The dangers of following the professor’s nutrition advice

February 16, 2013

Here in South Africa we have a world renowned professor of exercise and sport science Professor Tim Noakes (Noakes). He is the author of the book “Lore of Running”.

I am reading Scott Jurek’s fantastic book “Eat and Run” and even in this book he references research by Prof Tim Noakes.

A couple of months ago, I was planning on doing my first 32km run and wanted to understand how much water I needed to consume on the run. As with most concepts unknown to me, I Googled it. I was quite surprised how many running sites all over the world references Prof Tim Noakes. The dude definitely knows about running and the science of sport, there is no doubt about that!

In 2012, Noakes made an announcement that he now believes that a high protein/high fat diet is the healthiest diet to follow. The horror! Gone are the days of shameless carbo-loading before a long running or cycling event!
He has even made the statement that everyone should tear the nutrition section out of Lore of Running because he does not believe that a low fat/high carbohydrate diet is good for athletes.

Noakes big fat mistake

Some articles about his theory

  • Heart disease theory
  • Novel dietary ideas – in this article, he mentions the foods that he recommends you eat. Baring the fruit (which you should only eat occasionally and some leafy green vegetables), there is no fibre in the diet. Oh man, can you imagine the constipation! No wonder you will lose weight, you will feel so sick and blocked that you will not feel like eating…
  • Tim Noakes on carbohydrates – in this article, he does admit that this diet is not for everyone “However those who can metabolise carbohydrates efficiently and who have always been lean despite eating a high carbohydrate diet may not benefit in any way from this eating plan. I would not advise any athlete who is lean and quite happy with his or her weight and performances to change to this eating plan since it might not make a difference and might even be detrimental.” – yeah right, it is not for anyone that wants to avoid type 2 diabetes or want to severely overload their kidneys with all the unnecessary protein
  • Against the grains

It seems like many people are excited about this announcement because people love hearing good news about their bad habits.

Just because you have lost some weight, it does not mean it is an indicator that you are healthy; if that was the case, then using cocaine, or undergoing chemotherapy should also be considered as feasible methods of losing weight. Surely by now, we have all realised that all weight loss programmes are not made equal. You should always look at the long term effect of the diet on your overall health and whether it is sustainable in over a long period (i.e. the rest of your life) and benefit your overall health at the same time.

I would like to comment that I do agree that all processed foods such as potato crisps, French fries, pizza, pasta, pastries, sugary fruit juices, cookies, cakes, etc. are not whole foods and should be avoided where possible. The key to eating healthy carbohydrates is to stick to whole foods. If you are going to eat packaged foods, the basic rule should be that the food should only include ingredients that you actually understand (or that your grandmother will recognise, or that a 5 year old can pronounce), identify as food (there are no E927 trees), and where possible not have much more than 5 ingredients listed on the package. Whole foods such as potatoes, all root vegetables, whole grains and brown rice (to name a few) are healthy carbohydrates.

Fortunately many people in the medical profession have responded to his claims and have specified how irresponsible it is to make statements like he has about high protein/high fat diets.

Replies from specialists in the industry

  • Noakes goes too far – Heart disease
  • Doctors warn on Noakes’ diet theory – it causes a huge risk for coronary heart disease!
  • The dangers of high-protein slimming diets – a build-up of ketones can cause all kinds of damage to vital organs such as the liver and kidneys. The build-up deranges the body’s balance of acids and alkalines, causing a condition called acidosis.
    When the levels of ketones in the body reaches dangerous proportions, the dieter finds him- or herself in the same kind of state as a diabetic who hasn’t used any insulin. Unless immediate treatment is applied, he/she can slip into a coma, which may result in death
  • 5 Negative high protein diet effects – Osteoporosis, strain on kidneys, contribute to Cancer, cause damage to internal organs, nutritional deficiencies

This is not a response to Noakes’ new theory, but it reiterates the dangers of high protein diets

In addition to the above referenced articles, if you look at some of the most successful people in the medical/health industry (with proven track records in helping people get healthy AND staying healthy), the statements made by Noakes are really very irresponsible and dangerous.

