Banned Substances Every Athlete Needs To Know Before Competing w/ Calvin Sun

Calvin Sun is a Senior Coach and Director of Informational Products at Invictus Fitness. He is the co-author of the best-selling book, The Invictus Mindset. He’s also written a book that takes an evidence-based approach called Post Workout Supplementation. This time we talk about his latest body of work: 12 Banned Substances That Every Athlete Needs To Know Before Competing. We talk about the not-so-obvious substances, legalization of CBD oil, doping scandals, optimizing sleep, and so much more.

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    Show Notes:

    • (9:05) – Examples of Substances people don’t think of
    • (15:48) – Medications/Prescriptions Athletes need to know
    • (17:55) – Bigger picture
    • (20:48) – CBD Oil
    • (25:26) – Alcohol
    • (27:56) – Getting caught years later
    • (30:47) – Doping scandals
    • (34:10) – Gaining every little advantage you can
    • (38:21) – Slight edge
    • (49:54) – Sleep
    • (51:50) – Workaholic culture

    Podcast Transcript:

    Calvin  (00:00):

    Hey, this is Calvin Sun and you’re listening to the Airborne Mind Show.

    Misbah Haque  (00:34):

    Hello, everyone, this is Misbah Haque. Thank you so much for joining me today. And welcome back to the show. Whether this is your first second, 10th or 30th episode, I appreciate you tuning in your time, your energy, your attention, and your ears mean the world to me. Without you listening, this show would not be where it is today. So once again, thank you. Before we get started, the biggest compliment that you can give is by leaving a review on iTunes, you have no idea how much that helps in terms of rankings, bringing more awareness to the show and bringing on more interesting guests. So if you could take two or three minutes, not while you’re driving, but take two or three minutes go ahead, leave a review it would be greatly appreciated. Also, be sure to head over to the airborne mind comm where you can check out some free resources and the full show notes there as well.

    Today’s episode is brought to you by revive RX.  Revive RX has played a huge role in my recovery over the last six months or so. If you are in the market for a post-workout supplement or a protein supplement, and you want something that’s clean, that’s effective and that is simple. I highly recommend their products. I obviously use them myself. I personally love the Recover formula in the strawberry flavor and I take four scoops after my training sessions. If you want some education around what you know is a protein supplement right for you, what’s the difference between recover and rebuild and honestly just some good basic nutrition information. I shot a couple of videos with Marcus Filly that you can get on my site exclusively be And if you would like to get a 10% discount on revive RX supplements, head over to and enter the code miz10 M I Z 10. Once again that’s miz10. 

    Today, my guest is Calvin Sun. He is a coach at CrossFit Invictus and the Director of Information Products. He played a major role in writing the Invictus mindset, which is a book that helped out a ton of people and got a lot of great feedback. He’s been on the show before. And if you have listened to that episode that Calvin is a smart dude, he can nerd out on a lot of topics. He’s always ready to bring science and research to the conversation. And so I always enjoy chatting with him because I learned a ton. He has done an incredible job putting together this ebook called 12 Man substances every athlete needs to know about before competing.

    And that is really a majority of what we discussed today. I got a ton from just going through that book and then even more from having this discussion with him. But you can download that eBook for free at the CrossFit Invictus website, or in the show notes, I had a lot of fun with this conversation getting into this area. So I hope you enjoyed this one as much as I did.  And if you did, please head over to iTunes, leave a review, share it with a friend.

    Calvin, welcome back to the show, man.

    Calvin  (03:59):

    Hey, Misbah. Thanks for having me back.

    Misbah Haque  (04:01):

    It’s always a pleasure when we get to chat. And you’ve created some very cool things recently that I’m pretty pumped to dig into. How have you been in the last couple months? What’s new with you? What are you excited about at the moment?

    Calvin  (04:18):

    So I think the last time we talked was when you were still in San Diego. And a couple of different things I’ve been playing with. Training wise I think I mentioned earlier, doing some gymnastics work, bodyweight exercise, still kind of training, cross-training in jiu-jitsu. And it’s been those a lot of fun things and kind of interesting to kind of work into program design and programming for those things. And as far as the information product side is concerned, the big thing that we’ve put out recently and by the time people listen to this podcast will, it’ll be available in the free ebook on banned substances. So this past season 2017 CrossFit CrossFit season was.

    It’s just my perception, but it seemed like there were more athletes that got banned and suspended for things than any previous year to my knowledge. And so as a response to that, I felt that there are some athletes out there who are maybe new to competing and, and they have never competed in a sanctioned drug tested sport. And a lot of them maybe were just ignorant or negligent of the types of things that are out there that are available over the counter completely legal but are considered banned substances. Like there are things that are obvious, right, but again, so that’s kind of one thing we put out recently in we just that just came out last week, and the response has been very positive. We’ve had a couple of 1000 downloads already of that book. Yeah. So it’s been very well received. And we’ve been able to offer it for free. So that’s been pretty cool as well.

    Misbah Haque  (05:54):

    As with anything that you do there, it looks like there’s been a ton of research that has gone into this. It’s very detailed. What did that look like for you in that process? Where do you even kind of begin to start compiling the stuff together?

    Calvin  (06:11):

    One of the big things is that at Invictus, that’s for those of you that are listening who don’t, aren’t really familiar with me, I’ve been at Invictus for coaching a long time there, and I’m Director of Information Products there. And there’s a lot of athletes in that world, and the Invictus pool of competitors. And in the early days, we had a more personal relationship. And what we realized was that we needed to create something that we could just hand out to all these athletes that at least as a starting point for them. So they had some sort of resource to understand. We know what substances are considered banned. And there’s a lot of surprising things. So as far as the research and creating that piece of content was concerned, in that ebook, The first starting place was just websites. So that’s the world anti-doping agencies website for anybody who’s not familiar. And so what they do is every year in October, roughly, they release a new, prohibited list of substances.

