Introduction: In this podcast episode: sunscreen, vegan diets, foam rollers versus muscle sticks, training with CrossFit, carb cravings, personal training certifications, gut problems during exercise and joint pain.
Ben: Hey podcast listeners, this is Ben Greenfield coming at you with podcast number 92. Now if you haven’t done so yet, I would highly recommend that you text the word Fitness to 411247 so that you can get into the text club, the VIP text club from Ben Greenfield Fitness. It is completely free to do and all you got to do is text the word “Fitness” to 411247. So check that out, we obviously have a lot of cool stuff going on in today’s episode and I happened to get a gentleman on for an interview who has a ton of background in research and development of sunscreens and a multitude of products, but what we primarily focus on today are some of the issues with common sunscreens. Some of the things that need to be considered when you get a sunscreen and then all those stupid questions that you always wish you could ask someone about sunscreen that I went ahead and asked for you. So we will have a great Q and A leading up to that. So be sure to listen in. And one other thing, if you’re a triathlete and you’re down at the Wildflower Triathlon Festival this weekend, look me up. You’ll want to keep your eyes peeled for the Pacific Fit Elite Fitness banner. I’ll be there with a lot of other Pacific Elite Fitness athletes and we’ll be having a good time racing and hanging out down at the Wildflower Triathlon Festival.
Ben: So the first question today comes from listener Sarah.
Sarah asks: I’d like to know your opinion on foam rollers versus the muscle track device that is on your Web site. I’d like to invest in something to use post-exercise for massage and to aid recovery and I’d like to know what might be the better purchase.
Ben answers: Well, the muscle track device that you refer to is basically something that you hold in either hand and you rub it up and down in the area where you’re experiencing a knot, maybe a location of muscle tightness, an adhesion – specifically the calf, the hamstring, quads, IT band – places like that. And the muscle track has little rollers in it that kind of dig into the muscle and help get rid of that tightness. Now, I like the muscle track because it’s portable. You can take it anywhere. Occasionally I’ve had security at airports kind of raise an eyebrow at it just because I guess it could be used as a weapon but you can obviously check it through with your bags. You can put it in your car. You can take it just about anywhere including races, training sessions, the track – places like that. So it’s nice for the portability aspect and it’s nice to be able to really target small and specific muscle areas. You take the foam roller on the other hand and the foam roller can generally give you a little bit more of a shotgun approach to an entire muscle area. You can get a lot more done in a shorter period of time with a foam roller, you can’t get quite as much specificity with it but the other advantage is it can get places that you can’t reach with the stick like your low back or your shoulders. And while the foam roller may not be quite as portable, you can get very small foam rollers. For example, I have one from Trigger Point Therapy. It’s a really small orange roller, about three feet long and I’ve actually taken it in my backpack places. I just got back from California and I had it in my backpack, took it on the plane and it worked just fine. I did a couple of foam rolling sessions in my hotel room. So, best case scenario would be if you want a budget, get the muscle track and then just get one of the less expensive shorter foam rollers. Now, I actually just received for evaluation purposes a new foam roller in the mail. It’s called the Rumble Roller and it looks just like a foam roller except it actually is full of textured ridges, basically sticking out of it everywhere. And I did a foam rolling session on it and it was really interesting. I’m actually going to shoot a video for www.bengreenfieldfitness.com to show you how to use it and what exactly it does. But ultimately if I had to choose between the foam roller and the stick, I’d probably choose the foam roller just because I can get some of those spots I can’t quite get to with the stick and I can do that full body approach pretty quickly, within five to 10 minutes of foam rolling. The stick’s not expensive though. I think it’s only like 40 bucks. You combine that with a three foot foam roller and you’re probably looking at maybe 60, 65 bucks, somewhere along those lines for a pretty good 1-2 recovery combo. So great question.
Our next question comes from listener Kel and Kel has a very long question, but she basically asked in relation to the calf question that I answered in podcast number 91 where I told the person who’s having lots of calf pain, who had very big calves and was slightly overweight to actually avoid some of the impact based movements or e-centric landing types of motions that involve the calf muscles. Well, Kel wrote in and asked about exercises that could actually condition the legs because she is getting pain in her knees, ankles, calves and heels of the feet when doing impact-based exercises, and also asks in the meantime are there any sort of gel pads I could slip into shoes when playing basketball to try and absorb a bit of the impact so I don’t get as much pain?
