Legendary exercise professor embraces LCHF!

Tim Noakes

I’ve heard about this story over and over for a while now, but only just now realized how big it is. The legendary Tim Noakes, professor of exercise and sports science in South Africa, is one of the world’s foremost researchers in exercise physiology. He’s also run more than 70 marathons and ultramarathons and is the author of Lore of Running.

He used to believe lot’s of carbs were essential for exercise. Unfortunately he developed pre-diabetes and gained weight over the years (despite all that running!). A couple of years ago he discovered that the science behind LCHF diets were really strong (reading this book) – and tested it himself. After improving his health and weight dramatically he’s now heavily promoting LCHF diets, causing a lot of attention in South Africa.

Listen to this great recent interview on Jimmy Moore’s podcast. Especially interesting are all the anecdotes about athletes doing great on high fat diets:

South African Running Legend Tim Noakes Embraces High-Fat, Low-Carb Living

Apparently Noakes and his team has a bunch of studies planned on LCHF and exercise. Stay tuned!


  1. I'm 18 and I've been eating whole foods and low carb for about a year. I started doing this after reading The Primal Blueprint. I am very fit and feel great! Of course being 18 helps a bit too!
  2. Cindy
    When you explain the diet to your friends and their response is that it sounds like Atkins what response do you give? I hate having to explain it as most just don't believe it's safe as they think it's atkins.
  3. Anu
    Well to be fair, it is pretty much like Atkins. The problem is the Atkins diet got a bad name (unfairly IMO). I would say that it is a lot like Atkins, but that many people who did Atkins ate a lot of processed replacements foods rather than fresh foods and that that's what gave it a bad reputation. Emphasize that you're eating lots of fresh good foods -- including lots of vegetables. A lot of people think Atkins = eating bacon all the time, which is unfair after he spent so much time in his books detailing how each person should figure out their own optimal carbohydrate level over time. Atkins does not equal the induction phase of Atkins alone.
  4. Just finished my first half marathon in ketosis. Needless to say I think Dr Noakes is on to something.
  5. Tim Noakes and I are planning on giving a lecture together later this year in SA! :)

    He has been a great help to me in the release of my book in South Africa (Low carb for families - title not yet finalized. Book is coming out middle of next year)!

    Very exciting!

  6. eat strickt low carb 99,9 % of the time and my endurance have never been better when I jogg. i am like the energiser bunny.. just go go go.. LCHF is the future! :) sky is the limit!
  7. BA
    @ Cindy

    When I talk to people about what I'm actually doing, the only people who seem to immediately mention Atkins and start giving me a lecture about how I'm killing myself are very fat and unhealthy people.

    Not to be crass, but I couldn't possibly care less what they think about nutrition.

  8. I do quite a bit of running and I really enjoy it. I suppose my typical runs range between 5km and half marathon. I'm not an elite runner by any stretch of the imagination, but I can still run respectable enough times (e.g. 10km in about 40 minutes). Since I began following a mostly LCHF diet about 9 months ago, I found to my surprise that I was running a lot better. Apart from in races, I don't pay much attention to my times, so I'm really describing how it _feels_ when I'm running rather than my quantitative performance. Basically, running just feels much easier, especially over longer distances.

    As it happens, about the same time that I started LCHF, I also switched to running in completely uncushioned shoes, which completely cleared up some problems I was having with my knees. I suspect that's because in uncushioned shoes I naturally run with shorter, quicker strides, avoiding striking the ground hard with my heel. I suppose the fact that I have lost some weight on LCHF may have also helped with the knee problem. Anyway, the reason I mention my shoes here is because between them and LCHF, I find that I have thrown out the majority of the conventional advice I had been given about running.

  9. Zane
    I've been following LCHF for a few months now and love it! I'm trying to persuade my overweight father into following it but he's set on 'weight watchers'. I've tried time and time again to explain (with all the low carb books and docs) that its all about sugar and carbs but he (like many other "brainwashed by the government" critics) isn't convinced.