    So they update it, there are changes. And so coaches and athletes who do their due diligence each year are, should be following that if you’re if you compete in a sanctioned sport, you should be reading that. And I link to all the stuff in the eBook. So, people, they’re not sure where to find all that stuff, I’ve got all the links in there. And then, but you they can just Google’s your friend at the end of the day, if you’re not sure how to find things, right, so and so that’s kind of where the starting point I’ve personally, I’ve competed in drug tested, sanctioned powerlifting, I competed in usapl, at the national level 2010 2011. And I’ve coached a bunch of athletes over the years as well. And I’ve consulted with different athletes. So I’ve always already had a familiarity with the regulations and the sanctions on these substances.

    But again, it’s just part of my own due diligence process as a coach, in October, when the new ones came out when the new list came out, I went through reviewed it, and there are some interesting changes in there like the CBD oil is now going to be legal in 2018, for example, and I thought, and so kind of it was a natural outgrowth of both the pool of athletes that CJ and the Invictus athlete coaches are working with on a daily basis. And, from my own experience and knowledge of it as both a coach and athlete, I just realized that there was this opportunity to create this resource. And we weren’t sure initially if we were going to make it a paid product or not. 

    And ultimately, we decided to make it free, because we just felt that again, recording this right around the holidays, and in the spirit of being generous and giving, we just wanted to get this into the hands of any athlete who needed it. And there’s a lot of athletes who are young, and just getting into, their careers, and they may not have the means or the resources to hire an expert coach, and you’re a coach yourself, and that your hourly rate, it’s, it may not be affordable for someone who’s brand new, but maybe they’re talented. And so anyway, that’s just kind of like a goodwill gesture to the community, a way of giving back, if you will, so and so that I mean, that’s a long answer to your question, but that’s kind of how that came to be. That’s why that came about.

    Example of Banned Substances people don’t think of

    Misbah Haque  (09:05): 

    Now, I love it. Let’s kind of start with what is like the most surprising thing being for you that is actually on that banned substances list that most people may not even think about.

    Calvin  (09:18):

    I think a lot of the prescription medications might be the things that aren’t so obvious. So, people can read the ebook and get all the details but things like Ritalin like ADHD medications, Ritalin, Adderall, and these are commonly prescribed things. I talked about Modafinil and Adrafinil, which are typically prescribed drugs for either narcolepsy or sleep work shift disorders, asthma, inhalers, beta two agonists, and things like corticosteroids. So like common prednisone, methylprednisolone, these are not allowed. These are considered banned substances, by water and then there’s also over-the-counter supplements. products that you wouldn’t think and then also nasal decongestants. So cold medicine. 

    And if you’ve read the book, you’ll have kind of like a little introduction piece. And you can imagine it’s not out of the question for an athlete, competition game day comes, right? It’s regionals or games. And they have a little bit of a cold because their immune system has been shot by all the training they’ve been doing all season, right. And then the stress of travel and everything else, right. And then they go to the drugstore, they pick up an over an counter cold allergy type remedy, and it might contain a banned substance in it, for example, you’ve seen like the Vicks Vapor inhaler. It contains a nasal decongestant, that’s banned on the banned list, for example, wow. There’s a non-medicated version that’s okay to take. That’s okay to use for athletes. But something as simple as that, I think. And it’s something that could be literally sitting in someone’s medicine cabinet right now. And, and again, like, I, I’m not naive to the fact that some of these athletes out there say they didn’t know that this thing was banned. And they claim that I didn’t know the negligence of the excuse. 

    I know, that might just be what they’re saying publicly. But I do believe that you can take some of those claims at face value for some of these athletes. I do believe that some of these athletes, and having spent some time around, especially people who are new to competing and sanctioned sport, they legitimately don’t understand what some of these things might include and what some of these prohibited substances might include. So I think those are probably the most surprising things that an athlete might not realize. And again, it’s stuff that is, you can just walk down to your local pharmacy down the street, CVS, or Walgreens or what have you.

    And you can just pick the stuff up over the counter, completely legal doesn’t even require a prescription and also prescription medications. I think people think that just because something is legal to purchase or legal to use from a, from a judicial standpoint, doesn’t, that doesn’t, that doesn’t automatically qualify it as something that’s allowed to be used within a sanctioned sport. And I think people just, I get it, like coaches and athletes, are focused on putting in their time in the gym. They don’t feel like digging through these, like the entire water website to go through. But again, if you’re a professional, that’s part of your job.

    Misbah Haque  (12:24):

    I’m curious to know, like, when people go through this testing at an event, like, when you get the results back, can you see exactly what it was? Or is it just like a pass fail type of situation?

    Calvin  (12:42): 

    So I’ve never tested positive for anything. I’ve done my homework, and I don’t take spans, I don’t know what it’s like to be on the receiving end of a positive test. But what I understand is that typically, depending most depending on the sport, and if an athlete tests positive, either the doping agency or the sporting body will notify the athlete that they had a positive test. And generally speaking, what I understand, and again, luckily, none of the athletes I’ve coached have had a positive test either. So there’s something to be said. When I understand they’ll, they’ll say, hey, like, for example, I might say, Hey Misbah But you your test came, you’re a sample at regionals came back for whatever, and then you might have the opportunity to appeal it or explain what happened. And I think there is an appeals process that goes on with that behind the scenes. And that’s why sometimes these announcements come so much later after the competition’s ended, right? For example, some of the guys who got caught at regionals and regionals were in May. 

