Peter Brukner is the medical adviser to the Australian cricket team. A few years ago he became concerned about his general health. He had learned that Tim Noakes had switched to a diet which was low in carbohydrates and high in fat (LCHF) so he decided to investigate. He read “The Diet Delusion” by Gary Taubes (1), which he describes as the “the most amazing book I have ever read”. As a result he decided to try the LCHF diet himself. He has described his progress on hid blog (2).
At the time Peter was 60 years old and weighed 90.4kg with a BMI of 28 and a family history of Type 2 Diabetes (T2D). His blood tests indicated that he has degree of insulin resistance (IR). After 2 months his weight had dropped to 82.5kg and his well-being had improved enormously. He had more energy, felt less sleepy in the afternoons and was sleeping better at night.
He had no problems with the diet which consisted of eggs and bacon for breakfast; cold meats, salads and cheese for lunch; fish or meat for dinner with lots of vegetables, followed by berries and cream for dessert. For drinks he had water, coffee, beef broth and most nights a couple of glasses of red wine. Snacks have mainly been almonds. There was no problem with hunger pangs and occasionally missed lunch without any difficulty (3).
After 3 months his weight was below 80kg and because he looked too skinny he eased off a bit and his weight settled down at 81-82kg. After 8 months, his blood tests showed that his triglycerides had fallen from 2.1 to 1.3 which is all good news. There was an increase in the total blood cholesterol (TC) which did not bother him. Much more important was the test which confirmed that that he did not have a “fatty liver” (4).
This improvement in his health made quite an impact on some of the players who wanted to discover more about what he had done to achieve this. In a talk, Peter describes some case studies of elite athletes which he has kept anonymous (5).
- The first one had a long history of weight problems who had a history 27 muscle injuries which meant that he had missed about half of all the test matches, in which he could have played. As a result of his change in diet he “felt fantastic” and had enjoyed the best 8 months of his career
- The second one was overweight. Because of injury he had not played for some time and so his fitness levels had deteriorated. When he changed to a LCHF diet he lost 7 kg. As a result he was able to train harder and longer so that his improved very significantly. There was also a substantial reduction in the skinfold thickness demonstrating that he has lost body fat. He is now back playing and performing very well
- The third one was on the verge of the Australian cricket team but had to stop playing cricket 3 years ago because of chronic knee pain. He tried all sorts of specialists without any great success and then he developed pain in his other knee. He was diagnosed with sero negative arthritis and prescribed some very powerful drugs, which he had to treat himself by injection. As a result he was able to resume training. At this point he decided to try the LCHF Within weeks on an LCHF diet which he followed religiously. But after 3 weeks the pain had disappeared completely and he forgot to do the injection. Almost one year later he was still off his medication. His ability to train has improved significantly and he is feeling very happy with life.
Although Peter did not identify individuals, it is probably no secret that one of them is Shane Watson, who has been happy to go public (6). In a You Tube video, he describes how he had serious problems in maintaining his weight on a diet which complied with the conventional guidelines in which the emphasis is on lowering the fat and consuming plenty of carbohydrate-containing foods such as rice and pasta. He explains how he had a “fat phobia” and was very worried about his cholesterol and concerned that if he ate excessive fat his arteries would get clogged up. Having observed the success of Peter Brukner with LCHF, he also studied the Gary Taubes book and decided to follow suit. He is absolutely convinced that when he switched to LCHF his general health improved. In particular he discovered that he did not eat as much and that hunger was no longer a problem. His life has changed for the better, his endurance has improved and he has limitless energy. As an all-rounder this must make a great difference to his ability to perform on the field. His father suffered from T2D and has also benefitted because by adopting an LCHF diet he has been able to control his blood sugar. His mother has lost weight by using the same approach.
Word has spread amongst the cricketing community. David Warner, Mitchell Johnson and Usman Khawaja have all switched to LCHF with very positive results (7). The Indian cricketer Rahul Dravid is another convert who lost 7kg and feels very much better as a result of his dietary change.
Professional sport is a tough business which can place tremendous strains on the body and although this is anecdotal evidence it fits in very well with all the other information which has accumulated. However these people are driven by results and there their experience cannot be readily dismissed. The facts that injuries have been reduced and that training is improved obviously makes a huge contribution to the performance on the field where it matters.
There are also examples from other sports and I hope to cover these in separate post.
- Gary Taubes (2007) “The Diet Delusion” Vermillion: London