Further to the replies posted above, I thought I’d include some articles that I feel really explain and justify that a low fat, whole-foods plant based diet is definitely the healthiest diet that can safely be followed by normal people and ultra-athletes alike:

  • A guide to healthy weight loss: Three weeks on a low-fat vegan diet gets you on the road to your healthy weight goal – Of the many ways to lose weight, one stands out as by far the most healthful. When you build your meals from a generous array of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and beans—that is, healthy whole foods plant-based choices—weight loss is remarkably easy. And along with it come major improvements in cholesterol, blood pressure, blood sugar, and many other aspects of health. The message is simple: Cut out the foods that are high in fat and devoid of fiber, and increase the foods that are low in fat and full of fiber.
    This is an easy, affordable and healthy lifestyle and there are only benefits to this way of eating. Everything benefits, even the environment and animals. It is totally a win-win-win lifestyle.
  • Atkins diet alert – A resource for physicians and laypeople with questions and concerns about high protein diets. If you are going to read only one of the links on this post, this one possibly has the most concise information available.
    The Expert opinions section – provides references to some of the leading experts in the industry
  • High protein, low carb diets – reiterates the risks linked to high protein diets

Some risks/side effects of a high protein/high fat diet

  • Brain fog – It is widespread scientific knowledge that when a person is deprived of carbohydrate, their liver converts organ and muscle protein to glucose for the brain’s energy needs, and also fat to ketones for compensation when the brain can’t get enough glucose
  • Kidney failure – too much protein puts a strain on the kidneys, which can make you more susceptible to kidney disease
  • High cholesterol/Increased risk of high blood-fat levels (most animal based foods are high in fats) – this increases your risk of developing heart disease, stroke and cancer
  • Risk of deficiency diseases – cutting out fruits and vegetables can never be a good idea
  • Osteoporosis and kidney stones – high protein diets have been shown to cause people to excrete a large amount of calcium in their urine – over a prolonged period of time, this can increase a person’s risk of osteoporosis and kidney stones
  • Cancer – by avoiding carbohydrate-containing foods and the vitamins, minerals, fiber and antioxidants they contain it increases the risks of developing cancer
  • Constipation – there is no fiber in eggs, meat, diary – dietary fiber is only available in plant-based wholefoods
  • Headaches
  • Bad body odour and bad breath

As a last point, a satirical article was written from a cow’s perspective of Noakes’ new theory –  “…“extremely unhealthy for cows”. According to a spokescow, research has shown that every single cow exposed to the high protein diet ended up dead. “Usually on a paper plate, next to some potato salad.”…”

So, run, run as fast as you can past all the fatty, unhealthy animal based foods and rather focus on delicious, healthful vegetables, fruit, leafy green vegetables and grain & legumes.

Related posts

Humans are natural plant eaters

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Sourdough bread starter

October 15, 2012

I attended a bread baking course some time ago and I have been baking bread regularly (once, maybe twice a week) since then.

I used to bake bread using instant yeast but now I use wild yeast.  The preparation process takes a bit longer, in time (not effort) but the end result and depth of flavour is definitely worth it.

This will be the first of a couple of posts.  I thought I’d start with documenting how to get a wild yeast starter started.

“When you have only two pennies left in the world, buy a loaf of bread with one, and a lily with the other.”
– Chinese proverb

Here is some information that I gathered about sourdough bread:

Sourdough bread is the outcome of a fermentation process that happens as a result of the activities of wild yeasts and other micro-organisms, transforming the mixture of flour and water from an unpalatable mass into a nourishing food that is easy to digest and packed with vitamins and minerals.

When making sourdough, a starter is added to the mixture of flour and water and to speed up the process and allows more control of the flavour and texture of the bread.