    And it wasn’t until almost July. Before we were hearing about the July going heading into games before we heard about some of these guys who got tested, who got caught for things at regionals. And then there’s also the record, back, and retest. So there’s what’s called a sample in the B sample, and then they’ll go back and they’ll retest the B sample, to make sure that it wasn’t like a false positive or anything again. So that’s my limited experience, my limited knowledge on the actual what it’s like to receive a positive test, but thankfully knock on wood. When I was still actively competing, again, I didn’t take anything, that was a banned substance, because again, I did my due diligence, and again, love the athletes I’ve coached because again, I’ve taken the time to either educate them and as well as point them towards reputable supplement brands that have clean supplements that aren’t contaminated with potentially banned substances.

    Medications/Prescriptions Athletes need to know

    Misbah Haque  (14:37):

    Now, a lot of these substances that are on this list, that could be let’s say, prescription medications like Adderall are one that kind of stood out to me because it’s one of those things, especially in colleges, right, that are just being passed around and like used recreationally to, and I’m just envisioning like a teen athlete. Who goes to college who is also let’s say, competing at a very elite level, and is trying to balance all this stuff like school life, we’re like if they’re working a little bit or competing, whatever it might be, and they take something like Adderall for the focus or alertness, concentration, whatever. And like they have no idea that that’s kind of like a thing that, to me, was kind of surprising. Was something, something like that’s on the list, like, are there workarounds for that? So it’s like, let’s say somebody who actually needs it, and isn’t using it recreationally. Or they’re altering alternatives that you could use that maybe aren’t going to show up on a test or affect the validity of you passing a test.

    Calvin  (15:48):

    That’s what’s called they have what’s called a therapeutic use exemption. So four means is for anybody who has a legitimate need for some of this prescription medication, so whether it’s something like Adderall or Modafinil or certain asthma medications, like the beta two agonists, if or even the corticosteroids, any of these things, there’s what’s called therapeutic use exemption. So means if you haven’t legitimate prescribed medical need for some of these medications you can apply. And it’s usually through your country’s doping agency, or sometimes it’s through your sport that just depends, like CrossFit, you’d have to apply through CrossFit. Whereas if you’re an Olympic weightlifter, a powerlifter, you apply through USADA, typically, if you’re in the United States, what you would do is you would apply for a therapeutic use exemption, you would give them documentation showing that you have a legitimate medical need for this medication. 

    And then if it’s granted, then you’re allowed to take it in competition, for example, something like Adderall is there’s actually a lot of well-known athletes, for example, I think, I forget the name of the specific gymnast that is one of the girls on the Olympic, the most recent Olympics, the US gymnastics team, and she had, I believe it was either Ritalin or Adderall. And she had a prescription for that. I think it made the news for some reason. But anyway, it’s so Olympians are no stranger to this process. So for people who have a legitimate medical need, they can apply for therapeutic use exemption, and it doesn’t guarantee that they’ll get it again to the powers that be will evaluate your case.

    And there’s a whole process that goes through it. In the book, I do mention, I do touch on the subject a little bit. And I do point people to where they can learn more about the application process and how to get it for the respective sports. And so whether it’s CrossFit, Olympic weightlifting, or powerlifting.  Mark, combat sports, each sport is going to be regulated a little bit differently by their respective organization. But are each country going to be having some variation? But bottom line? That would be the workaround, as far as if someone has a legitimate need for it.

    Bigger picture

    Misbah Haque  (17:55):

    What’s like the bigger picture idea behind because it’s very easy to look at like you said, the Vicks Vapor Rub or whatever it was, like the inhale or like something so simple like that somebody to think like, Okay, well, that’s going in my body, how is that going to affect my physiology or chemistry in a way that’s giving me a competitive, competitive advantage? Is there? Is there a reason, like, I’m sure there is a reason for each of these substances, and how that affects your chemistry and whatnot? But like what have you kind of uncovered so far as you’ve been kind of researching this and learning more about it behind, like the decision that goes behind putting these things on the list?

    Calvin  (18:45):

    I think that’s a really good question for someone who works at the anti doping agency, as far as specifically, substances. But for the most part, from what I’ve gathered, it seems that there are really two classes of substances that are going to be banned or prohibited by the doping agency. So water you saw, and the biggest reason, obviously, is performance enhancement. So if they’re taking anything that gives them an unfair advantage, that’s going to because for putting that substance on the list. The other reason would be athlete safety. So some of these things, maybe they give a small edge or they’re both performance enhancers, but also hazardous to the health of athletes. For example, certain opioid medications are banned, like so. So, oxycodone, morphine, heroin, these exams are not okay for athletes to take, and again, probably for good reason because these things are can be really addictive.

    And people probably already know about the US opioid epidemic, and I’ve heard these horror stories of athletes who struggle to get clean and break the physical addiction to something Like an opioid, so, so I think something like that. But I know sometimes people might look at something like a nasal decongestant and say, well, what’s the big deal? Right? How’s that giving me any sort of performance advantage? And so a lot of the nasal decongestants are listed under the class of stimulants. So again, stimulants can potentially be performance-enhancing. And so again, that’s why they’ve listed that again, you’d have to talk to somebody from your solder or water to get a really detailed behind-the-scenes answer. But for me, from my perspective, from where I sit as both the coach and former athlete, it seems like it’s too it’s done with every intention of creating a level playing field, clean, fair sport, as well as protecting the athletes from taking anything that might be potentially hazardous to their health.

    CBD Oil

    Misbah Haque  (20:48):

    Yeah, and I know you mentioned that there’s, you mentioned the CBD oil is going to be legal in 2018. Right? What have you uncovered there so far? Like, because that’s definitely something that in the past wasn’t really tolerated, right?

