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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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.


Super vegan athletes

June 16, 2012

I am sure every person that follows a vegan/plant-based diet often hear from some people that they could not follow a plant-based diet because because they need more protein (because of their active lifestyle).

It is really great to see that the WBO welterweight boxing champion, Timothy Bradley is a vegan.

Here are some interesting articles related to Timothy Bradley:

  • PCRM – Link
  • Business inquirer – Link

Yet another super athlete that proves that you can get enough protein from a plant-based diet, and be the best amongst their peers.

Other successful super athletes that are vegan/plant-based:

  • Martina Navratilova – tennis player – 18 Grand Slam singles titles, 31 major women’s doubles titles (an all-time record), and 10 major mixed doubles titles
  • Carl Lewis – 9 time Olympic gold medal winner
  • Dave Zabriskie – elite cyclist, Tour de France competitor
  • Brendan Brazier – ultra-marathon champion
  • Scott Jurek – ultra-marathon champion
  • Mac Danzig – mixed martial arts, ultimate fighter
  • Rich Roll – elite ultra-distance endurance athlete
  • Surya Bonaly – Olympic figure skating champion
  • Peter Burwash – Davis Cup winner and professional tennis star
  • Ruth Heidrich – 6 time Ironwoman, US track and field Master’s champion
  • Keith Holmes – world-champion middleweight boxer
  • Dave Scott – 6 time winner of the Ironman triathlon
  • and more (see links) – great vegan athletes / athletes who don’t eat meat.
If you structure the vegan/plant-based diet to use protein rich foods such as legumes and lots of leafy green vegetables, it can provide a huge amount of protein.  The added benefit is that it is not as acidic as animal based foods, is not as energy intensive to digest and utilise the food (which helps reduce recovery time between training sessions) and does not have the added fat, cholesterol and hormones you get from animal-based foods.

So, next time someone uses the “protein” excuse, remind them of some of the very successful athletes.


Milk

March 28, 2011

Milk (a.k.a. liquid meat)

Some interesting information that will help explain that non-human animal based milk is not suitable for human consumption.  Plant based milks (almond, oat, rice, soya, etc.) are a much healthier alternative.

Symptoms of consuming too much dairy

Osteoporosis, diabetes, cancer (ovarian, prostate, lung), leukemia, cataracts, iron deficiency/anemia, allergies, Crohn’s disease, intestinal irritation, asthma, sinusitus.

Babies drinking whole milk in their first two years develop allergies, colic, diabetes.

Articles

  • Does milk really do the body good? Calcium and protein: a mixture for disaster  Article
  • The milk letter: a message to my patients  Article

Protein

March 26, 2011

Protein is one of the essential nutrients your body needs to function properly.

Symptoms of consuming too much protein

Kidney disease, osteoporosis.

You should not focus on the single nutrient, i.e. protein.  They best approach is by using whole foods and particularly whole plant-based foods.

Articles

  • Animal vs. plant protein:  Article
  • Protein powders, pills and poppycock:  Article