    He owns his own concreting company and through-out each day does a lot of (heavy) labouring so he links hard work to needing carbs even though his stomach size is saying the opposite.

    What information/advice (articles, scientific studies etc) could I give to him and prove that the need for carbs when doing physically exhausting work isn't really the case??

  10. Dr. Andreas Eenfeldt, MD Team Diet Doctor
    Perhaps you could suggest he listen to the podcast discussed in the post above. It's fairly entertaining too.
  11. gavin
    Please let me know about the lecture in South Africa, would love to attend!
  12. #11 Gavin

    I will be posting on my website. Hopfully in the beginning of November this year... :)

  13. Zepp
    I did stumble over som old reserch about sports and ketosis from Sout Afríka, if anybody is interest?


  14. Zepp
    Well guys and girls.. its Atkins.. there is no realy differens about Atkins (USA), LCHF (Sweden), Primal diet (USA?), Optimal diet (Poland), Locarb (Norway), or Karpalan(Finland).. and so on!

    There is different wrigters how try to explain it, trying to reach the citicens in there home countrys.

    If anybody want to read our first gurus of LCHF, in English


  15. Majoren
    Well Doc, too bad Tim Noakes had to read the "New Atkins book", it´s time you get a grip and translate your own Swedish book "Matrevolutionen" into English "The Foodrevolution".
    I just did the first part for you.. ;-)
  16. Kim Lowe
    I am an avid runner, running up to 80km's a week and I have been on the LCHF for 2 weeks. I realise still early days, but I have found having no energy on my runs. I have listened to the Diet Doctor and the Exercise Academy of doing the LCHF , but each run feeling like I do is becoming hard work. I understand that reaching ketosis is individual but will that be only time I will start to feel better? Many people start this because they have medical conditions and need to lose weight, I am doing it for sports performace.
    Secondly once I reach ketosis, if I am training for an ultra marathon, what would i eat on my trainIng runs./ race day?

    PS I am impatient by nature, so by stating that could be answering my own question :)

    Reply: #19
  17. Lila
    Hi Kim Lowe! I can see you have posted this a while back. I myself have just started the LCHF diet and I train doing interval training 30 mins 4 times a week. This is my 4th day on the diet and I have no energy to perfom my exercises. When I do exercise it feels like soooo much hard work. I have been training like this for 3 years and now I feel like a total beginner not being able to do 10 pushups when I used to do 20 at a time with no problem! My muscles just wouldn´t respond. I guess it´s because my body does not know how to use fat for energy, it needs time to adapt. How are you doing now? Are you still on the LCHF diet?

    Can anybody explain why this happens? Will I be able to still be an athlete on this diet??

  18. Zepp
    Its about that glucose now is reseved for the brain and red blood cells.. its cald fat induced insulin resistance.. its a normal reaction if one eating less carbs!

    After some time your muscell cells adapt to use more fat as fuel!

    But they have to uppregulate the production of Carnitine ensymes first to get more long faty acids in to the mitocondrie.

    One tip is to add more coco nut oil in your diet, it not need any Carnitine.

    "Ketogenic diets and physical performance"


  19. Zepp
    Read this about about our Triathlet Jonas Colting!


  20. Duncan
    I have been doing LCHF for the last 5 weeks and run 2 or 3 times a week for between 7 -10 kilometers each time. I have noticed a real lack of energy in these runs and have been struggling to maintian the same type of times I was acheiving whilst 4 Kg's heavier but on a much more unhealthy diet. I have read the links and watched the videos so hope this is just temporary. I would say this is the only negative effect I have experienced. I have twice as much energy than before in general day to day activities and work. Glad I'm not the only one.
  21. Zepp
    Dont do that in the transitation fase, you only upholding the glukose dependancy!

    Go by your pulse instead, go for about 60-70% of VO2 Max.. till its over.

  22. Lila
    How long is the transition fase? Is it different for each person?
    Reply: #24
  23. Duncan
    I think it depends on how many carbs your limiting yourself to a day. I have set myself 100 which is high but in reality it's around 50 - 60 a day now I have cut out cappacinos and lattes!
  24. Zepp
    Its individual, but the brain takes about 2-3 weeks to adapt.

