I've been doing Paleo/Primal for about a year now with good overall results. Body composition has improved drastically and I feel great in general. However, not everything has been smooth in terms of athletic performance which caused me to go against one of the paleo rules and add considerable amounts of starches to my diet.
Basically, my eating since the beginning has been very clean (well over 90% compliance). I started with lots of meat, fish, good oils and vegetables (and the occasional bit of full fat cream and cheese). Carbs were limited to veggies and some fruit maybe twice a week. Within months I had leaned down considerably to sub 10% BF at 5'10" and around 185lbs with minimal, if any, lean tissue loss. I felt quite good in my day to day activities but I was noticing greatly reduced athletic performance.
I play a fair bit of ice hockey and even though I thought I felt ok when I got on the ice, my numbers dropped considerably. It seemed in my case that the paleo diet just couldn't keep up with serious anaerobic activity. It wasn't a drastic drop in performance mind you, but I always felt that mentally I was a bit slower at reading the play than I had been before and maybe one step behind where I used to be. Battles for the puck that I used to win the majority of the time I was now losing. Maybe I was 10% or 20% off my peak but as anyone who plays sports knows that is a HUGE amount and is the difference between being an average player on your team and being an elite one. Especially in hockey where "speed kills", to not have that extra little bit I needed to chase down a puck or pull away from someone like I used to was very frustrating. I mean, I felt fine, but when I needed that push it just wasn't there.
So a few months ago I started to experiment. I decided to add in more starches in the form of yams, sweet potatoes, and some squashes. I tried taking them in the day before a game, the day of, just after, and all sorts of combinations. Things improved somewhat, but nowhere close to where I was before on my more or less SAD diet.
Finally over the last month I decided that body composition be damned, I was going to make whatever adjustments were needed to increase performance. So I went crazy with yams and sweet potatoes and other starches. I have no real idea how many I eat a day because I never count anything but I was eating them in every meal in whatever quantity I wanted. Some days I probably had one, other days four or more. I just went with my body and ate them at every meal until I didn't want any more.
So what happened? Well, performance went through the roof! I have better stats in all the training I do and although my sample size for game performance is small it looks MUCH better. I've also noticed that I heal remarkably fast in comparison. One thing I had seen before was that deep bruises from blocking pucks were taking much longer to heal than on SAD. I found this odd but chalked it up to just getting a bit older. Now I'm seeing my healing rate pretty much doubled (I block a lot of pucks and have an astonishing number of samples for this).
Last interesting thing? My body did not go back to carrying more fat as I expected. In fact, I've leaned out a bit more than before following the last two-three months on high starch. Unexpected, but a nice bonus.
So now that everyone has my life story I'm wondering, has anyone had a similar experience? I see the occasional item from someone working out hard who eats some starch post-workout but I have yet to hear from anyone who really ups their starch at all times. Perhaps there are other people who play sports that have a strong anaerobic element (football, rugby, etc) that have found the typical Paleo/Primal solution lacking and have had similar experiences?