    Calvin  (21:03):

    CBD is the nonpsychoactive cannabinoid that’s found in cannabis. It’s one of the big changes I mentioned earlier, they released a new list in 2018. Or in October of each year, and they released that one for 2018 Recently, and one of the big changes for 2018 is CBD was no longer exempt from the band cannabinoids. Everything else is still not okay. So the THC is the stuff that makes you high Anibus Yeah, that’s still prohibited for use and competition. So if I had to guess it’s probably for athlete safety. Definitely not. So sometimes people say well, what’s the big deal if you’re using THC? I don’t see that as a performance enhancer but it might potentially be an athlete safety thing if I had to guess you probably don’t want to be doing thrusters and butterfly pull-ups high. Maybe. Or you want to be trying to snatch 300 pounds over your head while you’re high. But CBD it’s not so psychoactive, right? It’s anti-inflammatory. It helps with pain relief, and other sports too.

    So things like MMA fighters, football players, and again, I know the NFL has sort of different regulations. I don’t think that they follow the water, they have their own set of rules. But anyway, the point is that some of the research on CBD is like it has some neuroprotective benefits. So people that might be prone to CTE or traumatic brain injury, may benefit from taking it. So there’s a positive benefit to it. And it’s not addictive either. Unlike opioid medications. CBD is not addictive. And actually, there are some research studies I was reading. I was just doing some research for another blog post I was writing for recently.

    And it actually blocks the reward pathway, that dopamine reward pathway that you typically get from opioid consumption or THC consumption. And that’s what leads to addiction. CBD can actually block that. So in one study I read was a mouse model study and they used the opioid-addicted mice, they fed them CBD and basically got them off the opioid addiction by feeding them the CBD. It’s very interesting. I think it’s, I think it’s a sign of the times two things are opening up about cannabis. It’s still illegal at the federal level. But a lot of state, California included, are starting in January recreational sales start. So, a lot of states, there’s both medical and recreational use, and I think a lot of athletes might be tempted to use CBD products or cannabis, they might be using it medically or recreationally. 

    And I think it’s important because of that. That’s why one of the reasons why I wanted to mention that in that book was because I think a lot of athletes might choose to partake in that whether it’s medicinal recreational again. And that’s totally fine. Right? There’s no criticism or judgment about using anything like that as an athlete, but I think they need to follow they need to be aware of the rules. And that could be another thing similar to nasal decongestant, where they may not even realize it, they say well, it’s again, they say well, it’s legal for me to use it, it’s sold recreationally it’s no different than aspirin or alcohol or any other thing I could buy at the drugstore. So again, so but I think that’s again, like I said it’s a sign of the times. 

    I think people it’s a more definitely more progressive view on that substance. And there are products out there that are hemp-derived CBD products and the other thing that is for athletes, for any athlete that is listening, if you do take CBD, make sure there’s no THC in that product. So you have to make sure that you do your research and pick a product, generally speaking, the hemp-derived varieties are going to have low to no THC. And I know of one brand that claims that they are water compliant. And that’s the only one that I know. But again, that’s their claim. I’m not sure if they aren’t.

    I haven’t verified that through third-party tests. myself, some, firstly, any athletes that I might be coaching, I’d probably tell them to err on the side of caution and wait till CBD products are a little bit more regulated and standardized and that we know that for sure there’s no THC in them, or if water were to open up the THC limit in drug testing, but for the time being, it’s opened up for 2018. And I would just advise athletes to exercise caution if they do decide to go that route, but it is, it is legal now.


    Misbah Haque  (25:26):

    Wow. How about alcohol? And I’m curious, like, first of all, did that show up on this list? And if it didn’t, why?

    Calvin  (25:34)

    I believe alcohol is on the list. And I think it’s actually prohibited for certain sports. And I think again, it’s a state issue. And I think it’s a certain amount that’s in your blood or urine concentration. I can if you want I can look it up real quick.

    Misbah Haque  (25:51)

    The reason I ask is that I saw a video the other day, it was on Instagram somewhere where there was this an athlete, she took a shot of it must have been like Scotch or some type of liquor right before going on to the platform. It was actually powerlifting I think, like a shot of that right before going onto the platform. And it was like there was a meme around it. And it was definitely funny, but it was just it made me think, I didn’t know if it was legal. And if it is like really? What’s the kind of thought process behind it?

    Calvin  (26:26):

    I think it’s safe. So I just pulled up the water ban list. And so alcohol is prohibited by water. It’s prohibited in particular sports. So apparently air sports. So I think like flying, Oh, yeah. Archery, automobile, and powerboating. So it sounds like pretty much those are not sports where you’d want to be drunk when you key. Right. So, and the thing is, I know like, alcohol seems kind of silly, just to me, because I just don’t see a serious athlete consuming alcohol in competition. Again there’s a lot of other things that are on that water banned list. 

     I think I don’t cover in the book, I just cover 12 that are sort of lesser-known. So I don’t even bother mentioning anabolic steroids. Because I think that’s so obvious. everyone realizes that if you’re going to some pharmacy in Mexico by needle and testosterone. That’s pretty obvious that that’s illegal, at least I would hope so to most people. But the ebook is all about talking about the stuff that maybe is not so obvious that people might accidentally ingest again, there are a lot of people this past year, a lot of athletes who claimed that they didn’t know. So if someone got caught, got caught for alcohol competition, I’d have trouble feeling a ton of sympathy. Like, what are you doing, man?

