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
Born Timothy David Noakes
Salisbury, Southern Rhodesia
(today Harare, Zimbabwe)
Nationality South African
Fields Exercise physiology
Institutions University of Cape Town
Alma mater University of Cape Town
Diocesan College
Known for Central Governor Theory of Fatigue
Hyponatremia research
The "Noakes Diet"
Notable awards

Timothy David Noakes (born 1949) is an A-rated[1] South African professor of exercise and sports science at the University of Cape Town. He has run more than 70 marathons and ultramarathons[citation needed], and is the author of several books on exercise and diet. He is known for his support of a high-fat, low-carbohydrate diet, as set out in his book The Real Meal Revolution.


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.[3] 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.[4]

In the early 1990s Noakes co-founded the Sports Science Institute of South Africa,[5] 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).[6] 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.[7][8][9][10]

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 he was the expedition doctor for Pugh’s one kilometre swim at the Geographic North Pole.


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

  • Lore of Running (1986) [11]
  • 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)


The low-carbohydrate diet, often referred to as the "Tim Noakes" or "Banting" diet in South Africa, has quickly gained popularity in the country in the 2010s,[12] and has drawn a significant amount of criticism. Noakes has claimed that high blood cholesterol is not a contributing factor to heart disease,[13] and he has been criticized for publishing a series of case reports as a scientific paper.[14] The president of the Association for Dietetics in South Africa has reported Noakes to the Health Professions Council of South Africa for advising a mother on Twitter that she should wean her child onto low-carbohydrate high-fibre 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."[15]

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 his presentation Ex Africa semper aliquid novi (Out of Africa always something new) Noakes challenged the dogma of the VO2 max plateau theory. This work led eventually to the construction of a complex central governor model of exercise in which the brain is the primary organ that dictates how fast, how long, and how hard humans can exercise. Much of Noakes' work over the past 10 years has provided further support for this model. In 2002 he was awarded a Doctorate in Science (DSc), one of the highest degrees the University of Cape Town can award. 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 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. [16]


  1. ^ "University of Cape Town". 2015. Retrieved 28 January 2015. 
  2. ^ http://www.health24.com/fitness/Specific_Sports/16-2175-2181-2277,50688.asp
  3. ^ "Dear Editor: Tim Noakes replies". Noseweek. Retrieved 2014-06-06. 
  4. ^ MRC/UCT Research Unit for Exercise Science and Sports Medicine
  5. ^ Sports Science Institute of South Africa
  6. ^ 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. 
  7. ^ 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 (Auckland, N.Z.) 33 (3): 167–176. doi:10.2165/00007256-200333030-00001. PMID 12656638. 
  8. ^ 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. 
  9. ^ 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. 
  10. ^ St Clair Gibson, A.; Lambert, M. L.; Noakes, T. D. (2001). "Neural control of force output during maximal and submaximal exercise". Sports medicine (Auckland, N.Z.) 31 (9): 637–650. doi:10.2165/00007256-200131090-00001. PMID 11508520. 
  11. ^ Noakes, Tim. 2003. The Lore of Running. (4th edition) Oxford University Press ISBN 0-87322-959-2
  12. ^ "Paleo diet - is it worth the switch?". health24.com. 19 February 2014. Retrieved 16 July 2014. 
  13. ^ "Experts warn against Noakes diet". health24.com. 25 February 2014. Retrieved 16 July 2014. 
  14. ^ "Tim Noakes’ weight-loss paper sparks row". news24.com. CityPress. 27 October 2013. Retrieved 24 July 2015. 
  15. ^ "Tim Noakes to face inquiry over 'Banting' tweet". health24.com. Health24. 6 May 2015. Retrieved 24 July 2015. 
  16. ^ Plug, C. (2015). "The 2014 South Africa Medal (gold): Awarded to Professor Timothy Noakes", Rudolf Marloth Brochure 2015: 1–3.