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Jacques Rousseau Wonders Whether Tim Noakes’ Change of Heart Will Affect Yours

Challenging BeliefsIn his Daily Maverick column, Jacques Rousseau questions the science behind Tim Noakes’ latest commentary on the diet of athletes.

Noakes, the author of the recently updated book Challenging Beliefs: Memoirs of a Career, usually gets a lot of attention, especially when making pronouncements about dietary matters. After many years of endorsing carbo-loading, Noakes finally made an about-turn and said it may not be the healthiest choice, as carbohydrates are “addictive”. Rousseau takes his ideas to task:

Tim Noakes has moved from advocating carbo-loading to suggesting that carbohydrates are an addiction posing severe health risks. But while his revised recommendations are couched in the language of science, does the science support them?

In one of my first columns on Daily Maverick, Michael Pollan and his food rules (“the whiter the bread, the sooner you will be dead”) were used to illustrate the modern obsession with eating “healthy” food, or orthorexia. Pollan is an example of a celebrity nutritionist, who – while not necessarily offering harmful advice – could be accused of simplifying things to such an extent that what starts as sound advice mostly ends up being accepted on faith or as dogma.

Recently, South Africa’s sports-science guru Tim Noakes has been receiving plenty of media coverage following his apparent about-turn on matters dietary. Many of you will recall Noakes as an advocate of carbo-loading, especially for athletes. But even those of us who aspired to complete a 10km shuffle had little to fear from the carbohydrate. Until now, where for many of us our fondness for carbohydrates “is an addiction that is at least as powerful as those associated with cigarette consumption and some recreational drugs like heroin.

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