Tim Noakes

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Professor Tim Noakes of the University of Cape Town, South Africa

Professor Timothy David Noakes (born 1949) is a world-renowned researcher from the University of Cape Town in South Africa. Professor Noakes is a co-founder and executive director of the Sports Science Institute of South Africa. He is an author, a respected academic and scientist who has long been acknowledged as an expert in the field of sports and the science of physical exercise.

Professor Noakes is a Director of UCT/MRC Research Unit for Exercise Science and Sports Medicine (ESSM) and an emeritus professor in the Division of Exercise Science and Sports Medicine at the University of Cape Town. He has run more than 70 marathons and ultramarathons[citation needed], and is the author of several books on exercise and diet. He is known for his support of a low-carbohydrate, high-fat (LCHF) diet, as set out in his book The Real Meal Revolution.


In 1980 Noakes was tasked to start a sports science course at the University of Cape Town. Noakes went on to head the Medical Research Council-funded Bioenergetics of Exercise Research Unit, which was later changed to the MRC/UCT Research Unit for Exercise Science and Sports Medicine. In the early 1990s Noakes co-founded the Sports Science Institute of South Africa with former South African rugby player Morne du Plessis. His unit's physiological research has produced over 370 scientific articles since 1996.

He is a leading researcher on the condition now known as Exercise-associated hyponatremia (EAH). He first recognized this condition in a female runner during the 1984 Comrades Marathon, and published his findings in 1985 in the journal Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise. Noakes hosted the 1st International Exercise-Associated Hyponatremia Consensus Development Conference in Cape Town in May 2005.

Noakes is also known for renewing and elaborating the idea first proposed by the 1922 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine winner Archibald Hill that a central governor regulates exercise to protect body homeostasis.

Open Water Swimming

In 2005 he undertook a series of pioneering experiments in the Arctic Ocean and Antarctic Ocean on South African (British-born) swimmer Lewis Gordon Pugh to understand the full range of human capability in extreme cold. In 2007, he was the expedition doctor for Pugh’s 1 km swim at the Geographic North Pole.

On Lewis Pugh's Arctic Ocean and Antarctic Ocean swims, Professor Noakes recorded Pugh's ability to raise his core body temperature by nearly 2°C in anticipation of entering the freezing water. He coined the phrase "anticipatory thermo-genesis" (the creation of heat before an event). This phenomenon had not been noted in any other human. Pugh believes it is a Pavlovian Response to years of cold water swimming.


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