Well, the whole problem with trying to just change up the shoes, maybe add a gel pad is that you’re putting a band-aid over a deeper issue and you’re essentially doing kind of the same things you do when you take a pharmaceutical to mask a symptom without training the underlying symptom. If you’re getting that much pain in your joints, you either have some type of inflammation going on – an osteoarthritic condition or a rheumatoid arthritis – something of that nature, or, and this is more likely the case in most people, you simply don’t have the type of absorptive strength capacity that you need to handle the load that you’re placing on those joints during your impact-based exercise. If you’re not actually doing some type of load based weightlifting, specifically an axial load that goes down your spine, through your legs, through your arms, then you’re really not putting your muscles in a place where they’re going to be able to support you during impact-based exercise. So for example, I would be incorporating squats, lunges and overhead shoulder press, some type of chest press or push press type of movement, a pull-up, a pull-down and basically incorporate that type of lifting. If you’re already past that point and I’m being super elementary and basic for you, then you need to focus on some elements that I find a lot of people neglect. Specifically, the rotator cuff, the gluteus medius or the external butt muscles down in your hips, your core and specifically your transversus abdominis – the lower part of your core that gets triggered when you do plank type of exercises, and then your vastus medialis which is the muscle that goes along the inside of your leg and that’s something that you could strengthen with cable kicks, leg extensions, things of that nature. So ultimately what it comes down to is yeah, a gel pad could help you. Different shoes could help you. But ultimately, core conditioning and a muscular conditioning program is going to give you the most bang for your buck. Then as far as joint pain and supplementation, probably the top supplement that I would recommend would be something like the flax or the fish oil that I’ve talked about before on this show. Go and get the flax oil, the EnerEFA from IMPaX, or go get the fish oil from Bioletics. Either one would definitely help you out. And then the phenocane that we talked about with Dr. Roby Mitchell in terms of being an anti-inflammatory, an alternative to ibuprofen, to Advil, to aspirin –phenocane would be something else to give a try and you can check that out at www.pacificfit.net. So the next question is from listener Josh.
Josh asks: Can you recommend a personal training certification course possibly that I could attend during the summer when I’m not teaching?
Ben answers: Now, Josh goes on to talk about how he is always put into a position where he needs to dole out training advice to people and really wants to be able to get a certification so that he can actually be qualified and know what he needs to know to answer these questions. Well, there’s a lot of different personal training certifications out there. I’m always surprised at the number of people who don’t actually ask their personal trainer about what certification their trainer has, and this is something that a lot of you are going to be shocked to believe, but you can actually get your personal training certification with a weekend course that you get in the mail, open book test that you send back in. You pay a sum of money, they send you back a personal training certificate and voila, you are a personal trainer. Congratulations. Of course, there are some very big problems with that scenario and those certifications are typically not nationally accredited certifications but technically your trainer would not be lying to you if they told you they were certified even if they did have one of those types of certifications. So be very careful, I would recommend that you ask your trainer where they were certified. For example, I’m certified through the NSCA, or the National Strength and Conditioning Association. It’s really only the internationally accredited certifying body for personal trainers and it’s kind of considered the gold standard for personal training because you actually have to have a bachelor’s degree in a sports science or exercise science related field to even get that certification. Now there are other certifications out there in addition to the NSCA. You can get something called the ACSM, which is the American College of Sports Medicine certification. That’s considered a better certification if you want to help people out in a clinical or hospital environment like cardiac rehab. The NASM stands for National Academy of Sports Medicine. That’s a good personal training certification. It’s one of the more difficult ones to get which generally means it’s a better certification and that one is respected by industry professionals. So you have the NSCA, the NASM, the ACSM and then you also get the ACE certification. Now I used to teach the ACE certification course down at the University of Idaho, and I’ve been through all their materials pretty extensively. It’s a decent certification. It is not one of those overnight, open book type of certifications, and even though it doesn’t get quite as scientific as the NSCA, the ACSM and the NASM, it does have a good level of knowledge and you don’t have to have your college degree to actually get it, which makes it of course a viable option if you haven’t studied sports science or exercise science at the university level. It is most popular for group fitness instructors as a great group fitness instructor program. It would be probably something right down your alley based on the experience it looks like you have. Now finally, if you want to take it up a notch, say, you’re already a personal trainer, the CSCS is also an NSCA certification. It’s called a Certified Strength and Conditioning Coach certification. That’s another certification that I have and it is what most college strength and conditioning professionals have or strength and conditioning coaches have. It’s pretty much one of the most difficult certifications to get in the fitness industry. Pretty low pass rate. But if you’re really wanting to enhance your knowledge of fitness that would be a good one to get. And then I do get this question from people. They ask me how I am the national personal trainer – and that was actually through the NSCA – that I was voted as their National Personal Trainer of the year. I did not just randomly pull that out of somewhere. That was actually back in 2008, so a couple of years ago now. And then the final resource I would point you out to and I know that I haven’t talked about this on the www.bengreenfieldfitness.com podcast much but I actually published a book last year. It was published by a company called Coach’s Choice, and it’s actually a manual for personal trainers – a business and training manual for personal trainers. It’s called Train for Top Dollar and you can find that over at www.trainfortopdollar.com. So you can check that out and just email me if you have any more questions about personal training certifications, Josh. And the reason I answered his question on this show is because I do know that there are a lot of personal trainers that listen in to this show. So hopefully, that helps you out.
Brian asks: I can control sugar and carb cravings all day, but in the evening the cravings seem to be much stronger. Is this low blood sugar and do you have any recommendations?
