'Tim Noakes diet' put to the test

Ever since sports scientist Professor Tim Noakes spoke of his ‘new diet’ namely a high-fat, low-carb way of eating, people have been talking about it. But now it’s being put to the test to see if it really is a healthier way of eating. 

Twin sisters Jaqueline and Jeanne Howie have decided to do just that and embarked on the ‘Twin Noakes’ experiment. Both sisters have genetically high cholesterol and when they heard about Tim Noakes’ claims that, for him, a high-fat low-carb diet was better for lowering cholesterol compared to the more conventional high-carb, low-fat diet, they decided to put this theory to the test.

Jaqueline says that the “classic theory is that it’s the consumption of cholesterol rich foods like eggs, meat and cheese that lead to a cholesterol build-up in your arteries.  The new theory is that it’s when we eat grains etc, they cause our arteries to inflame and our bodies send cholesterol to counteract the inflammation. So we asked each other – so which theory is right? Which one will work for us?” 

They got in touch with Tim Noakes and he agreed to help them with the experiment which started on August 29 and will finish on October 31. 

Getting started

So the experiment got underway with a dietician and a biokineticist on hand to assist and monitor their progress. Jeanne opted for the high fat/high protein diet and Jacqueline the high-carb/low-fat diet. 

A few weeks in and results were already starting to show. Jeanne, who used to struggle with hay fever reported that the symptoms had all but cleared up – while Jaqueline started sneezing and developed an itchy nose. 

Jaqueline says, “Jeanne is more satisfied when she eats and feels less bloated than she used to, although having said that, she has expressed a feeling of weakness or tiredness in her muscles. I on the other hand have had a great increase in appetite, am feeling a bit bloated and struggle with tiredness at about 2pm daily.” 

What the daily diets look like

Jeanne eats protein and fat with every meal but also adds in a light carb which mostly comes through veggies. Jacqueline eats a carb rich diet with a bit of protein and low fat elements on the side.

 This is what their daily meals look like: 


 Jeanne’s daily eats 

Jaqueline’s daily eats

Breakfast: Salmon, eggs on ryvita with tomato 

Breakfast: Oats with raisins 

Snacks:Biltong, almonds, crudités, tomato juice

Snacks: Provitas, small banana, low gi bread with marmite 

Lunch:Stir fried beef strips and juilienned veggies

Lunch: Couscous with veg 

Supper:Roast chicken with skin with steamed spinach, butternut with butter,  salad with avo and olive oil 

Supper: Pasta with veg and salad


 But how are they enjoying their new eating plans?

 Jaqueline says that initially she found it hard to freely consume things like pasta, couscous and rice because she has “always distrusted their effect on my body, but I’m into the swing of things and it’s become a normal part of my day now”.


She has thrown herself into it and has so far found eating carbs very easy to fit into her life – despite the fact that she was actually following a more high-fat/high protein diet before the experiment started.

“I still feel that I function better on a high fat/protein diet, so as things stand will probably go back to that way of eating afterwards,” she said.

Jeanne is enjoying her high fat/high protein diet and has been pleasantly surprised at combinations she’s finding delicious, like raw cabbage and grated cheese. However there are certain elements which she has found difficult, such as not being able to enjoy treats with her husband like a glass of red wine or pudding with their meals or a rusk with her tea. 

The exercise regime

As with any effective weight-control plan, exercise is also a key ingredient to get the desired results. However, since the sisters have such different lives – Jaqueline is a full-time mother to two children and Jeanne doesn’t have kids – they needed to find an exercise regime that would suit both their lifestyles. 

They decided to try out Body Tec, which involves the use of an electro muscle stimulation suit.


“Basically, we don our electrode filled ‘lara croft’ outfits once a week and literally get plugged into our respective machines.  Then for the next 20 mins we do a few basic toning exercises with a trainer while an electronic pulse causes 90% of our muscles to contract. 

“It’s a bizarre feeling and takes some getting used to, but I can honestly say that I think it may be working.  They claim that one 20 min session is equivalent to three 90 min toning sessions at the gym,” explains Jaqueline.

 The numbers behind the scenes

Together with Tim, the women are also being looked after by Jamie Smith as Project Manager and Rael Koping as their dietician. 

The women are monitored regularly and their blood pressure, hip and waist circumference, weight, resting metabolic rate and body fat percentage will be measured. 

They also do fortnightly blood tests at Pathcare to track the changes that may be taking place in their bodies due to their diets. These tests measure:

  • HDL Cholesterol
  • LDL Cholesterol
  • Total Cholesterol
  • Triglycrides
  • Fasting insulin
  • Fasting blood glucose
  • Ketones
  • HBA1c

 What Tim Noakes thinks

So waht does Tim think about this experiment? He says it is improtant to realise that this "is not a hard science experiment but an opportunity to promote the idea that there are dietary options and to teach the public about those options". 

He adds, "There have been nearly 40 controlled trials of the high fat versus the high carb diet and essentially all find in favour of the high fat diet (when all the important variables are measured not simply the blood cholesterol concentration).  So if the experiment is properly conducted I would expect the high fat diet to outperform the high carb diet. 

"However the twins are both very healthy and very lean so they are not the best candidates to show the beneficial effects of a high fat diet. People like myself who are seriously carbohydrate resistant and pre-diabetic show the greatest benefits and neither of the twins is remotely like me (in their metabolic profile). But I am sure that at worst the high fat diet will be at least as good as the high carb diet even in these very healthy young women.  That might encourage those who are not as healthy as the twins to ponder whether they might not do better by restricting the amount of carbs that they eat."

We will keep track of the twins’ progress and do a follow-up article when the experiement is completed.

 (Amy Froneman, September 2012)

Read more:

Tim Noakes on carbohydrates

* (This article was edited to include Professor Tim Noakes' comment)

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