    Getting caught years later

    Misbah Haque  (27:56):

    If people didn’t know, they know, they got to listen to this episode. Now, my, I’m curious to hear, like what your thought is around this. And if you’ve ever, like if you’ve uncovered through your research, but when we look at athletes who are getting caught for using banned substances, like years and years later, right, like in something like the Olympics, where people are getting caught now for something that they may have done, like eight years ago, and the 2008 Olympics or something like that? How, like, what, how does that even work?

    Why weren’t they able to catch that right away? Or was there like this paperwork process, like you were mentioning before, where this appeal is going on? And all that? Is that what’s taking so long? I’ve always wondered how, how they’re able to come back years and years later, when this is no longer even, like, a thought in the athlete’s mind anymore? And it’s like, eight years ago, you actually ended up taking this and we’re stripping you of your metals.

    Calvin  (29:02)

    The one-word answer that would be technology, I think. So, what it is is a from what I understand and those types of cases where they go back and it tested athletes sample years after the fact has been typically they the laboratory was not able to test for the banned substance that they took, so maybe they took a designer steroids so a couple of years ago, there was a ball co scam with Victor Conti and the clear. So these baseball players involve baseball players, but basically if, if an organization were to invent a new steroid, right, that’s not detectable by current tests, but it gave the athlete an unfair advantage. And then they later on figured out that was the case and that the athlete competed because they had this substance. 

    That was it. Maybe it’s not steroids, it could be anything, but it’s something like giving them a competitive advantage and unfair advantage. And later on, develop a test and they can go back and test. They can think they have frozen urine samples and they’ll go back and retest that urine sample. And if it comes back positive for it, then that’s usually what is happening when you see somebody get caught years after the fact rather than months after the fact. And maybe there’s, I’m sure they’re doing their due diligence, they don’t want to falsely accuse anybody of anything. So they’re making sure that that is the case, and then probably contacting the athlete, but that’s probably what you’re seeing when you see that happen.

    Misbah Haque  (30:37)

    Gotcha. Okay, that makes sense. And this is kind of random. But have you seen that? As Icarus on Netflix? Yeah.

    Calvin  (30:44):

    Yeah. Icarus with the Russian going candle.

    Doping scandals

    Misbah Haque  (30:47):

    What do you think of that?

    Calvin  (30:49):

    I thought that was crazy. I know that is there. So it’s no secret that there is doping in professional sports and it’s no secret that some of the cheaters out there have never been caught. So or never tested positive, I should say, like, Lance Armstrong is probably the most well-known example of that. So Lance Armstrong is one Tour de France so many times, never tested positive once, yet, later on how to come out and admit it. And that was due to pressure from his teammates, and there was a whole story behind that. But the Icarus that was really interesting was just the systemic corruption that was happening in Russia in order for that to happen. I just would never think I would never imagine. And then the documentary, for anybody who’s listening, I would definitely recommend that you go watch the documentary.

    And they kind of connected with it all. Why would a country do this? Why would they do all this? And there are political reasons for it. And there’s a boosting the country’s morale. There’s a lot that goes into why a country would engage in that kind of systemic cheating of the system. But that was eye-opening. And then I think that guy, the scientists from Russia, I think he’s still in witness protection now, isn’t he?

    Misbah Haque  (32:14):

    You should, because here’s the thing. I haven’t seen the full documentary yet. Like, I haven’t finished it, I need to. But what I did listen to was on Joe Rogan’s podcast, the guy who made the movie, Brian, something, he was on there. And it’s just like any job. It’s like, a three-hour discussion around some of the things that happened within the movie, but really talking about that relationship that he and this guy who’s in witness protection kind of bill, and what’s the current state of that, he is still in witness protection. And even the guy who made the movie has no contact with him and stuff like that. So it was just an interesting behind-the-scenes perspective to hear and be able to sit in on that conversation.

    Calvin  (32:58):

    If anybody’s interested in kind of seeing that, that is a reality. And I think sometimes people don’t want to believe that that’s the case in professional sports.  What’s happening in the world, at the Olympic level at the professional sports, very highly paid athletes, there’s it is happening, and like it or not, and I think for me again, we’re not at that level, I’m not an NFL coach, I’m not an I’m not coaching any Olympians. But a lot of the athletes I’ve worked with, they’re at the national or international level for their respective sports. And again, that’s something for them to be mindful of is that anti-doping is a real thing. And it’s because there are people out there who are really legitimately trying to intentionally cheat the system, and give themselves an unfair advantage. And I think it’s, it’s, it’s a battle between technology and how far athletes are willing to go.

    Chris, highly recommend anybody who’s interested in hearing more about it to watch that. So I’m glad you brought that up.

    Gaining every little advantage you can

    Misbah Haque  (34:10): 

    The other thing to think about also, is all of the tools we have at our disposal, that are legal, such as you taking control of your nutrition, your sleep, making sure you’re recovering, like just all those basic things.  I’m sure at that higher level, it’s like these athletes maybe have that in check, but maybe some don’t, maybe some aren’t paying attention to some of those more like basic lifestyle guidelines that they can start to do that may assist in the recovery process, so that you don’t need external substances to be able to kind of facilitate that right. Like, what are some of those things that we could do to start making sure that all right we have our basics kind of covered Before we go out there looking for quick fixed

    Slight edge

    Misbah Haque  (38:21):

    That makes so much sense. Because you think about it like, and let’s just take kind of an everyday person, for example, you work a nine to five job, but you still are trying to compete at a high level. And so you want to do all this volume of work, just so you feel like, okay, I’m doing all the training that I can be doing. But what we don’t think about is like, you’ve got a lot of stress from your day job, then you’re you also maybe have a family, and you’re sleeping like six hours a night, or you’re sleeping eight hours, but the sleep quality isn’t good. And like all that affects how well you show up the next day to train. And that adds up over the course of a week, month, months, years, whatever. And it catches up to you at some point.