    But the muscles take longer.. but if one alredy is a runer, like Duncan.. one usely have a good fatoxidation capability alredy.

  25. Duncan
    Does seem to be getting a little easier but still, more hard work than I'm used to.
  26. Duncan
    I thought I'd write an update to my running. The last 2 weeks have been MUCH easier and getting back to normal times. I ran a couple of interval training sessions and this just seemed to kick start it. The next time I was running at my good old times with energy to spare. Feel really good about the LCHF now that it's not affecting my training in a negative way.
    Reply: #27
  27. Zepp
    Nice to hear about.. and thats what I hear from others how is runners to.. it usely take about one month to adapt the muscles to a higher fat oxidation capasity.
  28. Lila
    I will update on my progress too. My carb flu is gone, my appetite has decreased way too much (sometimes I worry that I do not get hungry all day. I now sometimes only eat twice a day) and no cravings at all. That is a big win. But some days I still feel tired and still very slow on my training. I feel like I´m a 90 year old lady at times.LOL I do have to clarify I suffer from GAD and at times I can not tell if it´s my GAD making me feel that way or it´s the low carb diet. I do feel some days are "normal" but still on some days I feel lazy, very lazy. It´s been a month now, I guess I still have to wait? GAD does make me feel tired but not all day. It comes and goes and when it comes to my training session, my whole body could perform well in spite of my GAD. Now I find my heart can´t keep up and I feel weak when training. Is this to be expected? Some times I feel I need more carbs. I eat about 50, to 60 a day.

    Any way, I have another question. The other day I had my last meal at 7pm and went on for hours with out eating the next day. I just did not feel hungry at all, but around noon I started to feel shaky, irritable and dizzy. No hunger pains but I new my body was out of fuel. So if I´m supoused to be burning fat now, how come I had some hyperglucemia? Does it happen even if you are a fat burnner or has my body not made the transition yet?

  29. Duncan
    Hi Lila,
    I had to look up GAD but I guess it's General anxiety disorder.

    I'm not an expert and have been doing the LCHF since the 26/12/2012. I started running again after a 6 month rest on January the 1st this year. So I had reduced my calories that I usually got in half (I was over weight and over eating generally along with too many beers)

    In the first month I expereinced cold sweats, lack of concentration and a few of the other symptoms. I was really struggling in my running and had absolutely no energy for it at all. I could get round a course but was so slow!

    Zepp mentioned not to push it and it takes a different amount of time from person to person. I can just now, 6/7 weeks later get back to times I was running before i got overweight 7 months ago.

    I don't experience a lack of appetite like you have though although i don't eat as much before, I am ususally hungry at the standard meal times. Breakfast, lunch & dinner. I couldn't go so long as that without being hungry. Maybe someone else could tell you if that was a symptom of the transistion. How long have you been doing the LCHF?

  30. Lila
    Hi Duncan. Yes, GAD stands for General Anxiety Disorder (health anxiety). I struggle with it almost every day, so it confuses me about my energy levels, but since I started the diet it has been even more of a struggle. This is my 4th week since I started (I started January 21, 2013). There are some days which I feel a "normal" level of energy but I haven´t experienced overflowing energy like the rest describe. I was looking for a diet that would help me regain control of my eating habits since I was eating too much because of my anxiety and because I just moved to Canada and the food here sucks! Lol, I mean it was like I was getting addicted or something and would start to binge at times. Any way, this is how I discovered LCHF and it DID help me control the appetite and cravings which is why I´m happy with the diet. I´m just waiting for the energy to kick in...I´m getting tired of feeling tired all the time. I guess I´m just an impatient person :)

    I´m happy to hear you are feeling much better and you have your energy back :)

    Reply: #31
  31. Zepp
    Then I want to put you in another direction.. that is to see it in bigger picture!!

    So you dont get stuck in counting carbs and fats and things!