Ben answers: We’ve addressed sugar and carb cravings quite a bit on this show, Brian, but kind of a rehash is that most of the time when you’re craving carbs at night it’s because you did not adequately replenish carbs at some point earlier in the day. And the issue is that when you replace them at night right before you’re about to be engaged in about seven to eight hours of complete inactivity, those sugars can tend to be converted into fat pretty easily by your liver. Now the answer to this dilemma is to A, eat more of your carbohydrates earlier in the day. So stack carbohydrates with breakfast by having oatmeal, some type of whole grain, some type of pseudo grain like a quinoa or an amaranth or a millet. Have carbohydrates in the mid-mornings such as in the form of a fresh piece of raw fruit. Have a little bit of carbohydrates like a brown rice or a wild rice with lunch and then really taper down your carbohydrates during the rest of the day. The other issue is that a lot of times people who get carb cravings don’t adequately replenish carbohydrate stores right after their workout in terms of post-workout carbohydrate replenishment. So make sure that after a workout, you actually replace carbohydrates in the range of about 0.5 grams per pound of your target body weight. So let’s say that to put this in perspective, you weigh 200 pounds. You want to get down to 180 pounds. You finish a workout. You take that 180 pounds that you want to get into and you multiply it by 0.5. Now what you get for a result is 90. And 90 is the number of grams of carbohydrate that you’d want to take in within 20 minutes after your workout. 90 grams of carbohydrate is 360 calories of carbohydrate. This would be for approximately a one hour workout. For endurance athletes, you can go so far as to do 0.5 grams of carbohydrate per pound of body weight for every hour that you work out. So if you go ride your bike for two hours, you would be – if your target body weight is 180 – consuming close to 800 calories of carbohydrate after that ride in order to adequately replenish carbohydrate stores and not experience those sugar cravings late at night. Now finally if you’ve just switched your diet to a healthy diet and you’re used to having constantly high circulating levels of blood sugar and now you don’t, it can be very difficult to have those sugar and carbohydrate cravings and it tends to even be a problem when you’ve adequately replenished your carbohydrate stores earlier in the day because your brain is used to that dopamine response of sugar and carb cravings if say you’re used to eating dessert every night and now you don’t do it. So the answer to that would be to utilize something like chromium, something like vanadium. Those are two elements of one of the supplements I recommend to people called Thermo Factor and in Thermo Factor you get those two elements, you take them about 30 to 60 minutes prior to your evening meal and they really help with post-meal carbohydrate cravings later on in the evening. Finally, next week I do have an article on food cravings coming out and not just carbohydrate cravings, but food cravings in general. So that will be released at www.bengreenfieldfitness.com and that’s another article that you’ll want to read.
Josh asks: How would you construct an exercise program that incorporates CrossFit and cardio strength training?
Ben answers: For those of you who aren’t familiar with CrossFit, CrossFit is almost like a gymnast style of strength training where you’re doing lots of heavy lifts like deadlifts and bench press and squat but you’re also doing rope climbs, pull-ups, different types of jumps and hops and plyometric type of activities. And the issue is that with CrossFit, it can be hard to combine it with cardio training without overtraining yourself. Now, I’ve actually done this before. I actually used CrossFit a little bit in the winter when I’m not doing my triathlon training, and what I do with CrossFit is I’ll take CrossFit workouts and I’ll do CrossFit workouts about five days out of the week. And on two days out of the week, I’ll do just kind of a slower recovery type of endurance workout. And then on a couple of days that I do CrossFit, I actually throw in some interval cardio training. For example, two minutes on, one minute off or 20 to 30 minutes or a series of hill sprints, flat sprints, things of that nature. Now it would be really tough for me to elucidate this in the podcast without boring everyone to death just running through a whole week of training. But I have recorded an entire week of how I incorporate CrossFit training with endurance style triathlon training and I put that up on my Web site. I actually have a personal – not a personal Web site, but basically a Web site that chronicles my triathlon adventures – and that’s at www.bengreenfieldtri.blogspot.com and right after the answer to Josh’s question in this podcast episode, episode number 92, I will put a link to that to help you out. So check that out. www.bengreenfieldtri.blogspot.com. Or just go to the Shownotes to see that link.
Catherine asks: I’m writing specifically regarding your book recommendations and that you’re in the middle of reading a book called Thrive. After completing it about five weeks ago, I switched to a vegan diet and for the most part absolutely love your results. My question is what are your thoughts of the vegan diet for an athlete? I’m competitive, primarily in Olympic distance and half Ironman triathlon.
Ben answers: Yeah, the issue with the vegan diet – and I’ve done it before, Catherine – is that you need to be very careful to get some of the things that you’re not going to get from your typical vegan based foods because you’re essentially eating just tons of vegetables and fruits and to a limited extent some of the whole grains, the seeds and the nuts. Vitamin B12 would be something super important for you to supplement with and make sure that you’re getting enough of. Vitamin D would be another one that you should really focus on including in your diet. If you don’t have those two, then you could suffer some deleterious effects. The other thing that I would really focus on is getting some sort of amino acid supplement. For example, I take two big scoops of the Amino Acid Powder from Bioletics every day. You could use for example a hemp or a pea protein powder. That Living Protein that you see over at www.pacificfit.net, I interviewed their owner KC Craishy and that’s all just vegan based nutrition. It’s like a meal replacement powder. That would be really good stuff as well, but basically your vitamin B12, your vitamin D and your amino acids are three things that you really have to pay attention to if you’re an athlete on a vegan diet.