    Calvin  (39:04):

    There’s a great book called The Slight Edge by Jeff Olson, I think you might like it, but basically, he talks about how these little 1% improvements aggregate over time, sort of like a stock and bond account, like you’re like a retirement account. And if you can get like a little 1% here, 1% there increase over time, it’s not just 1% that 1% increase in performance, it compounds and if you look at it, and there’s a graphic in the book where you can kind of see in the beginning, it’s kind of slow, small increase, and then it starts to hockey stick up. One of the ways compound interest would grow and it also goes the other direction. If it’s sort of if you have these little 1% things that are sort of taking away from your performance. It starts in the beginning, kind of inconsequential, it’s a little bit in the beginning, and then over time, it compounds and sort of just like compound interest on compounding interest on Credit Card. 

    You just find yourself in more debt. So it’s the same idea performance, Why so little things do matter that detail, in my opinion, the details do matter. So maybe, there are performance-enhancing details, rather than the drugs that athletes need to focus on. So, and like we talked about everything from their sleep, their stretching protocol, and how they warm up, that prevents injury, how they’re mentally preparing, we like last time I was on we talked a little bit about mindfulness meditation and that sort of preparation for athletes. So all of those things are those 1% advance, in my opinion, I like Olsen’s premise of that slight edge. And again, that does compound over time. And I’ve seen that happen in real life, I’ve seen actual athletes where eight make little adjustments that give themselves every little advantage they can, and it compounds over time. 


    Misbah Haque  (40:54):

    I love that framework. I’m gonna check that book out. Now, let’s talk a little bit about sleep and calm boost. It’s something that I’ve tried, as well, and you recently kind of came out with that. But you’ve been kind of testing this on people and yourself for quite some time now before you even formulated it into one, like a cohesive product. What kind of sparked that for you when you decided to create it?

    Calvin  (41:22)

    So again kind of coming off the previous topic, we’re talking about the I always trying to help my athletes and my clients optimize, in a healthy way. And one of the biggest things is sleep. And obviously, sleep is where you’re going to recover. That’s where your body’s going to go into a lot of its repair processes. It’s where all growth hormones are released. So a lot of the benefit is going to happen when you sleep. And what I realized over time was that optimizing sleep was going to be a low-hanging piece of fruit to help athletes, as well as just anybody who wants to be healthier, get in better shape. And sleep nowadays is such a problem for so many of us and overuse of screens writes too much screen time, too much blue light exposure suppresses the natural melatonin production. These are all problems that prevent us from getting enough sleep, the stress of your job, the stress of maybe your family or kids, whatever problems that you might have, there’s all kinds of psychological stress that you might have as well. And I noticed that those are kind of the two big things that seem to prevent people from getting great sleep. So a couple of years back I started to play with some different protocols and recommendations on how to optimize sleep. And I did a lot of research and experimented on myself quite a bit, and then shared these protocols with my clients over time. And, refined it. 

    And basically, the compost product, which I had a large hand in the formulation of is specifically formulated to do those things. It’s to help reduce that psychological stress. So it contains, for example, GABA, which is found in research to help reduce markers of psychological stress. And they’ve done studies where they measured the heart rate variability, and they found that taking data electrically reduces the heart of the stress, as indicated by heart rate variability, HRV scores, and then there’s also salivary markers of stress. 

    And again, it’s in the research they have found that it helps reduce that there’s also glycine, which also helps you reach and again, this is all based on peer-reviewed research, helps you reach slow-wave sleep faster, so you’re able to get to that deeper sleep so you’re able to get to a deeper, more restful sleep because there are different stages of sleep and we could do a whole podcast talking about that and or you could find a sleep expert to come on and talk to you about it but basically, it helps people get into that more restful state of sleep, there’s a big difference right you’ve probably have had a really poor night’s sleep like a restless night asleep even though you had the quantity you didn’t get the quality so maybe people have probably had this experience maybe you slept on a really uncomfortable bed in a hotel once or maybe you’ve slept on an airplane with a crying baby or something and you just never get into that deep state of sleep. And that’s one of the issues that kind of works there.

    The formulation chains l theanine amino acid which is again, normally found in things like green tea, and is it natural kind of helps you to relax and as well as magnesium which again is important for relaxes kind of they called the relaxation mineral so and then I’ve combined that with a protocol where I’ve had recommended that my clients they’ll do some sort of mindfulness or meditation type practice just to kind of help clear a lot of that noise and static out of the head. And that might be a short 1015 minute piece before they go to bed and then mainly ensuring there’s some better sleep hygiene and making sure that they are not on their phone right before they go to bed. I think that’s a really bad habit. Sometimes people are watching TV, they’re on their computer. They have this really bright screen projecting all this light on their face. 

    Just the blue light, the wavelength of blue light is what suppresses melatonin production, because that’s normally what’s produced during the daytime. So now we have all this artificial blue light that stimulates the daytime, really screws us up, and suppresses our natural melatonin production. And, and the formula again, no melatonin because Melatonin is a hormone, I think people tend to overuse it as a supplement. And ideally, you want your own natural production. And again, those are kind of the approaches to optimizing sleep. So that’s sort of the gist of it to kind of answer your question. I know you’ve been taking compost a little bit as well. And I’d be curious to hear your experience with it as well.

