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?
Im with you 100%. Indeed whats new is old - Cordain's book, etc. And of course the whole idea of paleo, per se, is NOT low-carb by default. In my mind its always simply been about eating things that do not hurt us. Within those parameters one is free to tinker with the macros as they see fit.
I like your question because it brings me back to the start of paleo, and especially this site, when it seemed a lot more athletes (or at least athletic-performance-minded people) were in the scene and everything wasn't so weight-loss-based. There was less carb-phobia I feel.
Couldn't agree more. The low carb hysteria has confounded carbs with fructose and pinned all of the crimes on an entire macronutrient class. This idea that we don't need to replete our glycogen stores is pure nonsense. LC produces a constant panicked state where your body has to scavenge glucose from anywhere possible, including the catabolism of muscle tissue. It's possible to run various systems on ketones, but I've never seen evidence of ketones being utilized for glycogen repletion.
I am a soccer player and I follow a very similar diet to yours. I still eat lots of fat, around 12 ounces of meat a day and I consume as much starch as I want. I don't really count, sometimes I eat lots and lots of white rice, other times I eat lots of sweet potatoes. I find it extremely satisfying and re-energizing.
I think just about every athlete up here has discovered this, sooner or later. So, you're not alone.
Richard Nixon: "We are all keynesians now."
Thomas Seay: "We are all kitavans now." :)
Sounds like you've discovered The Paleo Diet for Athletes on your own. I use this diet for cycling events that are two hours or longer. Adding simple carbs can really crank up performance and help preserve glycogen stores, but as we know, it comes at a price. This book helped me understand when and how much to use in order to minimize the damage these foods cause. Great read. Endurance sports are much less anaerobic than hockey, but you may find some parts of it applicable.
*I have no affiliation with this book or the authors, just a satisfied reader
I am not an athlete but I am very active. Carpenter, hand tool woodworker, large scale gardener, hunter, archer, and I could keep going. I find that I need to eat much higher carb then I see most people recommending. I also don't worry about body comp and actually try to add weight in the form of fat sometimes. I am naturally low BF so if I am going hunting/hiking for a week or so. I try to get as fat as I can. I call it survival muscle!
I've found that I tend to do better with a cyclic low carb diet, so eat very low 5 days of the week then go nuts (200+ grams of carbs in one meal) 2 meals a week.
Eating low carb may not be the best for high performance spots, carbs help replenish glycogen, without that processed is greatly slowed. If your muscles do not have it then you are trying to do something running on empty.
I think you could mess around with it more to find out when your body needs them the most, PWO window for example, (or post hockey). However some people just function better with more carbs.
Read Kurt Harris's post on carbohydrates: http://www.archevore.com/panu-weblog/2011/2/5/no-such-thing-as-a-macronutrient-part-ii-carbohydrates-revis.html. He is not afraid of starches and even a little bit of white rice.
When measure performance vs longevity you generally need the carbs.....it all depends upon your context and your goals. I think Anthony Colpo has made this point multiple times that for ultimate performance you need carbs. But where the performance crowd falls is that there is a big trade off for short term gains in long longevity. Performance tends to exhaust stem cell supply and generate more mitochondrial ROS so one needs to keep it all in the context of your goals.
Yes, this is exactly what I've been doing. I play tennis for multiple hours a day, plus fitness. It is definitely anaerobic, although we do get breaks and such. I eat potatoes mostly, with sweet potatoes and rice for variety. I also have some berries, but I've found that pure starch makes me feel better. Are you training for anything, or do you just play for fun?
3 Basics that have changed your life? 32 Answers
Where are all of the Paleo pro athletes? 18 Answers
How many bananas per day is too much? 29 Answers
Out-thinking our bodies? 2 Answers