And then you also ask about the 80-10-10 diet. For those of you who aren’t familiar with the 80-10-10 diet, that’s basically 80% carbohydrates, 10% protein and 10% fat. And the majority of the carbohydrates are from fruits. So the primary concern with this of course is that you are getting a ton of fructose based sugars in your diet when you’re eating 80% carbohydrates. My bigger issue with that is that it really claims to increase life and longevity when there really haven’t been any studies that have looked at a fat intake as low as 10% and found that to be true. Now I don’t really have a problem with eating a lot of fruits and vegetables. I do know that there is kind of a synergistic effect of fruit or when you eat the whole food fruit-based compound, there can be a little bit different effect than if you just have like a high fructose corn syrup. And that’s just because of the fiber and some of the other nutrients that you’re getting with fruit. But you still want to be slightly careful. There actually has been one study that showed fruit consumption to actually be correlated with increased risk for diabetes, but that was with a high fruit consumption. Now, you should also consider, if you’re doing this diet and this is something I’d recommend, up your fat intake to closer to 15%. That’s kind of about the lowest that’s really been found to have benefit. Ideally your fats should be 15 to 25%, but if you upped fat a little bit, I wouldn’t have a huge problem with this diet but make it closer to 75% of the carbohydrate, 15% of the fat, 10% of the protein and then on the days where you’re doing hard workouts try and up that protein even higher. Supplement with B12, with D, with amino acids and the 80-10-10 diet could work for you. I’m not one of those guys who says there’s one single diet that’s totally perfect and I do know people who have tried the 80-10-10 diet and felt really good on it. You just need to make sure that you count your calories because you’ll find that you actually need to eat like six or seven salads a day and 10 pieces of fruit and I’m literally – I’m not joking here – upwards of 30 to 40 bananas in a single day to actually correlate to triathlon style or endurance training and recover and replenish your body properly. Socially, that can also be kind of difficult to do. So bear that in mind as you go through an 80-10-10 diet.
Listener Jerry writes in with a homemade energy gel recipe. He asked me what his opinion is of this homemade energy gel, and essentially it’s brown rice syrup, it’s barley malt, unrefined coconut oil, organic peanut butter, sea salt and hot water. And you use a boiler and a glass jar and a sauce pan and you mix this stuff and you heat it up and you cool it and you fill your jars with your new gel. The nutrition on it, I will put on the Shownotes to this episode – the nutrition breakdown of this gel – exactly what’s in it. The actual syrup – the main sweetener – is 46% carbohydrates, long chain carbohydrate and then 29% disaccharide which is a little bit shorter chain carbohydrate and 25% glucose and that mix of carbohydrates can definitely help. Mixing a simple carbohydrate with a little bit more complex, longer chain carbohydrate can increase the gut absorption to an extent. And most of the other ingredients are pretty good in this. My main concern would be actually preparing this at home if you’re real busy, doing it all the time could be kind of a chore. So I would say if you’re going to use this gel recipe and I will reproduce it in its entirety, and thank you for providing it Jerry, you would probably want to batch this and make a lot of it. Like make several jars of it so you’re not always having to make a little batch of gel every time you go on a bike ride. I would imagine that could get pretty old. However, for giving this great recipe Jerry, I’m actually going to award your question as the top question of this week’s podcast, and I’m going to give you a free membership to my Body Transformation Club. So, you will have full access to the Body Transformation Club’s secret video page, to the mailing that I’ll send you each week with nutrition and fitness tips and a bunch of other stuff. So all you got to do is email me Jerry and I’ll hook you up. Send me an email to [email protected] and I will get you your free month of the Body Transformation Club.
Patrick asks: I’m having GI issues on my brick workouts. (And for those of you who don’t know what a brick workout is, that’s a bike followed by a run.) I always have to take a relatively large bowel movement when I run after a long bike ride with lots of fueling. I started noticing it last year when I was eating lots of cheap pizza, pasta and rice. So I figured it was due to poor nutrition. My diet is still not bulletproof but I feel like I’ve made a lot of progress in that area. My last ride was a 90 minute ride and a 20 minute run. I thought I had fueled fairly minimally at about 250 calories per hour but I still had issues about 10 minutes into the run. Do you have any thoughts? I primarily use Infinity for fueling on the bike and supplement with a Snickers Marathon bar and a regular pack of Almond Joy, taking a mouthful every 45 to 60 minutes. I drank plain water with Noon tabs. My fueling prior to that was oatmeal in the morning and the day before, I had banana and almond butter toast for breakfast. A veggie sub for lunch and healthy snacks, and then fried chicken with store bought mashed potatoes and green beans for dinner the night before. Can I really point the finger at one meal?
