BY DANIEL MATTHEWS
You’d be really hard pressed to find someone who didn’t have some sort of health or weight loss related resolution on the first of January. Most of us wish we were a little trimmer, stronger, or fitter. There’s a billion dollar industry that revolves around selling people food, supplements and equipment that will get us those abs we’re so desperate for. Tim Noakes thinks he’s found the magic recipe to get all of us to nail those resolutions. His massively popular, if controversial, high-fat, low-carb diet has been on the lips of many weekend warriors — from mountain bikers to CrossFitters — and even led to him publicly ripping out the section on carbo-loading from his classic book, The Lore of Running, which has been a bible for runners for several decades.
The Real Meal Revolution is Noakes’s new handbook to getting you to perform at your best. It brings together a South African super-team that includes himself, David Grier (famous for running the length of the Great Wall of China), Jono Proudfoot (a long distance swimmer and chef) and the nutritionist Sally-Ann Creed.
The book opens with glowing testimonials from successful users of the diet. This gives way to the starters, an overview of biological facts about the human diet. Then there’s the mains — a practical guide to shopping and cooking the high fat low carb way, step-by-step recipes included. Finally, for dessert, Tim Noakes tells the story of human nutritional evolution. The book’s more detailed sections are punctuated with regular breaks to stop them from being too heavy, and interspersed with bits of lighthearted history and colourful headings. The recipes themselves are in a large, easy-to-read format, accompanied by mouthwatering pictures of the finished product.
The question of whether the Noakes diet works for everyone is still a fiercely debated topic. His acolytes claim it’s the way of eating to end all diets. Others remain sceptical at the idea of eating fat to lose fat. In my nutritional experience, I believe that Noakes is incorrect when he blames carbohydrates for illness. Why? Because I think the quality of your calories is far more important. In other words: while an apple indeed contains sugar, I highly doubt whether anyone has developed diabetes from gorging on them. Most people are generally educated enough to understand the basics of healthy eating: cake is bad, broccoli is good; beer is bad, water is good. Nutritional problems are frequently caused when people ignore basic nutritional sense in favour of short-term gratification. If you feel that it’s easier for you to stick to a diet because it was put together by Prof Noakes and he markets it very well then that is fantastic, but that has less to do with the effectiveness of the diet and more to do with the fact that you are now aware of what you are putting into your body.
Many of the rules in the Noakes diet would be at home in almost any healthy eating plan — these include reducing your consumption of refined food, eating more greens and limiting your alcoholic intake. The biggest difference would be the macronutrient makeup in the Noakes diet being so heavily tilted towards fat. Every human is different, and has different lifestyles from one another and different goals — health or otherwise. It could be argued that pigeonholing us all into one method of eating is therefore a somewhat parochial way of thinking. We have masses of information from sporting professionals, books, magazines and, of course, the internet. So: instead of blindly following a diet because your running captain saw Noakes at the Two Oceans Expo and it worked for him, rather educate yourself about food and nutritional needs, and then make an informed decision.
There are plenty of successful athletes and weekend warriors who thrive on different diets – whether it be paleo, intermittent fasting, IIFYM (“if it fits your macros”), or just plain common sense and moderation. If the Noakes diet works for you, fits into your lifestyle and lets you achieve your goals then that is fantastic. The Real Meal Revolution is the perfect handbook to ensuring you can understand it, adhere to it, and still feel like you’re indulging in delicious and filling cuisine.