Athletic Greens (now called "AG1") is a greens powder that claims "to bring comprehensive and convenient daily nutrition to just about everybody." But is Athletic Greens worth it? Or is it overpriced marketing hype in pretty packaging? I'm a registered dietitian and balanced nutritionist and in this Athletic Greens review I'm going to check out it out and compare with science to help you make your own informed decision if Athletic Greens is for you.
What is Athletic Greens?
Athletic Greens is a greens powder supplement and it's a blend of dried and powdered vegetables and fruits, probiotics, digestive enzymes, vitamins, and minerals. It's sold as a powder with instructions to mix with water and drink daily.
Athletic Greens Nutrition
One serving (one scoop) of Athletic Greens contains 50 calories, 6 grams total carbohydrates, 2 grams dietary fiber, and 2 grams protein.
Athletic Greens Ingredients
Athletic Greens says their greens powder consists of "75 vitamins, minerals, whole-food sourced superfoods, probiotics, and adaptogens in one convenient daily serving. That’s it."
That's it? Y'all. 75 ingredients in one supplemental powder is not a "that's it" claim, it's a red flag. More isn't always more, especially when it comes to dietary supplements.
All these ingredients are broken down into a few different "complexes":
- Alkaline, Nutrient-Dense Raw Superfood Complex
- Nutrient-Dense Extracts, Herbs & Antioxidants
- Digestive Enzymes & Super Mushroom Complex
- Dairy-Free Probiotics
These complexes are proprietary blends, which means we don't know exactly how much of the ingredients are used. But with 75 ingredients in a 12 gram serving, it's pretty safe to assume there's not a significant amount of each ingredient.
In addition, Athletic Greens has two to three times the number of ingredients of most other greens powders. Why? Well, when you're trying to source "whole foods" ingredients, there's only so much that can fit into a 12 gram daily serving (a little less than a tablespoon). They've added nearly thirty additional vitamins and minerals in efforts to live up to their claim that Athletic Greens is "a better approach to providing your body with everything it needs for optimal performance."
That claim being a massive stretch aside, let's check out some of the health claims and purported benefits of Athletic Greens and other greens powder supplements.
Athletic Greens Benefits
Athletic Greens claims their main benefits are:
- Boosts energy
- Helps recovery
- Aids digestion
- Supports immunity
- Promotes cognitive health
Greens powders in general are also often claimed to support weight loss and detoxification.
Let's look into some of these potential benefits:
Is Athletic Greens energy boosting?
Is it the greens powder that's energy boosting or is it the caffeine in the green tea extract that's energizing? Or could it be the cocoa extract included in Athletic Greens, another caffeine-containing extract?
Since they don't share a caffeine amount or tell us how much green tea extract and cocoa extract are used, we don't know exactly how much caffeine is in Athletic Greens - just that there is some.
Also potentially energy boosting are the B vitamins in Athletic Greens. B vitamins can help energy production at the cellular level. Does this mean you'll feel a noticeable increase in energy? Nope - unless you were a little deficient in the vitamins to begin with.
Does Athletic Greens help with recovery and immune support?
Athletic Greens contains some nutrients that are helpful for recovery and immunity. For instance, vitamin C and zinc both have plenty of research establishing their immune system supportive roles. But there are other supportive nutrients that Athletic Greens misses out on. Nutrients like protein for muscle recovery and vitamin D, which helps support your immune system.
So does Athletic Greens help promote muscle recovery and immune support? I mean, it's likely not going to detract, but there are other foods and supplements that would be more beneficial. And more affordable, too.
Does Athletic Greens improve digestion?
Is it the greens in Athletic Greens that aids digestion? Or is it the added probiotics?
If you're noticing you have better digestion and less bloat, it could be related to the added probiotics. But there isn't a ton of probiotics in Athletic Greens. And just because some probiotics are there, doesn't mean they're helpful for everyone.
Probiotics are not one size fits all. Different probiotics can help different conditions - and some can worsen individual conditions, too.
What may be helping your digestion and bloat could be things not related to the greens powder itself. Like if you don't normally drink a lot of water first thing in the morning, that cup of water you're mixing your greens in could be one of the most helpful things.
Basically, the greens powder itself is likely the lesser contributor to the benefits you're seeing.
Oh, and by the way - something that does help digestion? Fiber. One thing you're not getting a significant amount of in certain splashy, overpriced, green powders? Fiber.
Can greens powders help you lose weight?
Will a greens powder lead to weight loss? I mean, Athletic Greens has just 50 calories a serving, so the odds are it won't hinder weight loss, but does it actually help you lose weight?
Nope. There is zero research that suggests any greens powder helps with weight loss. If you're losing weight taking greens powder, it's because you're in a caloric deficit. Maybe your overall eating habits have improved and you're eating less calorically dense foods. Or maybe you've swapped a higher calorie sugar and cream-laden coffee drink for Athletic Greens.
Bottom line: there's nothing magical about greens powder that will help with weight loss.
P.S. Remember how helpful fiber is for digestion? It can be helpful for weight management, too! And you're going to get a lot more fiber if you spend the $99 on a month's supply of AG1 in the produce section instead.