Ben answers: Patrick, you know it’s all over the place, your nutrition is – so no, you can’t point the finger at one meal. But if I were you, this is exactly what I would do. A, I would eliminate the solid foods, the almond bars, the chocolate bars, the Snickers that you’re taking in on the bike and replace that with a liquid based fuel like a gel or for example a sports drink such as the Hammer Gel Heed or the GU Electrolyte Brew. Okay, so you’re eliminating a lot of those solid food issues and also eliminating a lot of the ingredients that you’re going to get in the Snickers bar or the Almond Joy. Now, you’re drinking the Noon tablets, those are sweetened with sucralose which can upset some people’s stomachs. You could switch to U-Hydration made by the same company. That’s sweetened with stevia. Most people’s stomachs don’t have quite as big an issue with stevia. Or you could just use plain salt tabs such as there’s some called Athlytes made by Millennium Sports. Those would be fine. Stay away from anything fried the night before. That’s definitely going to sit like a brick in your stomach and if you really want to get a little bit more in-depth, you could also try to eliminate some of the sugars that tend to be aggravating to people when they are exercising. For some people, that’s fructose. You an experiment with eliminating any type of fructose containing energy compound, and you can also try to limit your gluten intake such as from the toast that you had for breakfast or the sub that you had for lunch, that can really help fuel to burn a little bit more quickly. And then finally, make sure that you’re actually not eating too much for breakfast prior to your ride. So you want to make sure that you allow about two hours for gastric emptying. Don’t eat a lot more than about 500 calories and that will allow you to actually be able to exercise without getting a lot of that still digesting as you’re out there working out. So there’s quite a few little things going on. This is what I do in my job as a sports nutrition consultant, is I kind of have to help people dig through the mess and a lot of times people will come to me and we’ll go through a full month of phone calls just going back and forth trying to hash out some of this stuff and doing some detective work. So, ultimately there’s a few things that you could do Patrick. Try out some of my recommendations and hopefully you start feeling a little bit better after those rides.
So if you have a question remember you can email [email protected]. You can call toll free to 8772099439. Or you can Skype to Pacific Fit. And now we’re going to go ahead and move on to all the questions you always wanted to ask about sunscreen but were afraid to ask.
Hey podcast listeners, this is Ben Greenfield and you know as the weather has started to heat up and people have been spending more and more time out in the sun, I’ve been starting to get lots of questions from listeners about sunscreen, whether it’s healthy or not, about skin care, about skin cancer, about some of the things that you got to bear in mind when you’re out there in the sun exercising. So what I decided to do was actually get an expert on for an interview about the things that you’ve maybe always wanted to know about sunscreen but you were afraid to ask. So Dr. Nic Martens is a PhD, and he’s held key positions in research and science with companies like Johnson and Johnson, Neutrogena and has developed some really cool products for these companies – what I guess would be considered market disrupting products. For example, some different types of sun protection technology, some various new ways to protect yourself against the UVA rays which we’ll talk about in this interview. He’s got a PhD from the University of Cambridge as well as a degree from the University of Munich in Germany, and today we’re going to be talking all about ways that you can protect yourself from the sun and things that you need to know about that maybe you haven’t thought about before. So, Dr. Martens, thank you for coming on the call today.
Dr. Nic Martens: It’s a pleasure.
Ben: So, I guess the best place to start would – we kind of assume that everybody knows that if they spend too much time in the sun that it’s probably a bad thing. But for people who maybe need to understand what’s happening at the cellular level or to the skin, what exactly is going on in the skin of people and especially people like Ironman athletes or people who are out exercising a lot of time in the sun – what’s actually happening to their skin?
Dr. Nic Martens: Okay, well maybe I’ll start off when you said “It’s probably a bad idea to spend a lot of time in the sun unprotected,” let me just make one comment on that. 1.3 million people get skin cancer every year and 90% of those cancers are caused by sun exposure. So it’s not that it’s probably a bad idea to spend a lot of time in the sun without protection, it’s an absolute health risk to spend a lot of time in the sun without protection. So, we look at sun protection at (Outside) labs as really a healthcare product and a safety product for athletes because it does prevent cancer. It’s as simple as that.
Ben: Now, if I could interrupt you for just a second, which lab are you with right now?
Dr. Nic Martens: I’m with a company called Outside Labs, which I founded about four years ago after I left the corporate world, and the mission of Outside Labs is to develop superior skin protection for athletes because we realized there’s always a great mass market product out there and you can buy them at the mass market outlets. But these products are developed for the mass market and they don’t work for athletes.
Ben: Okay, so you were talking about the skin of athletes.
Dr. Nic Martens: That’s why I think the product the athlete needs – the skin care product the athlete needs is different than the mass market similar to… I always use a comparison of shoes. If you run a marathon, you would not use your sneakers. You would buy a running shoe. That doesn’t make the sneaker a bad shoe, it’s just the wrong shoe for that application. And we look at skin protection the same way. If you just hang out at the beach, using a Coppertone product or a Neutrogena is great. If you run an Ironman, it’s the worst product you can use. I’ll go into the details of why I believe that in a moment but coming back to your question about what happens when the sun hits the surface of the skin, there’s really two things which are happening. The first thing is you get an immediate reaction of the skin and it’s mainly inflammation and it causes redness. That’s what people typically refer to as a sunburn. That reaction is mainly caused by UVA rays – sorry the UVBA rays, excuse me. UVBA rays are the part of the sun’s spectrum which have very high energy rays, they hit the surface of the skin and causing immediate skin reaction which is that sunburn. Another part of the spectrum is called UVA rays, and those rays are (unintelligible) deeper into the skin and the deep layers of the skin. This is called the epidermis. This is the living part of the skin and they interact at a cellular level with the reproduction cycle of that cell and disrupt that and cause long term skin damage and ultimately skin cancer. And so there are really two things which are happening when skin is exposed to the sun. One is you get sunburn from those UVBA rays, and secondly, you’re getting long term skin damage from those UVA rays.
