Q&A: Tim Noakes

bantingdiet, wiightloss

Professor Tim Noakes is a household name in running science, thanks to his book Lore of Running, now in its fourth edition. The South African has been a leader in sports science for over 30 years, challenging conventional wisdom about many aspects of running. He has also run more than 70 marathons and ultra events. The 66-year-old has caused controversy by promoting a high-fat, low-carb diet in his latest book, The Real Meal Revolution.


What led you into sport science?

I discovered endurance sport and science in my first year at medical school and loved both. I wasn’t interested in disease – only in health.


Why have you been critical of exercise science?

The problem with the exercise sciences is the influence of industry in directing what research can be easily funded. For example, carbohydrate and fluid intake during exercise has been so well funded not to discover the truth, but to promote the sale of carbohydrate-containing products. Exercise sciences need to find sources of funding that genuinely want to determine the outcome of the research.


What led you to develop the Central Governor Model? [Noakes’s theory that exercise performance is not limited by muscle fatigue, but regulated by the brain.]

During VO2-max testing, we could not find the so-called ‘plateau phenomenon’ in oxygen uptake. Without that, there was no reason to believe oxygen was limiting maximal performance. I realised this in the 1980s, but it took me 10 years to deduce that the brain must be directing exercise performance to ensure that we do not harm ourselves during demanding exercise.


Can this insight help us race better?

Yes. If you acknowledge that fatigue is purely an emotion that has no relation to your actual physical condition, there is never any excuse to quit.


Do you experiment on yourself?

I always use myself as a test subject. I’m currently trying to learn how to manage my type 2 diabetes, finding the optimum combination of diet, exercise, medication and nutritional supplements to return my blood glucose control to normal.


How are you perceived in your field?

I’m either loved as someone who has made a real difference to the exercise sciences or seen as a quack. This has been especially true in South Africa since I began promoting the high-fat Banting diet [named after William Banting, who popularised the diet in 1860s London].


What led to you adopt that diet?

Within two hours of opening The New Atkins for the New You, I realised I had got it all wrong by promoting the high-carbohydrate diet. Despite all my running, I still developed profound insulin resistance – type 2 diabetes – and I knew the authors’ dietary advice was crucial to my future health.


What’s been the response to your U-turn on the subject?

It has sparked a national debate in South Africa – some support the Banting diet and others believe it will cause an epidemic of obesity and heart disease. My new book has broken publishing records in South Africa and since its publication there’s been a national cauliflower shortage [the vegetable features strongly in Banting recipes] and bread sales in one large supermarket chain have fallen by 30 per cent.


What benefits does it offer runners?

Ease of weight control, because one is never really hungry. More energy and stronger finishes in marathons and longer races. And no need to worry about carbohydrate gels during exercise. In the next decade, I believe this eating plan will become the default, and the high-carbohydrate diet will be followed only by those who are so insulin-sensitive they’re at no risk of developing diabetes.


Do you still run

?

I run five to 10km most days and I race no further than half marathons. I love my running as much as ever, even though I’m slow now. I still imagine the day when I’ll run fast again. I was born optimistic.

The Real Meal Revolution (Robinson, £20) is out now

This is is a syndicated post. Read the original at www.runnersworld.co.uk

About the author

admin

View all posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *