Tim Noakes

When people speak of great scientists they always tend to focus on the ones who worked with chemicals or broke the laws of physics. It is always on fields that seem to be extremely scientific. But what about people who work in the field of sports science? What about great men and women of science that challenged the way people thought about food and exercise? What about men like Tim Noakes? This sports scientist from Cape Town in South Africa has been redefining beliefs for years and has made numerous advances in the field of sports science and pushes the limits of human performance in different sporting fields. Check out what he has done and you will see why he deserves to be honored.


Get to Know Timothy David Noakes

Timothy Noakes was born in 1949 in Harare, Zimbabwe but moved to South Africa where he became an exercise and sports science professor. This was the position he took at the University of Cape Town in South Africa. What makes him so remarkable is that he doesn’t just preach but he practices as well. To date, he has participated in over 70 ultra-marathons and marathons combined. He has also authored some books, one of which is entitled Lore or Running which became a best seller and a holy grail of sorts to runners.

Early Life

As mentioned, Tim Noakes entered the world in Africa at Harare which is located in Zimbabwe although his family made the move to Cape Town in South Africa when he was just five. Like many South Africans he was crazy about cricket. This was probably what paved the way for a career in sports science. He attended the Monterey Preparatory School that was located right in Constantia Cape Town. He went to attend Diocesan College afterwards. This was where he earned his degrees. The first was his MBChB in 1974, then came his MD in 1981. He got his DSC (Med) in 2002.

Tim Noakes: Educator, Researcher, and Author

A year before he got his MD, Noakes was given a directive to start the course in sports science in the school at the University of Cape Town. With that successful venture he then became the head of the Bioenergetics Exercise Research Unit that was funded by the Medical Research Council. Later on, this was turned into the MRC/UCT Research Unit for Exercise Science and Sports Medicine.

When the early 90’s rolled in, Tim Noakes and former South African rugby player Morne du Plessis founded the Sports Science Institute of South Africa. Together with his unit, they managed to produce over 370 articles in sports science and fitness since the year 1996. As it happens, he is the leading researcher on a condition that is known as exercise-related hyponatremia (also known as EAH to stand for exercise-associated hyponatremia). For the very first time he saw signs of the condition when watching a female runner compete during the Comrades Marathon back in 1984. This was a condition that people who run marathons often suffer after filling up on too much water to supposedly combat dehydration. He published the results of his findings a year after in the Medicine and Science and sports and Exercise journal. Tim Noakes also hosted the very first international consensus in EAH back in May of 2005 in Cape Town.

He is also quite well known for elaborating and renewing the idea proposed by Archibald Hill (Nobel Prize Winner for Physiology or Medicine in 1922). The idea was of a central governor responsible for regulating exercise so the body is adequately protected from homeostasis. Homeostasis is the ability of the body to maintain a constant internal environment amidst changes in the environment.

Also in 2005, he went on to undertake a number of ground-breaking experiments conducted in the Antarctic and Artic with the participation of Lewis Gordon Pugh (British-born South African swimmer). They conducted the research to better understand the capabilities of the human body when under extreme cold. During the course of their research he found out that Pugh actually had the power to increase his body’s core temperature before he entered the water to better prepare for the cold. He is the man responsible for the term “thermo-genesis” in description of the ability. When Pugh went on to undergo a 1-km swim in the geographic North Pole back in 2007, Noakes was there to serve as the expedition doctor.


With all the research that he published it was only a matter of time before we started writing books. He went on to write several books, one of which is the Lore of Running – a book that is mainly used by runners to enjoy, understand, and improve their running performance. He also published a book entitled Waterlogged where he takes people on a very informative journey into the world of hydration for athletes. This is the same book where he states that drinking too much water after a marathon can have bad effects on the body and recovery of the athlete. Noakes worked with a nutritionist and other chef-athletes for his next work entitled The Real Meal Revolution where they walked and ran the difficult path through different challenges that had to do with nutritional science and experimenting on themselves. This book has some ground-breaking revelations and stances but it also has amazing and mouth-watering recipes backed by scientific study.


Tim Noakes is quite well-known for taking a challenging stance when it comes to old and common paradigms of exercise physiology. The American College of Sports Medicine honored him when he went over to present the J.B. Wolfe Memorial lecture in the year 1996. A lot of the work he has completed over the last decade supported his model of the brain being the central governor that dictated how much, how long, how strong, and how fast the body could perform. Truly, he is a gem in the world of sports science, and hopefully he will have more ground-breaking revelations to share about the human body and exercise physiology in years to come.