Ben: Interesting. So it’s both ideally that you’d like to block with a sunscreen.
Dr. Nic Martens: That’s correct.
Ben: Okay, interesting. Now do you think that – or do you know if the type of environment that someone is actually exercising in like, say, if someone is on black pavement or somebody is in the lava fields or if somebody is in sand, somebody is in snow – do those types of conditions actually make a difference in what happens to your skin when you’re exercising?
Dr. Nic Martens: Oh yeah, absolutely. The big difference is that if you’re in the snow, as an example, you get a lot more sun exposure just by reflection of the snow. If you’re swimming in the water, you’re getting significantly more exposure because you get reflection of the water. It also affects the athlete’s skin in the sense that people typically forget to apply sunscreen on certain parts of their body because they’re normally not exposed. So, under your chin, you normally don’t get that much sun. But if you’re in the snow, you actually get all this reflection and people get sunburns on places where they normally don’t get sunburn. So it’s important to cover your whole body because of that reflection piece. The other thing is if you go into high altitudes, you increase your exposure just because you get a higher exposure because there’s less absorption through the atmosphere.
Ben: Interesting. So, how about when people are actually out there in the sun exercising. We all know that exercising produces free radicals. That’s something that most people are familiar with, but when you combine that with sun exposure, does your risk for skin cancer actually go up? Is that something that you should be worrying about more than let’s say I’m lying in my backyard reading a book in the sun, is it going to be more damaging for me to be out running in the sun unprotected?
Dr. Nic Martens: Actually, obviously free radicals play a role in skin aging and the health of your skin, and sun exposure does also create free radicals. So there is a correlation, but there’s something else happening which is far more important for athletes and that is if you exercise you naturally sweat and in some of the sports you actually expose yourself to water because you swim. And so the most important piece of the sunscreen for athletes is that it’s water proof and sweat proof enough. And most of the products are not, and so…
Ben: What about the products that say “waterproof” on them already? Are those – because a lot of products, I have noticed, they do say “waterproof.”
Dr. Nic Martens: You’re absolutely correct. Almost every product on the market will say it’s waterproof. That’s because they passed the FDA test which the FDA is a government body that regulates sun care in the US which is an over the counter drug, or it’s believed to be an over the counter drug in the US and that test regulated by the FDA involves 20 people sitting in a pool for 80 minutes. Now that’s great if you hang out at the pool or if you hang out at the beach or if you walk the streets or go riding in your car. But if you do a triathlon or if you do a marathon or if you do a 10k or if you just casually exercise and sweat, that test is completely irrelevant. And so what we’ve found is that using these products, you start off with an SPF 50 which gives you relatively good protection. But if you start swimming and start sweating, 20 minutes later you only have an SPF 30 and another 20 minutes later you only have an SPF 10. I have personally seen athletes who’ve used sun protection in Ironman races who have 3rd degree burns after they finish the race in Kona.
Dr. Nic Martens: One of them is Miranda Carfrae who actually came in second last year, and I talked to her after the race and she was fried. She said I put on sunscreen, but it came off. So the bottom line and that goes back to my comment before, the comment about the sneaker not being the right show for a marathon runner. In the same way, we believe the mass market products are obviously great. They have their spot and they have their place in the market, but they’re not the right product for athletes.
Ben: Interesting. I’m getting the feeling that when I go into a town for a triathlon, I might be making a mistake by just going to Walgreens and just grabbing whatever happens to be on sale off the shelf. I do have a question for you that I’ve always wanted to ask because I’m not quite sure of the answer and it sounds like a stupid question, but how does sunscreen actually work?
Dr. Nic Martens: Okay, there’s really two ways sunscreens work and it has everything to do with the ingredients used. The first technology, if I want to use that word, is based on physical blockers and those are mainly titanium dioxide and zinc oxide. Those are the two ingredients which are allowed in the US, which are called physical blockers. What that essentially is, is it’s minerals that you put on your skin and they create a physical layer between the sun and your skin. Think of it as almost putting paint on your skin. So that’s one way. The second way is by using organic chemicals which can absorb the sunlight and therefore prevent it from reaching your skin. There are pros and cons for both of those, but essentially they’re the two ways of how sunscreens work. Physical blockers and chemical absorption.
Ben: Interesting. So when you say putting paint on your skin, I’m sure that a few listeners might cringe because obviously you think if you put paint on your skin that it must be a bunch of chemicals. So I know that some people would be concerned about those types of chemicals. Are there certain things that people should look for, or certain things that people should avoid when they’re inspecting their sunscreen for both effectiveness as well as for safety of their skin?
