Tim Noakes's Fat Diet: Truth or Fiction
Prof Tim Noakes believes that the overconsumption of refined carbohydrates could be toxic for the body and suggests a new high-protein, low-carbs approach is best.

Tim Noakes's Fat Diet: Truth or Fiction "Everything we have been taught about nutrition is wrong!"
- Tim Noakes on his latest revelation that we should be loading on protein and fat and NOT carbohydrates.

Many of us know what it means to eat well. Eat five fruit and vegetables a day, eat as much fresh, raw food as possible and drink 8 glasses of water a day. But eating to lose weight and staying healthy has become much more complex as we strive to better understand what nutrients our bodies require and why. This research has led to many different theories, which the sheer number of weight loss diets on the market will testify to. Nutritional advice is now being dished out from all directions that first tell us one thing and then another! Whew, it can get mighty confusing can't it?

And the latest news has been Tim Noakes, doyen of the Sports Science Institute in Cape Town, throwing a rather big spanner in the works that has many heads spinning. His latest revelation that it's not diets high in carbohydrates and low in fat we should be following but a diet loaded with protein AND fat instead, contradicts a lot of what we have been taught. So is there truth to his claim or is just another fad that will soon disappear like many others?

Protein vs. Carbs: What is Tim Noakes saying?

Many of you might be familiar with Tim Noakes as a professor at the Sports Science Institute in Cape Town and author of Lore of Running. He has actively supported the benefits of high carb and low fat diets for athletes for a good number of years but recently he has changed his tune. It has been said that he advised anyone who has read his book to "tear out the section on nutrition"! Why, you might ask?

His new found theory states that not only athletes but the general public would benefit more from low-carb, high-protein diets instead. He has backed this theory by the fact that obesity, chronic and degenerative diseases due to poor lifestyle choices have not lessened but soared alarmingly. In other words, he is saying that the nutritional recommendations that carbohydrates should form the basis of a good diet is in fact a very bad idea and has only fueled the obesity epidemic even more.

In a recent report of an interview with Professor Tim Noakes, he blames not only these nutritional recommendations but also the drug companies for fueling the fire by cashing in on the rise of illness and disease and the food technologists responsible for producing such foods in the first place.

He further supports his theory by highlighting the eating habits of previous generations when, before WWII, people lived mainly on a protein diet and were shown to be healthier because of it.

"Since the adoption of the 'prudent diet' which restricts fat intake with an increased intake of carbohydrates, the prevalence of adult-onset diabetes and obesity has increased explosively" says Noakes.

His low-carb theory can be traced back to the Harvey/Banting diet in the 60's and then the Atkins diet in the 70's. Through his research he has come to the understanding that not everyone is able to metabolize refined carbohydrates efficiently, which his findings suggest can give rise to progressive weight gain and cause some to be pre-disposed to developing diabetes.

What does this all mean in layman's terms?

If you look at what Tim Noakes is really saying, behind the media's propensity for adding drama to the mix, you may well find some sense in what he says. Remember, controversy is a good as it makes us think, grow and attempt to better understand how our bodies function. If there is anything you can take away from Tim Noakes high protein/fat diet, it is that it challenges what we think we know to be 'true' about nutrition and that we should always look to our own bodies before deciding what is good for us.

His Claim: That by removing carbohydrates completely from one's diet and opting for high protein/fat foods instead, better physical performance, weight loss and overall better health can be achieved. While he believes that everyone would benefit from this diet, at present he concludes that people who are carbohydrate-resistant or pre-diabetic or with a family history of diabetes would benefit most from this eating plan.

"…low carbohydrate diets with increased protein do not cause frequent sensations of hunger and privation that accompany calorie-restricted, high-carbohydrate diets."

"My untested theory is that it is the restricted intake of especially unrefined and hence addictive carbohydrates that fuel an over consumption of carbohydrate calories. In contrast, a high-fat intake does the opposite - it breaks the carbohydrate addiction and reduces hunger because the stored fat suddenly becomes available to the body once more." - Tim Noakes

The following are foods Tim Noakes believes should be completely removed from one’s diet:

  • Sugar (Must be completely removed from your diet)
  • All sugary drinks including cola drinks and sweetened fruit juices
  • Bread
  • Rice
  • Pasta
  • Potatoes
  • Porridge
  • Breakfast cereals
  • Some high energy fruits like bananas
  • All confectionary – cakes and sweets
  • Desserts
  • Artificial sweeteners and products containing these products (like “diet” sodas)
  • You should also be very wary of so-called “low fat” options, yoghurt especially, since these are laden with sugar and so are less healthy than the full fat options. In fact you need to check all the foods that you eat. You will be astonished in the number that contain hidden sugar.
(Excerpt taken from Runner's World Magazine)