  32. Duncan
    Quite interesting. I read about his 80/20 rule. 80% follow the diet and 20% eat what you want but i think that would depend if your body dropped out of it's LCHF mode and how long it took to get back in it.
  33. Lila
    Well, I read the article Zepp linked and it is quite interesting. So from what I understand it means eat a variety of healthy food, carbs, fat and protein as long as they are real unprocessed foods, healthy and not toxic. So, at the end it doesn't matter if you are a fat burnner or a sugar burnner? All it matters is nourishing the body with healthy natural food and stop thinking about cuantity of carbs, proteins and fats? No grains of course, specially wheat and very small quantities of sugar. Sooooo many diets, so many aproaches to health and nutrition. Primal Blue print say one thing, Paleos another LCHF another. I guess you just have to choose what works for you for a healthy lifestyle. I guess I won't give up tortillas after all! Well, only have them moderately of course. LoL But all of them do agree in a lot of things. Most processed foods are bad, sugar is bad saturated fats are healthy and stay most of the time away of the grains and eat lots of vegetables and some fruit. LCHF is I think the only one that talks about getting the body tu use fat for fuel and the others just talk about low carb for healthy insulin levels. Am I right?
    Reply: #35
  34. Lila
    This is a good article in Mark's daily apple blog about being 80% consistent and 20% not so strict. I have done the "eat well all week and cheat one day" and it didn't work for me. I would go out of complete balance and it would lead me to binging. What works for me is being 80 consistent and 20 on very small ocasions when some times you can not control what you eat depending on the circumstances (vacations, trips, family parties, etc) and ocasional treat you would like to indulge from time to time. Better be strict most of the time to have a long healthy life instead of just being strict some times and at the end you can't enjoy the endulgances anymore because you are sick. Any way, I believe life is about balance.


    I will give LCHF a couple of more weeks. If my energy still feels low I will eat more healthy carbs and balance every thing.

  35. Zepp
    Yes.. I got you thinking by your own.. then I can carv another mark of succses!!

    You know there are some steps to get thru!

    1. Eat only or at moste food for healt, how give you all that nutrients your body need!

    2. Fat isnt bad.. not carbs per se, figure out if you need to reduce carbs to some levels.. but if you are an healty person and cut out a lot of junk carbs.. its gonna be a reduction by its own.

    You know.. there are different diet approches on the net.. mostly becuse peopel ask for advice.. often for numbers so they could count it in there food registration.

    So.. if one ask for LCHF numbers.. one get hard core low carb numbers.. like Atkins induction fase.

    Its for induction.. or for reversing diabetes.. or for getting in ketosis in three weeks!

    But not everybody is a diabetic, or have to get in high ketosis.. but often they need to lose weight and/or eating a healtyer diet!

    The happy message is that one can thrive an have a good helt on a high fat diet.. but everybody dont need to eat like that!

    But everybody need to eat real food!

  36. Zepp
    Seems that Brittany altso got here thoghts to figure that out!


  37. Lila
    Thank you Zepp, I can say this has been an amazing journey into health and nutrition. I learned so many things. Most of all to eat the right real foods and to learn that fat doesn't kill you, it's healthy and it's delicious. I also learned how to stop the cravings and control my appetite. I'm sure I will never stop learning.

    My next challenge is to learn how to do some intermitent fasting. I have read good things about it but I have not been able to do it yet. Hyperglucemia kicks in and it doesn't feel good. The only way to know what works for you it through self experimentation. I want to try it as soon as I can.

    Thanks agin for all your input and recomendations :)

  38. Becky
    Who is Zepp? A doctor?
  39. Zepp
    Noe.. I am just spaming some low carb blogs.. perticuly Swedish ones!

    You know.. Im being along a time, and remember all the typical answers to questions from beginners.

    And I have read the moste books of Low carb living, and remember what the experts says.

  40. LW
    Just started reading Prof Tim Noakes new book, The Real Meal Revolution, that was released this month. He has an example of a marathon runner who cut his running time with 3 hours while on low carb. Lots of info and new recipes. - https://www.facebook.com/timnoakesrevolution?fref=ts

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