Are there any research studies on greens powders?
There are a few studies (study 1, study 2, study 3, study 4) that suggest some benefits to greens powders. Most are related to anti-inflammatory benefits and one study found a decrease in blood pressure.
But when you look at the studies, they're often comparing taking some form of fruit/ vegetable powder to taking/ doing nothing. And while there may be some decrease in inflammatory markers, I would love to see a comparison to just eating a fruit and vegetable-rich balanced diet.
It's also important to note that these studies are small and may not have the best study designs. And the studies are funded by the greens powder brands. (Note that none were regarding or funded by Athletic Greens.)
Athletic Greens Side Effects
Athletic Greens and other greens powders have several reported side effects, like nausea, bloating, and diarrhea. I've seen a few other reports of allergy- and asthma-related side effects, too.
Digestive Side Effects
The most common side effect complaint is digestive issues. Concerns like nausea, diarrhea, bloating, and general upset stomach are frequently mentioned in consumer reviews. The cause? Potentially several, but very likely individually based on how your body responds to different ingredients.
Heavy Metal Contamination
The Food and Drug Administration does not regulate dietary supplements, including greens powders like Athletic Greens. One big concern for greens powders is the concern for potential heavy metal contaminants, like lead. In 2016 a ConsumerLabs.com independent study of greens and whole foods products found that four out of 13 products exceeded limits for lead. One of these four was also contaminated with arsenic and another contaminated with cadmium.
I want to note that Athletic Greens was not one of the greens powders tested in that independent study. In fact, when it comes to greens powders, one big perk of Athletic Greens is that their products are independently third party tested by NSF International to make sure there are no unsafe levels of contaminants, including heavy metals. For my Australian friends, Athletic Greens is also made in a TGA-registered facility (TGA = Therapeutic Goods Administration, an Australian regulatory board).
Potential Medication Interactions
Greens are notoriously high in vitamin K, which is something anyone with blood clotting concerns or on blood thinner medications should be aware of (especially as Athletic Greens does not share the Vitamin K amount on the supplement nutrition facts label).
As important as vitamins and minerals are, they can still interact with certain medications. So, in general, if you're taking any medication, it's smart to check with your doctor. Especially because there are several nutrients in Athletic Greens that are well over the recommended daily value (like vitamin E and the B vitamins).
Potential Thyroid Lab Interactions
Athletic Greens is very high in biotin with one scoop providing 1,100% of the daily value. If you have thyroid disorders, biotin supplementation can cause false results with some thyroid labs.
Taking biotin supplements while getting thyroid lab work done can lead to falsely low levels of TSH and falsely high levels of T3 and T4. The American Thyroid Association recommends stopping biotin supplementation 2 days before lab work, but it's still a great idea to give your doctor a head's up.
Athletic Greens Alternatives
The best alternative to Athletic Greens is simply eating a balanced diet. A CDC analysis showed only 9% of American adults eat the recommended amount of vegetables and only 12% the recommended amount of fruits. For most adults, simply consuming more fruits and vegetables would likely lead to many of the same benefits Athletic Greens claims (for a fraction of the price).
If you're concerned about your nutrition and if you should take any supplements, I recommend discussing with your doctor and/ or dietitian. Dietary supplements should be supplemental, but they should also be personalized to your unique needs, health concerns, medications, and other considerations.
If you'd still like to take a greens powder supplement, my main piece of advice would be to look for one that is third party tested.
So, is Athletic Greens worth it?
Is Athletic Greens worth it? Are they, or any greens powder, worth the money? Well, it's not my job to tell you how to spend your money. However, as a registered dietitian who spent hours researching for this Athletic Greens review, I can tell you that a lot of the buzz around Athletic Greens is just overhyped marketing.
Honestly, some of the claims they make go beyond cherry picking research and exaggerating potential claims. Some statements on their website are misleading and potentially dangerous. Like the claim that they've designed Athletic Greens to be "a better approach to providing your body with everything it needs for optimal performance."
Yeah, hard no, absolutely not, fat chance, no way.
It is impossible for Athletic Greens (or any greens powder) to provide everything your body needs for optimal performance in a 12 gram scoop of powder. And at $99 for a one month supply, it'd be a lot easier, more nutrient-dense, and more bang for your buck to invest in the produce section and a multivitamin instead.
Is it dangerous to consume a greens powder? Probably not, for most folks. But it's likely unnecessary as a daily supplement for most people. Maybe save it for those busy travel days when your diet is a little low on veggies. Or if you feel like saving a few bucks, just hit up your produce section regularly.
Athletic Greens Review: TL; DR Version
Is there evidence to support the benefits of consuming greens powders? Not really.
Would you get more nutritional bang for your buck by investing that $99 a month in the produce aisle and potentially a multivitamin? Probably!
What should you do if you still want to take a daily greens powder? Prioritize buying one that is third-party tested. After all, you wouldn't want to buy one that's contaminated with lead, arsenic, or cadmium!
Oh, and run it by your doc and/ or dietitian to make sure it's appropriate for you personally, and not going to interfere with any medications or medical conditions.