And what does Tim Noakes suggest we do eat?
  • Eggs
  • Fish
  • Meat – organic or grass fed, not processed
  • Dairy Produce – milk, cheese and yoghurt – all full cream
  • Vegetables – mainly leafy, low carbohydrate sources
  • Nuts – macadamia and almonds especially but no peanuts or cashew nuts as these are high in carbohydrates
  • Fruits – very occasionally and then only those which have a lower carbohydrate content like apples and berries.
  • Water, tea and coffee (all unsweetened!)
(Excerpt taken from Runner's World Magazine)

The Facts: While his statement that older generations lived mainly on protein diets to their benefit is controversial (many lived off a vegetarian diet as meat was considered more of a luxury that an everyday staple). His claim that removing refined (and addictive) carbohydrates from our diet such as breads, cereals, rice and pasta and stocking up on lean meats, fresh fish, vegetables and fats as well as nuts instead could be a healthier alternative for athletes and the general public, in particular those who are CR, is not all that 'out of the box'.

It is the refined carbohydrates you want to watch out for (as these are addictive to the same extent that smoking or alcohol is), while complex carbohydrates are widely considered to be good carbohydrates and should remain as part of any diet plan. Complex carbohydrates include foods such as vegetables and dairy products. Tim Noakes recommends to stay away from whole grain products because although they are considered healthy in general, he claims that you will be hard put to find whole grain cereals that have not been heavily refined.

As you can see from the lists above, many of the taboo foods make sense in that they are loaded with sugar and refined carbohydrates. It is important to note that discarding these foods from one’s diet is of most benefit to those who are carbohydrate resistant (CR), as stated by Tim Noakes. Not everyone will benefit from such a drastic change in diet, which is why consulting with a reputable dietician should always be your first port of call. This has been emphasized by Tim Noakes repeatedly in many recorded interviews.

Watching out for low-fat food options as recommend by Tim Noakes is of particular relevance that is worth taking note of; in order for low-fat options to still be tasty, they are usually very high in calories having been loaded with sugar. So, it makes sense that low-fat options might not be the best options after all.

You will find that the accepted foods recommended by Tim Noakes will still give you the necessary complex carbohydrates combined with high protein and other essential nutrients. Even though he recommends full cream options, which may feel counter-productive for those who want to lose or maintain their weight, combined with other healthy lifestyle decisions such as regular exercise, plenty of sleep and stress management, these full cream options might not be the culprits we have always thought them to be.

Caution: Research has indicated that high protein diets can cause kidney damage due to the way in which protein is being metabolized. There is a lot of debate about whether the amount of damage caused to kidneys is negligible or substantial enough to warrant such a caution. Either way, if you do suffer from kidney or liver damage, then a high-protein diet can be potentially harmful. Always consult with your doctor before deciding to embark on such a diet.

In Summary, weight loss tips that make sense (see our WEIGHT LOSS SPECIALS below!)

  • Whether you are an athlete, trying to lose weight or simply want to improve your health don't change your diet without speaking with a professional nutritionist first. Every person's nutritional needs are different and what we learn from the media and read in books should only be used as a guideline.
  • Remember balance is everything. Use your common sense when it comes to making food choices. If you opt for as much fresh, green and raw foods as possible and stay away from processed and refined foods you can't go too wrong!
  • Include good proteins with every meal (such as nuts, eggs, cheese and vegetables) as this will keep you fuller for longer and reduce your desire to snack.
  • Keep a food diary to better understand not only your eating habits but how your body reacts to eating different types of food. Monitor how you feel when eating a morning shake high in essential nutrients compared to a slice of toast for example. This will keep you aware of what different foods do to your body and will help you to make healthier food choices.
  • Hydrate with water and herbal teas rather than caffeinated drinks and fruit juices (the latter of which is high in sugar).
  • Exercise at least 2 ½ hours a week combining cardio with toning and stretching exercises.
  • Stop smoking!
  • Watch your stress levels and take time-out from your busy life to just be! Spend time with family and friends, read your favourite book in the park, go for a stroll on the beach or take a drive in the country.
  • Take the holistic approach and include natural remedies into your weight loss regime. See our specials below!


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Remember... If you have any questions or need more info, you are welcome to make use of our FREE ASKUS service by phoning 021 7970193 during office hours or emailing help@feelgoodhealth.co.za. Alternatively, CLICK HERE to submit a question. We would love to hear from you!

Further Reading:
Seeking advice from a registered dietician or nutritionist is key
Change to healthy eating with help from a registered dietitian.

The importance of protein in your diet
Protein is a vital part of your daily diet. Follow these tips for healthy protein choices.

The facts on good and bad fats
Eat fats in moderation for a healthy heart.

Eating less sugar can improve your health
Maintaining a healthy diet means reducing sugar intake. Here's how...

Diabetes: risks, causes and treatment
Watch your sweet tooth. Preventing and managing diabetes begins with watching your blood sugar closely.

Sources: The Star, Health24 and Runner’s World Magazine

Michele Carelse M.A. (Clinical Psychology)
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Revised: January, 2012
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