Dr. Nic Martens: There’s obviously been a lot of press about the safety of sunscreens, and their potential harm. Let me start off with that the benefits you’re getting from using sunscreen far outweighs any potential risk or negative effect on your health by using that product. I frankly believe that those folks who talk about “Don’t use sunscreen because there’s chemicals in there which are dangerous for you” are actually doing a disservice to society because as I mentioned when I started, 1.3 million people get skin cancer and there’s no doubt with any dermatologist that by using sun protection you can actually reduce that risk of skin cancer. Having said that, there’s obviously differences between the quality of different products. So my first comment would be aerosol sprays have become extremely popular with people. You know what I’m talking about when I mention aerosol sprays. They’re these continuous sprays, which are normally in an aluminum can and are based on alcohol as the key ingredient in the formulation. The reason why I don’t like them personally is because alcohol on the skin isn’t the greatest ingredient to start with. It’s drying the skin out, but it also acts as a penetration enhancer. And with any of the skin care products you use, they’re intended to stay on the surface of the skin. They’re not supposed to penetrate through your skin. And, alcohol enhances that process. So I would shy away from sunscreens which contain alcohol as an ingredient. There are people out there – coming back to these two technologies – there are people who prefer zinc oxide and titanium dioxide because they consider them to be natural ingredients. It’s essentially ground up minerals. They have the big disadvantage that they leave a whitening effect on your skin and they’re also relatively easily blocking your skin. That’s why I don’t like them especially when you get to high SPF levels and high UVA protection levels, you would have to use so much of those ingredients that you’re actually in danger of blocking your skin which I think you had a question about “how does sunscreen affect the core body temperature in an athlete,” and that negatively affects that. That’s one of those effects where I wouldn’t want to use that.
Ben: So which one did you say was the titanium dioxide which could cause something like that?
Dr. Nic Martens: It’s not necessarily the titanium dioxide itself, but it’s the formulation which you have to use in combination with titanium dioxide to make it stick to your skin so you achieve some waterproofing and sweatproofing. If you use those formulations, you typically get a fairly pasty, heavy formulation which can clog your buttons potentially and cause disruption of your sweating and the cooling mechanism of the skin.
Ben: Interesting. I know that listeners who have been a fan for at least more than a year may have seen the video I put up last year where I tried to make sunscreen in my kitchen and that was the result – was I got a sunscreen. It was made with titanium – actually I don’t remember if I used titanium or zinc, but it turned out to be a very, very pasty solution. I didn’t end up using it in a lot of races but that was what I wanted to ask you. How do athletes actually use a sunscreen formulation that doesn’t feel like it’s blocking their cooling mechanisms?
Dr. Nic Martens: Yeah, so one of the things when I started Outside Labs and we started developing sun protection products was there were really two missions I had. One is I wanted to develop a product which you would put on before you race and it really doesn’t matter whether it’s your casual 5k run or a recovery run or whether it’s your Ironman A race. But you put on this product and you can forget about sunscreen for the rest of the day. The second – and obviously that has a lot to do with how waterproof and sweat proof the product is. The second piece was I wanted to develop a product which doesn’t interfere with your performance as an athlete. And we’ve worked with a lot of triathletes, especially athletes like Craig Alexander who were absolutely concerned about the product interfering with their skin mechanism of them being able to cool down in conditions like you have when you run the lava fields in Kona. And so, the combination of using the right technology and the right base – you actually get to a product that performs on both of those levels, you know, staying on for the whole day without interfering with the functionality of your skin such that your skin can breathe and sweat and control your core body temperature. I absolutely believe that there are products out there that not only give you the sensation that you heat up, but actually it leads to clogging your pores, less sweating and therefore you’re not increasing core body temperature.
Ben: Now is there a name or certain ingredient or some type of description for the type of technology or the type of ingredient that would allow your skin to breathe naturally so the body’s core temperature doesn’t rise?
Dr. Nic Martens: Yes. At SCAPE, we’re using what we call (expounding) technology, which is the polymer matrix which bonds to your skin, holds the sunscreen on the surface of your skin, but doesn’t run into your pores or leaves the pores open. I often refer to it as an ultra thin Gore-Tex layer which you put on your skin which holds the sunscreen on the surface of your skin but doesn’t interfere with the functionality of your pores.
Ben: Interesting. So I’ve had a question a couple of times from athletes who I coach and people who I work with about vitamin D and sunscreen. Because obviously there’s a lot of buzz right now about vitamin D and its health effects and people are getting more and more concerned about their levels of vitamin D. By putting sunscreen on, does it actually interfere with your ability to make vitamin D from sun?
Dr. Nic Martens: Yeah. Well theoretically it does because it is true that the body needs sunlight to produce vitamin D. But it needs very little. So for a normal healthy person, 10 minutes in the sun or 20 to produce enough vitamin D. There’s also, I think, a consensus in the scientific community that using supplements to – if you feel like you’re living in an area where you don’t get enough sun – to get the levels of vitamin D you need is the right way to go. I think telling people to not use sunscreen because you don’t get enough vitamin D is both scientifically incorrect as well as has a negative effect on their health because of the damaging effects of the sun right on your skin.
Ben: Interesting. So another question that I have, again just kind of a random question about sunscreen, but I’ve found this to be a problem when I’m exercising and I’ve talked to other people who do as well, but the problem with the sunscreen actually stinging your eyes when it runs down when the sweat comes down off your face – that sunscreen off your forehead tends to kind of sting in the eyes. Is there something that can be done about that in sunscreen?
