*by MacKenzie Ryan

 

We're always thinking about the kind of food we eat, how much we exercise, what we put in our body, but are we thinking about the products we use?

 

Church and State Optics™ debunks the ingredients of a few day-to-day health and beauty products and highlights game-changing, all-natural alternatives.

 

 

PROTEIN ENERGY BARS

 

High-calorie, high-protein quick foods provide a great deal of convenience and nutritional value. These energy bars are suppose to be used as part of a larger, carbohydrate-based meal two to four hours before exercise, or, as pre-workout fuel 30 to 60 minutes before exercise, and therefore providing carbohydrates to endurance athletes. The downfall for non-marathon runners is this: many energy bars have more than your daily recommended dose of sugar (20 grams) in a single bar. For example, a peanut-butter-flavored Performance Energy PowerBar has 26 grams of sugar. To boot, even if they have the same amount of vitamins and minerals found in fruit, they don't have the fiber or phytochemicals. They contain artificial sweeteners, high fructose corn syrup, agave nectar, maltodextrin, sugar, and hydrogenated vegetable oils, the very culprits that got you exercising in first place!

 

The Healthy Alternative:

Honeystinger, an energy foods company based out of Steamboat Springs, Colorado, utilizes a combination of honey, sea salt, and water to sweeten its energy waffles, bars, and chews. These nutritious snacks reflect some of the same principles as mainstream energy products, but skips the artificial sweeteners or added sugar.

 

Floral honeys have a glycemic index ranging from the low-30s to mid-40s, meaning an athlete's blood sugar won't spike and then crash during a workout. Comparatively, sugar clears the century mark. Instead of utilizing artificial sweeteners, which are harder for your body to break down as well as having harmful, long-term effects, honey itself produces a combination of natural sugars, glucose, fructose, maltose, trisachharides, and sucrose. Honeystinger has taken nature's formula to create the real recovery substitute.

 

SUNSCREEN

 

According to the Skin Cancer Foundation (skincancer.org), there are two kinds of ultraviolet rays, UVA (long wave) and UVB (short wave). Research indicates that both accelerate aging and play critical roles in the development of skin cancer. UVA can penetrate skin deeper, burning skin through clouds during any time of year. UVB, its lesser-known counterpart, doesn't have quite the penetrating ability, but can have damaging effects April through October between 10am and 2pm. You know, when you are out sunbathing on the beach. These two types of UV rays together damage your skin irreparably. Here's what you need to know about protecting yourself:

 

-SPF (Sun Protection Factor) ratings only apply to UVB protection.

 

-Broad Spectrum refers to combined UVA and UVB protection. Zinc oxide, titanium dioxide, and Avobenzone are the only three ingredients that block UVA rays.

 

-Avoid anything with parabens, which disrupt endocrine functions and cause premature aging. Oxybenzone also may have harmful effect to the endocrine system, but research about its safety is very limited. Other potentially harmful ingredients include petroleum, PABA, Vitamin A, and Benzophenone-3.

 

-Water resistance is measured in 40-minute or 80-minute intervals, wherein the FDA requires sunscreen manufacturers to disclose the post-water-exposure SPF.

 

The Healthy Alternative: 

Beyond Coastal Sun Care, is a Salt Lake-based company that specializes in producing natural and active sunscreens, lip balms, face sticks, and post-exposure moisturizer.

 

The company's creator, Shawn Biega, has a vision: broad-spectrum protection that's gluten-free, cruelty-free, and without the additional chemicals most sunscreens have to better their lotion's application to the skin. Beyond Coastal's ACTIVE line uses Avobenzone, one of the few healthy, synthetic ingredients on the market that prolongs protection. Their NATURAL line contains the organic zinc oxide, which rubs thick and white--think lifeguard's nose. 

 

SKIN CARE

 

Most commercial facial cleansers and toners have a plethora of petroleum-based products. Inexpensive and odorless, these ingredients effectively lock in moisture to your skin because they form an ultra-thin, nearly invisible film on your face. What's detrimental is what they lock in along with the moisture, causing the grit and grime to clog your pores. The petroleum film doesn't allow oxygen to permeate, which your skin desperately needs to push out toxins and dirt. Also as a major ingredient in sunscreen, parabens are used as a preservative in cosmetics and cleansers. They counteract with your endocrine system by mirroring our body's hormones. Bad news.

 

The Healthy Alternative:

Colorado-based Lily Organics not only grows its own ingredients but also has a USDA-certified organic lab on the premises. Lily Organics boasts that it is the only skin care company in the world to use this self-sustaining, closed-loop practice! Cleanser ingredients include purified water, almond oil soap, vegetable glycerin, and instead of petroleum-based alcohol, a natural grain alcohol. Then, per whichever type of cleanser and toner suits your skin type, there are a host of natural extracts to keep your face healthy.

 

ENERGY DRINKS

 

The best-known, bad-for-you food might be the energy drink. (To be fair, the 2009 college student craze of over-consuming alcoholic energy drinks provided a lot of irreparable public relations damage to the entire industry). Take the caffeine from two cups of joe, add 50 grams of sugar, the common amino acid, taurine, ginseng, and guarana (also containing caffeine) and you have most of what's on the energy drink market. Much of these drinks' bad reputation comes from their unusually high caffeine content and, of course, excessive amounts of sugar and artificial sweeteners.

 

Caffeine is a two-faced friend. Sometimes it helps give us a boost to get the day going, or help push us through the night when we're behind on a project. Sometimes it causes us insomnia, anxiety, and when we don't have it, a host of irritating withdrawal symptoms. It can strain your central nervous system, your digestive system, and your heart. Some research has demonstrated it also negatively effects fertility.

 

The Healthy Alternative:

Bazi, a California-based all-natural drink company, whose name means eight elements of life, contains 80 mg of caffeine, about the equivalent of one cup of coffee, and less than 8 grams of sugar in a two-ounce serving. (To give you a comparison, a 24-ounce can of Monster has upwards of 160 mg of caffeine and 50 grams of sugar). Guarana and other products that amp up caffeine content are not present in Bazi's energy shot, nor are there any artificial sweeteners. And it has less than 50 calories. Instead of an ingredient list full of strange-sounding chemicals you haven't heard of since high school science, Bazi's nutrition list reads something like this: Vitamin A, B6, B12, C, D and E, and a mix of Blueberry, Pomegranate, Jujube, Goji Berry, Raspberry, Acai, Seabuckthorn, and Chokeberry. Voila!

 

 

*MacKenzie Ryan is a freelance journalist whose writing experience is based in the outdoor, adventure, and action sports arena. Her works have been published in BackpackerWomen’s Adventure MagazineBicyclingThe Denver Post, and Mountain Bike. Follow more of her adventures at http://mackenzieryan.tumblr.com/