    Misbah Haque  (45:41)

    I feel like you mentioned like, rested, like when you wake up and you’re like, wow, I just got eight hours of sleep, and I feel really good and like ready to roll. That’s kind of what I felt with it so far. And even on some nights, let’s say where I don’t get the optimal, like hours of sleep. So if I don’t get eight hours, and I get maybe six, it’s like those six hours actually feel these were six good hours of sleep, not like I was awakened and waking up a couple of times throughout the night and kind of just struggling when I woke up and felt groggy. And that’s really important. I think I don’t know if you noticed this with other people as well, but like that grogginess, when you wake up isn’t really there.

    Calvin  (46:26):

    For the most part, the feedback I received from people is that they find that they’re more rested. And, and then also, the research on again, some of these ingredients are in a formula that it has improved daytime cognitive function, so they’re actually more mentally alert the next day, they’re a little sharper the next day, and those are usually a good indicator. So it’s because it can be kind of subjective to say, I got a good sleep last night, or I slept well last night. Again, that can be kind of subjective, but yes, for sure, people feel less groggy, and they feel more alert that that bootup time, so to speak, like if you kind of think of your brain as a computer, some people, it’s slow.

    It’s like an old, like an old computer where it takes forever to start up, and it kind of grinds tend to move. Whereas if you’re able to wake up, and it’s quick, and you’re up and you’re alert, and you don’t even need any, to rely on caffeine to be up, then I think that’s going to be another good indicator. Again, these are all kinds of subjective things, but it is kind of hard to objectively measure these things unless you’re doing like what they’ve done in these studies, where they’re giving you a tattoo that measures your attention, or your decision-making ability and that kind of thing.

    Misbah Haque  (47:36):

    If you think about somebody who’s being like tortured and you kind of take food away from somebody, you take water away from somebody, like, if you if you’ve ever heard like those, I mean, I don’t know if it’s probably not legal, but like, in movies, or whatever, where people are being tortured by being sleep deprived, right? Like, if you think about what it’s like to go a day without sleep, right? Like you didn’t sleep at all throughout the night, or you got like five hours of sleep. And you do that for three or four days, kind of in a row, like you feel really crappy, like that will hit you, in your day to day activities, your mood is going to be off, you’re a little more stressed, as everything gets thrown off.

    And so like, that’s just another indicator. That was another indicator for me to think about taking sleep a little more seriously than just oh, well, it’s good to get eight hours of sleep that’s optimal. But it’s such a vital part of the performance. And for me, it’s like, yeah, physical performance. Sure. But it’s more so like day-to-day performance, being able to be engaged with people that you’re talking to, whether it’s podcast coaching or things of that nature.

    Calvin  (48:49):

    Sleep deprivation is a real issue. It can literally kill you. Like, there’s a couple, several recent news stories that have come out of usually it’s out of like a country like Japan or Korea, and where there’s sort of like a workaholic type culture. And I think that just recently actually, there was a lady in Japan in her 30s working professional who had worked like a crazy amount, like 120 hours in a week or something like that. Something Yeah, so basically just constantly working it taking some nap naps in between. And I think she literally just dropped dead in the office. She just collapsed. And just because she was so I think it was a combination of stress and sleep deprivation. So again, I think that just goes to show how essential sleep is to our health. 

    So if you think about there are only a couple of things that you really can’t go without for long. So food, you can probably go a couple of weeks without water. You can probably go a couple of days without air, probably a couple of minutes out. But sleep is probably the fourth category. If you were to be chronically sleep deprived, you would probably die realistically, within a few days, or a few weeks, maybe at best, but I just couldn’t imagine a person functioning very well, with no sleep for, for days and days and days on it. And we’ve all been there, we’ve had those sort of rough couple nights of sleep, and we’re not able to, to function well, right, it feels like you’re almost inebriated, like, you’re like you’re drunk or something. And you see that like, whether it’s an in personally like when I was in the military, I remember going through some training where they were only required to give us four hours of sleep. And I have to work four hours consecutively.

    Misbah Haque  (50:44):

    So wait, you said it had to be four hours consecutively.

    Calvin  (50:47):

    It did not have to be four hours consecutively. Meaning they could make you get up for a guard shift for an hour stand, watch, go back to sleep for an hour, get back up for another hour and go back to sleep. A lot I can tell you it’s not just the quantity of sleep, there definitely is something to be said for the quantity asleep in there. That short of duration, you’re not able to actually go through the proper sleep cycle. So there’s a lot to be said for proper sleep. So again, that was one of my personal experiences with sleep deprivation. And since you brought it up, it’s an essential component.

    So again, I hope that athletes out there and just anyone who wants to optimize their health and fitness are looking at ways to optimize their sleep, especially nowadays, because it’s so easy for us to be calm, distracted. And by screens and impede upon our ability to get quality sleep. I think that’s probably one of the biggest silent I guess, sounds of dramatic epidemics that are out there.

    Workaholic culture

    Misbah Haque  (51:50):

    You mentioned Japan, Korea, but I think here in the US, we have that workaholic culture too. And I think there’s more attention being brought to the importance of sleep, and work-life balance type of thing, still, it’s still prevalent here. And the other thing is, like, with athletes, it’s, it’s one of those things. If you’re an athlete, your job, like your job is to eat, sleep, train, like rinse and repeat those things. Where your focus and energy is going into, chances are like the amount of training you’re doing, maybe you naturally are able to be so tired at the end of the night that you’re like falling asleep and not waking up throughout the night

    But when you’re somebody who’s maybe not an athlete, or you have more than that going on, where you have a stressful job, you’re really engaging with people throughout the day, you have to be kind of ramped up, and then you go and train, and then you have a family to take care of, like, that’s a lot that you’re transitioning through. And then to be able to come down from that like going from that sympathetic state to parasympathetic, it can be a little bit harder for the everyday person. And then that means that sleep just becomes that much more important.