Dr. Nic Martens: Yeah, it could. We haven’t done it. So there’s essentially topical analgesics which you could use to reduce the stinging effect of the sunscreen in your eyes. And by the way, I’ve tested personally a lot of sunscreens and they all sting when they get in your eyes. That’s something you could do, but I think that’s the wrong approach because from my perspective if you put a sunscreen on your forehead and anywhere else for that matter, it shouldn’t be running off in the first place. And if it doesn’t run off, it doesn’t sting your eyes because it doesn’t get in your eyes. And so to really solve the issue, you want to create a sunscreen and use a sunscreen which you can rely on not running off and therefore not running into your eyes. Rather than trying to prevent the stinging when it runs into your eyes.
Ben: I see, that makes sense. So you actually make sure that the sunscreen is staying adhesed to the skin. Is that that polymer matrix that you were talking about or that Gore-Tex type of matrix?
Dr. Nic Martens: That is exactly correct, and by the way, when I go to triathlon races or marathon races and I talk to athletes about this problem of running into your eyes, which is prevalent – if you talk to 100 athletes and ask them, has the product ever run into their eyes, 99% of them say “Yes, absolutely. I hate it.” And then they have all these concoctions which they use to prevent that from happening. If you use a helmet on a bike, you probably don’t put it on your forehead. If you use a visor, you probably don’t use it on your forehead. But the point is if it runs off your forehead, it runs off everywhere else. And then you’re unprotected on your shoulders, on your legs, on your arms. And so this notion of running into your eyes is only one example of the product running off and leaving you unprotected and you just happen to notice it very quickly because it stings like crazy in your eyes.
Ben: So there’s a couple other things I wanted to ask you and the first is about tanning beds. I just couldn’t get you on this interview without finding out the opinion of a person who knows quite about the skin on tanning beds. What is your consensus on tanning beds?
Dr. Nic Martens: Bad idea. I would not recommend anybody to use tanning beds because basically the rays you’re getting exposed to in a tanning bed are very similar to the rays which are causing a negative effect on your skin. And it’s not a good idea to use tanning beds.
Ben: Okay, so just basically a blanket statement that you shouldn’t do it.
Dr. Nic Martens: No, I would not recommend to do it.
Ben: Okay, gotcha. And then another question. You talked about… a couple of times you mentioned your Outside Laboratories, but then you use the term SCAPE to describe sunscreen. What is SCAPE?
Dr. Nic Martens: Okay, so Outside Labs is a company which is focused on developing skin protection from athletes. We are in the process of launching a brand called SCAPE. SCAPE stands actually fro Skin Cancer Awareness Protection and Education. We partnered with Craig Alexander who is the current Ironman World Champion. He defended his title last year in Kona, to develop a line of sun care products which is launched under SCAPE. And the manufacturer is Outside Labs so the company behind it is called Outside labs.
Ben: Okay and that’s basically just a sunscreen?
Dr. Nic Martens: Yeah, at this point we’re launching a line of skin care products. It’s a lotion, a facial product which is a little stick which is very easy to apply during races. A lip balm product. We will be launching a line of muscle care products in the fall which are all to do with delivering muscle nutrition and recovery through the skin, in addition to what you do through nutrition. Then in 2011, we will be expanding this line into wound care products, bandage type products.
Ben: So Craig Alexander, the Ironman World Champion – I understand that he actually had an issue with melanoma. I’m assuming that was before he used your product?
Dr. Nic Martens: Yeah that was – I met Craig about a year and a half ago at a race actually, and I talked to him about what I do and he said, “Well I’m very interested because I actually had a melanoma removed from my back” and he showed me the scar of it. Obviously he trained a lot in the sun and races a lot in the sun and he’s used the product ever since and I saw him personally after the race in Kona in October and he didn’t have a tan line on his back.
Ben: Wow, that’s amazing. Well if he’s using it, I’m definitely interested. What I’ll do is I’ll put a link in the Shownotes for those of you listening to give you a little bit more information about this SCAPE sunscreen. It sounds to me like – for me especially, the two things that leapt out are A, I can keep it on all day during an Ironman and not have to worry about re-applying over and over again, and then B, the issue about it actually staying on my skin without it feeling like it’s making me warm but also without running into my eyes. I think both those things sound pretty cool. It sounds like you guys have really kind of taken into account some of the practical issues that us endurance athletes run into. So, well thank you for your time Dr. Martens. And I’ll make sure and put that information on the Shownotes to this podcast for the listeners.
Dr. Nic Martens: Alright, it was a pleasure talking to you.
Ben: Alright folks, that is going to wrap it up for podcast number 92 from www.bengreenfieldfitness.com. Remember to text the word “fitness” to 411247 if you want to be in my VIP text club. It’s free and you get a lot of inside stuff delivered straight to your phone. Remember to leave the podcast a ranking in iTunes. It really helps to move up in the ranks. Let’s get this thing to number one in the health and fitness category of iTunes. And then finally, you can email me [email protected] if you have questions or comments and be sure to check out the Web site, there are always new posts going up. The last one was on fitness and nutrition applications for your cell phone. So check that out. And until next time, this is Ben Greenfield signing out from www.bengreenfieldfitness.com.
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