It is often the chemicals used in commercially baked bread that causes people to have wheat/gluten intolerance and when eating a more natural/whole type bread may reduce/eliminate many of the side effects of eating commercial breads.

The most common way of making bread is by using a fast fermentation process, using large amounts of commercial yeast together with flour, water and other additives to make bread that is not easily digested and goes stale or mouldy very fast. Yeast is used as a rising agent because time is not allowed for the natural fermentation process to take place.

Sourdough bread is made by using no commercial yeast at all; instead a small amount of pre-fermented starter, made of flour and water, is introduced into the dough.  The bread has a unique flavour due to the natural fermentation process.  The fermentation process releases enzymes crucial for our digestive system. (The fermentation process serves a similar purpose of soaking nuts prior to using them.)

The starter used in the bread is usually used and replenished from one baking to the next, each time feeding it with flour and water after each baking and then left to develop. It can be kept in the fridge and replenished at least once a week, to keep the starter active. It may seem like a lot of effort but the flavour improves if it is used and replenished more often.

The sourdough starter likes a routine (and it makes it easier for you to remember as well), so even when not using it, it should be replenished anyway.  There are many fantastic resources available for suggestions of what to do with the sourdough starter.
(I will try veganise some of the recipes and post them – watch this space 😀 )

Making a sourdough starter

(If you are lucky enough to know someone that already has a starter, I suggest you beg, borrow or steal some from them, it certainly is much easier in this instant gratification society that we live in… it is torture waiting for 7 – 10 days before you can actually start using it the first time.)

Ingredients

  • ½ cup white or whole wheat unbleached flour (it seems like a good starter flour is flour that includes malted barley).  You can substitute for rye flour, if you do not want any wheat flour in the starter
  • ½ cup rye/spelt flour
  • 1 cup filtered water
  • 1 tbsp pineapple juice (fresh not sweetened)

Instructions

  1. Mix all together in a glass jar and set in a comfortably warm place for 24 – 48 hours, mixing it once or twice a day.
    Do not use a jar that seals to tightly, you need to allow the culture to breathe.
    You should see bubbles on top of the mixture and it should have a pleasant smell.
  2. After the initial stage of 24 – 48 hours, add ½ cup water and ½ cup flour (could be rye flour, if you want a rye only starter).
    Mix well and leave for a further 24 hours.
    At this stage, you should see some rising and bubbles and the smell should be slightly sour but pleasant.
  3. Repeat the feeding (½ cup water and ½ cup flour).
    Leave for a further 24 hours.
  4. Discard half of the mixture and add 1 cup water and 1 cup flour.
    Mix and leave again for 24 hours.
    It should rice nicely during this time and be ready for use.
    If the starter is not rising, repeat step 4 again.
  5. Put the starter in a bigger jar (up to 4 times its size) and mark the level of the starter in the jar after mixing (this is a handy tip to see how much it has risen).
    The starter should rise at least double before using it.
  6. Feed the starter one more time before baking with it, just to ensure that it is active.

Notes:

  • Just to get into the lingo – When the starter is growing, it is called a ‘culture’. Only once it is stable and mature enough to bake with, is it referred to as a ‘starter’.
  • It is important to use good quality filtered water.  You need to make sure that most/all of the chlorine is removed from the water.  Spring water is also a great option.
  • Use the best quality ingredients you can find. Wherever possible, use organic.
  • Stone milled fresh flour is the best for nutrient and flavour rich bread.
  • Use flours without improvers and that have not been fortified.
  • The temperature of the room, jar, water will have an impact on the dough.  If it is too cold, it will not be very active. If it is very cold, use slightly warmed water (not too hot, you do not want to kill the starter).
  • Rule: cold weather takes a bit longer, hotter weather shortens the rising time.
  • The tablespoon of juice is optional.  I have read a couple of sites and most of the people just stick to good quality water (with no chlorine).  One site, did not use water at all but only used unsweetened pineapple or orange juice.
  • A great idea I saw from another blogger is to make your own wheat flour to start with. Get wheat berries and put in blender/coffee grinder to produce starter flour (the wild yeast is on the grains and you just need to provide the right conditions to wake it up).
  • It does seem to be a common behaviour to name the starter.  Some cute names that I have encountered are Stinky, Monster, Seymor, Cousin It.