    Calvin  (53:02):

    Definitely. So and that’s the thing, that’s probably why I’ve made that a big part of what I do with any of my clients. And one of the first things I’ll look at is their sleep. And even if they shift, for example, I’ve got some people that have used combos for shift workers, and maybe they work the night shift, and even for them taking calm boost, or something like that. And that can help them optimize their sleep because again, they’re sleeping at different times a day, and but they’re actually making the most of that sleep, they’re actually able to get deep restful sleep. So and like I said, the two techniques that I have found to work the best are one using some sort of mindfulness type practice. 

    So rather than letting that sort of hamster wheel of thought, runaway train of thought, keep you up all night, sort of clearing your head, as they say, and, and having a clear mind, and that does help you sleep better because your brains not processing all that all night long. And then supplementation, I noticed again, in limited amounts, specific things, and again, not every night, but sometimes maybe a couple of times a week. And that can seem to help a lot with optimizing sleep, even if they are, whether they’re a shift worker, or if they have a high-stress job. 

    Or if they’re traveling a lot between time zones. These are all factors to consider. So I would say for sure, that’s probably one of the easy, low-hanging pieces of fruit that somebody can work on. And a lot of times, I noticed that for some clients, business professionals, time management is the issue. They say I don’t have time to sleep, but it’s really it’s having some discipline around their scheduling. It’s doable, and I think it’s just a matter of making it a habit. But for sure, I think kind of circling back to how we got on this thread was saying what are the natural ways that people can sort of optimizing health optimize their performance I think for sure that that’s the route I would go as far as sleep is concerned. 

    Misbah Haque  (55:05):

    And I think that we had talked about this a little while ago. But when you think about all the different ingredients like magnesium, and Gavin, all these things that you could take separately to help improve your sleep and your sleep quality, it’s like, you getting all that together and putting it into like a cocktail is, I think, more work than you just going and getting combos because you, you originally were the one who wrote out all that there’s like a blog post, I think, on Invictus, on like, all the things that kind of go into it, and you just kind of put it together in a very accessible format that is probably in a way cheaper to go get that.

    Calvin  (55:45)

    That’s exactly how that came about. So I had been recommending this sort of cocktail, and I would link to these different things. It was like four or five different products that you’d have to buy, as a client of mine, they were my clients who just got so annoyed with needing to purchase four or five bottles of the stuff. And they said, they said, Can you just put it into one bottle for me and then and that’s kind of what led me to find a company that could actually produce it. And now I’m an investor and advisor to the company that produces compost, and right now, been very well received, and kind of just getting it out into the hands of people. And it’s just a little side project for me that I’ve been working on. 

    I’ve been really glad that people have enjoyed it and like, like yourself, like, the feedback has been really good. So, and I think it has made it more accessible than if I were to just, I found that the blog post where I would tell people to go by these four or five different things most of the time, people wouldn’t do it, just because this is such a pain in the butt. And then even if they did do it, it’s the process of going and picking out one of each of these things and, or, like taking half a tablet of that thing, and, and then taking all that before but it’s just such a pain in the butt for people. So it was really just kind of born out of convenience for clients. And again I think it’s really important for people to optimize their sleep. And just because it’s such an important thing for their health.

    Misbah Haque  (57:16):

    Thank you so much for coming on and dropping in knowledge as always, where can we point people to, first of all, get this ebook on the banned substances, so they can get a little more detail on it. And then also for Calmboost, where can people find that.

    Calvin  (57:34):

    If people want to get a free copy of the 12 banned substances ebook that I put together, it is available on the Invictus website, you guys can just go look for the link there. Or if you just go to forward slash band drugs, you can download it there, there’s a quick form that you’ll fill out and it’ll just be they’ll send it to your email. The marketing folks at Invictus have set it all up on the back end to just automatically get into your inbox for you so you guys can get it there. And for anybody who wants to purchase calm boost, it’s available on So that’s probably the easiest place to find it. You just type in calm boost and it should come up and search for you pretty organically. And if you want to check out the website though the business is a

    Misbah Haque  (58:21):

    Awesome. And what is your where would you like to point people to if they want to get in touch with you Instagram or whatever is best?

    Calvin  (58:29):

    Instagram and Twitter is _Calvinsun. So if you guys want to send me a message or ask me a question feel free to engage with me out there. And I always check the blog comments on the Invictus blog for any of the blogs I’ve written. So the older ones that are kind of get buried in the archives, they don’t really get a chance to see if there’s a fresh post and there’s a question on it. Usually, within the first week, I’ll answer questions there as well. If anybody has any items that they want to ask me, that’s probably the best way to reach me.

    Misbah Haque  (59:01):

    Sweet. Well, thanks again, Calvin for coming on. As always, I had a blast chatting.

    Calvin  (59:06): 

    Thanks. This was a lot of fun, always good to be a guest here. And I appreciate you having me back on.

    Misbah Haque  (59:12):

    Thank you so much for listening, guys. I appreciate you taking the time tuning in and lending me your ears. Two things I want to leave you with before you head out. Number one, if you are a coach or gym owner, head over to and check out some of the free resources we have for you there. I and a clinical psychologist are partnering together to create a course called The Art of Connection through questions.

    It’s something I’ve loved and studied and has fulfilled me for years and to be able to finally put this together in a way that’s going to help other coaches and gym owners connect deeply with their clients is super fulfilling for me. So if that sits well with you, head over to the and check it out. To leave a review on iTunes it’s the best compliment that you can give and it would mean the absolute world to me but other than that I hope you enjoyed this one until next time.

    Resources we may have talked about:

    How to connect with Calvin Sun:

    Website: Calvin Sun

    Instagram: @_calvinsun

    Twitter: @_calvinsun

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