore of Running. (4th edition) Oxford University Press ISBN 0-87322-959-2
  13. ^ "Paleo diet - is it worth the switch?". health24.com. 19 February 2014. Retrieved 16 July 2014.
  14. ^ "Experts warn against Noakes diet". health24.com. 25 February 2014. Retrieved 16 July 2014.
  15. ^ "Tim Noakes' weight-loss paper sparks row". news24.com. CityPress. 27 October 2013. Retrieved 24 July 2015.
  16. ^ De Villiers, W.; Mayosi, B.; Opie, L.; Senekal, M. "Noakes diet and health implications: an open letter to the Cape Times". Faculty of Health Sciences. University of Cape Town. Retrieved 17 February 2016.
  17. ^ Sboros, M. (25 August 2014). "Tim Noakes – backlash as UCT academics say he's a danger to the public". BizNews.com. Retrieved 17 February 2016.
  18. ^ "Tim Noakes to face inquiry over 'Banting' tweet". health24.com. Health24. 6 May 2015. Retrieved 24 July 2015.
  19. ^ Sboros, M. (5 June 2015). "Tim Noakes and the peculiar hearing that didn't happen". BizNews.com. Retrieved 19 February 2016.
  20. ^ Sboros, M. (8 February 2016). "Tim Noakes trial: the best to hope for – madness or miracle?". BizNews.com. Retrieved 19 February 2016.
  21. ^ Sboros, M. (9 February 2016). "Tim Noakes 'trial': did HPCSA set him up in a cat 'n mouse game?". BizNews.com. Retrieved 19 February 2016.
  22. ^ Sboros, M. (22 February 2016). "Tim Noakes: caught in a turf war over an inconvenient truth?". BizNews.com. Retrieved 22 February 2016.
  23. ^ Sboros, M. (23 February 2016). "Tim Noakes: seeing into the future of food as medicine". BizNews.com. Retrieved 23 February 2016.
  24. ^ Etheridge, Jenna. "No ruling from Tim Noakes hearing, matter adjourned until April 2017". The M&G Online. Retrieved 25 April 2017.
  25. ^ Digital, TMG. "Tim Noakes cleared of misconduct over 'baby Banting' tweet". Times LIVE. Retrieved 25 April 2017.
  26. ^ "Noakes cleared of misconduct. Full HPCSA judgment". Medical Brief. 26 April 2017. Retrieved 5 May 2017.
  27. ^ http://foodmed.net/2017/appeal.pdf
  28. ^ http://foodmed.net/2018/06/noakes-free-hpcsa-licks-wounds-lchf/
  29. ^ "Honorary doctorates". VU University: Research. Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam. Retrieved 23 February 2016.
  30. ^ Plug, C. (2015). "The 2014 South Africa Medal (gold): Awarded to Professor Timothy Noakes", Rudolf Marloth Brochure 2015: 1–3.