Replenishing the starter

  1. 1 Tbsp starter
  2. Add ¼ cup water and shake vigorously.
    The theory is that this will introduce oxygen (which promotes yeast reproduction) into the mixture.
  3. Add ½ cup flour and mix well (can be done with a metal spoon).

Starter notes:

  • If not using the starter daily, keep it in the fridge to slow down the process.
  • If the starter is acting a little sluggish, substitute whole rye flour for about 5% of the white flour, for one feeding. Rye flour is great for really getting fermentation going.
  • If you plan to use the starter in a day and you are keeping it in the fridge, leave it out to activate.
  • If you keep the starter in the refrigerator, take it out a couple of hours before replenishing it.
  • Remember to feed the starter regularly, even if you are not using it.  Replenish the starter at least twice a week to keep it active.
  • The starter should always smell pleasantly sour.
  • If the starter has a foul smell or develops any kind of mould, discard it and start again.
  • If the starter develops a crust on top, peel it off and use the centre to extend the starter.
  • If you are going away and have to leave the starter behind (as normal people would do, I hope) – make a double batch, mix it well, put it in the fridge.  To activate it again, take off the crust and use the centre of the starter to continue.
  • The starter can also be dried by mixing in some flour and rubbing it until you get bread crumb consistency, then dry on a tray and store in a clean sealed container in the freezer.

Additional resources

(These sites are not vegan, but you can get some great tips from them)

  • Raising a starter – Wild Yeast Blog – link
  • Maintaining a starter – Wild Yeast Blog – link
  • Maintaining a starter – link
  • Wild yeast sourdough starter – link
  • Sourdough for home baking – Wild yeast starter – link – you can buy many different starters from this site

What’s next?  I will post some very easy sourdough bread recipes soon.

Related posts

Basic sourdough bread recipe


Carbohydrate loading vs. protein loading

September 9, 2012

I am reading Thrive – The Vegan Nutrition Guide to optimal performance in sports and life by Brendan Brazier (link).  The book is very interesting but I found the section about nutrition before exercise, really interesting so I thought I would share the details.
There seems to be a new school of thought that protein loading before intense exercise instead of the carbohydrate loading, which used to be the pre-exercise preparation of choice.

“Eating too much protein before intense exercise will likely result in muscle cramping, since protein requires more fluid to be metabolized than carbohydrate or fat, and cramping occurs when the body is not properly hydrated. Also, protein is not what you want to have your body burning as fuel. Protein is for building muscle, not fuelling it.

When protein is consumed in place of carbohydrate immediately before exercise, and therefore burned as fuel, it burns “dirty”, meaning that toxins are created from its combustion. The production and elimination of toxins are a stress on the body and can cause a stress response, ultimately leading to a decline in endurance.” – Chapter 4 – Exercise for lifelong health (P108)

Too much protein is very bad for your kidney and liver and when I refer to healthy options of protein, it is always plant-based.


Fiber

April 10, 2011

Fiber is a very important component of your diet.  It is essential for a healthy digestive system.  You can only find fiber in plant-based foods.

Fiber lowers the risk of certain cancers (e.g. colon cancer, rectal cancer), lowers the risk of heart disease, lowers the risk of diabetes, helps control appetite, helps maintain digestive tract health (prevents constipation).

Recommended reading on the topic of fiber:

  • Health benefits of fiber:  Link
  • Understanding the 2 types of fiber: Soluble/Insoluble fiber:  Link