Air, Water & Amino Acids

By Dave Lipson

Paleo, cavemen, eating as genetically designed, primal, natural, grass fed, free range, blah blah blah…what’s the point here? We can put as many catch phrases on it as we want, but let’s not lose the 30,000 foot view.

There are three essentials we need for survival: air, water, and amino acids--in that order. Likewise, these same elements are the most crucial for our athletic, mental, and sexual performance. Your ability to obtain and sustain the levels of these three is the foundation of the house that is your life.

Let’s talk about how the get these things in high order using both natural and technological advances in vitamins and supplements.


Oxygen makes your high and awake. It gives life to your tissue and energy to be animated. How do we maximize it? Here are some tips:

Stand up straight

Imagine I am sticking a pole up your ass. It will travel up through your spine and up the back of your neck through your head. Most of you will find the need to track your chin back and find that true neutral head position.

In addition to adding to the efficiency of your central nervous system, this position will open your airways allowing easy consumption of air. (Stop leaning forward with your chin and collapsing your chest as your read this.)

How do you fix this? Practice while standing and lifting. Make it your default, go-to position.

Practice expanding your lungs

Your breathing is your physiological connection to your emotions. Control your breathing, control your mind, control your body. Pull your shoulders back and expand your rib cage. Work out hard and expand that lung capacity. Breathe in with a big breath and let the air fill your belly.

Practice 2-5 short, quick breaths while lifting heavy between reps or just before lift to excite your body and oxygenate your blood. Practice long, slow breaths in your nose and out your mouth to slow your heart rate when it gets too high or when you're trying to calm down.

Supplements & Sleep

Melatonin and ZMA are supplements known to affect deep sleep and a rise in growth factors. Why are we talking about sleep? Because in deep sleep we slow our breathing down and achieve deep, slow belly breathing. This allows a deep recovery of our central nervous, neuroendocrine, and cardiovascular systems. It takes the stress off of these systems, which will allow better longevity and performance. Recovery is key…sleep is GOLDEN.


Wetness is the essence of moisture, right? We are like 70% water. People buy all types of supplements and foods that support lean mass but sometimes forget that water is the greatest anabolic.

I've seen many athletes on a strict Paleo diet dilute all of the electrolytes in their body. Yay my piss is clear. I drink 9 million gallons of water a day...and I retain none of it! Paleo is a low salt diet, so we may have to supplement electrolytes and salts for athletes.

Water is also essential for joint health. Dry tendons have a tendency to snap and tear more easily, while wet tissue is more flexible and malleable.

Here are some strategies for retaining more water in your body:

  -Salt tablets
  -Gatorade, Accelerade, Pedialyte, and Dextrose-like powders
  -Coconut water and bananas,
  -Starches and heavy carbs…washed down with water. (I would recommend this one earlier in the day.)

Amino Acids

These are the building block proteins our muscles are comprised of. In addition to the production of energy, consumption of amino acids will support lean muscle mass and have anti-catabolic effects. Amino acids are found in meat and other protein sources but can also be bought over the counter in powder form.

Certain amino acids can serve for specialized functions. A few to speak of:

Tryptophan is a precursor of the neurotransmitter serotonin (mental health, recovery, and sleep.)

Tyrosine is a precursor of the neurotransmitterdopamine (brain health and central nervous system function.)

Arginine is a precursor of nitric oxide (a powerful vasodialator to bring blood to the extremities)

Phenylalanine is a precursor of various phenylpropanoids, which are important in plant metabolism.

When you are getting your aminos from natural sources after you workout and in your diet, or if you are supplementing with shakes in the powder form, amino acids are critical for your recovery and performance as an athlete.

There is no shame in getting this stuff in protein powder. Your body is very nondiscriminatory. It will elicit a response for whatever you put in it, grass-fed or not.

Dave Lipson is a CrossFit Level One trainer and a Games competitor in 2009. Photograph of the author taking in some air before a lift at Mike's Gym courtesy of Patrick Cummings.