Look around your local CrossFit affiliate or your fav athletes’ social feeds (hey, Rich Froning!) and you’ll see a pretty consistent representation of the same brand head-to-toe. Or, more accurately, teeth-to-toe.
Many CrossFit athletes (and other endurance athletes) are regularly repping the Airwaav mouthpiece.
Word on the street is Airwaav is supposed to improve your breathing and ultimately your sports performance in endurance and strength workouts alike.
But is it worth the investment? Keep reading to find out.
On the market since 2021, Airwaav is a patented oral device designed to help improve your overall workout performance.
This doohickey “sits in the bottom of your mouth and works by directing your tongue down and forward when you bite down,” explains Dena Garner, Ph.D., the researcher behind the Airwaav performance mouthpiece. “By targeting the tongue muscle, the device elevates physical performance,” she says.
“The research has shown that by contracting your tongue, shifting your mandible forward and biting down on the mouthpiece results in opening of airways, decreased cortisol, respiratory rate, and lactate levels,” she adds.
At the time of writing, there are two Airwaav products on the market: Airwaav Endurance and Airwaav HIIT. As their names suggest, each is recommended for a different set of sports.
With the braggadocious tagline “built with purpose, backed by science”, you best believe that there are some real research-based and user-backed benefits to moving with this mouthpiece. Here are seven of them:
1. It reduces working respiratory rate
The mouthpiece’s main mission is to help keep your airway as open as possible — and research shows that it does so effectively.
One study published in Compendium of Continuing Education in Dentistry reported a significant difference in the average airway width of mouthpiece users compared to those who did not use a mouthpiece.
To put numbers to it: Airwaav users had an average airway width of 28.27 millimeters, which is 2.34-millimeter wider than those who did not wear one.
“The opening of the airway results in improved performance outcomes,” explains Dr. Garner.
2. It helps you to not hold your breath during workouts
“Most people don’t think about breathing when they exercise,” says Dr. Garner. Well, the mouthpiece can help.
Indeed, that’s been the experience of former D1 swimmer Kyle Moline, a Washington state based CrossFit fanatic. “Because of my background, I like to hold my breath when I workout. But I’ll notice the Airwaav in my mouth mid-workout, which reminds me to breathe,” he says
3. It helps your brain stay in the game
Physical benefits aside, some users report that the device helps increase mental focus.
“Using it for monostructural work has given me the feeling that I’m able to focus on something other than the pain I’m physically in,” says Alexander Fallek, a Oklahoma-based CrossFit athlete and Hydrox competitor. “It’s made a major difference in my ability to focus on speed during workouts,” he says.
Monostructural work is CrossFit code for “traditional” cardio. The less sexy (read: barbell free) stuff, monostructural work usually entails spending a hunk of time on a single machine such as the rower, ski erg, rowerg, or assault bike. Though, running and swimming also qualify.
Farrr less mentally interesting than EMOM and AMRAP style workouts, monostructural work can get boring. So truthfully, anything that helps your mind stay in the zone while you work is a gift.
4. It protects your teeth
The Airwaav is a performance mouthpiece that isn’t primarily meant to cushion your chompers, however, some users report it has that secondary effect.
“I clench down a lot when I lift [weights], so at a minimum the Airwaav helps protect my teeth while giving them something other than other teeth to bite down on,” says Joe Massey, a CT-based CrossFit athlete.
5. It may support healthy cortisol levels
For people who already have high levels of cortisol due to non-exercise-related-stressors (work or personal issues, etc), the additional increase in cortisol from exercise could lead to chronically high cortisol levels.
Symptoms of chronically high cortisol levels:
- Brain fog
- Weight gain
- Inability to concentrate
- Worsened sleep quality
Using an Airwaav has been said to be a preemptive move you can make to modulate cortisol levels during a workout.
“The Airwaav supports proper mandibular placement and breathing, which offers subsequent improvement in cortisol levels, supporting performance and recovery in any sport,” says Dr. Garner.
In support of this idea, one 2017 study published in Cogent Medicine found that wearing a mouthpiece during exercise has the power to blunt overall cortisol production.
6. It may support recovery
The researchers in the aforementioned Cogent Medicine study found that because the mouthpiece may decrease overall cortisol levels during and after exercise, it may also support faster recovery levels.
“[The findings] suggests [a] potential impact of mouthpiece use on recovery and subsequent training sessions,” they write.
7. It may make nasal breathing easier.
If you’re a CrossFit or endurance athlete, your coach may prescribe strictly nose-breathing workouts.
If you’re unfamiliar: Nose breathing entails using your nose (not your mouth!) to inhale and exhale while you move and groove.
Well, Airwaav user Erik Pineda, a Virginia-based CrossFit athlete, says the mouthpiece is especially beneficial during nose-breathing sessions. “It helps me keep my mouth closed so that I can focus on nose breathing,” he says.
The Airwaav may go in your mouth, but it’s not a mouthguard.
Athletic mouthguards are essentially teeth covers that protect your teeth from external impact, like tackles and internal impact, like clenching your teeth while you lift.
Typically, mouthguards made for sport are made from a material that is thick enough to disperse the force of impact. They are typically placed on your top teeth, and come up and over the teeth in order to adequately cushion your chicklets.
The Airwaav performance mouthpiece is not designed with the purpose of preserving the health of your teeth, but rather improving your athletic performance.
It sits in the lower-portion of your mouth over your lower set of gnashers. Both the Airwaav Endurance and Airwaav HIIT are made from Vistamaxx™ – a hydrophobic fitting material that is thinner than typical athletic guards.
No slight to mouthguards
It’s worth mentioning that there are many benefits to wearing an athletic mouthguard. And many dentists prescribe (or recommend) them to their patients.
If you’ve been told to wear a mouthguard by your healthcare provider, be sure to check-in with them before switching from a mouthguard to a mouthpiece.
It could be!
“Whether recreational or professional, every athlete should try this,” says Dr. Garner. “Proper breathing is a must in any sport and this mouthpiece allows one to optimize breathing parameters.”
If you’re interested in giving it a shot, check it out on the Airwaav website.