What Is Athletic Greens?
Athletic greens is a nutritional supplement that aims to help people make sure they are getting enough vitamins and minerals in their diet every day.
It is designed to be consumed daily–in drink form–and contains 75 different ingredients. According to the official site, the ingredients come from whole foods (and therefore are not artificial) and are accompanied by probiotics and digestive enzymes to help your body process them.
What Are The Potential (Advertised) Benefits?
The combination of ingredients in the drink is designed to have four primary benefits:
- Boosting energy
- Supporting recovery from intense workouts
- Improving immune system function
- Promoting better digestion
Each ingredient in the mix helps to promote at least one of these goals and a few promote multiple.
The full list of ingredients and their proposed benefits can be found here and should be reviewed before you purchase so that you know exactly what you’re getting.
How Much Does It Cost?
There are six different products for sale:
One Time Purchases
Although Athletic Greens is primarily a subscription service, you can buy a single pack of the drink mix. There are two different options:
- A pouch containing 30 servings of 12 grams each, which are not individually portioned –> $97 ($3.23/serving)
- A box containing 30 travel packs, which are individually packaged servings –> $107 ($3.57/serving)
If you don’t want just one pouch and would prefer to buy Athletic Greens on a recurring schedule via subscription, there are two options. A single subscription, where you get one set of 30 servings per month, and a double subscription where you get two sets of 30 servings (60 total).
Like the single purchase, there are two options for single subscription:
- A monthly pouch containing 30 servings of 12 grams each, which are not individually portioned –> $77/month ($2.57/serving)
- A monthly travel pack box of 30 individually-packaged servings –> $87/month ($2.90/serving)
In addition, both of the subscriptions come with a bonus. Option 1 comes with a welcome kit with your first delivery, including a ceramic jar to hold powder and a shaker bottle to mix your drinks. Option 2 also has a welcome kit, but it only includes the shaker bottle.
The double subscriptions are identical to the single ones except that they come with twice as many servings. Both come with the same bonus welcome kits as before. For the double subscriptions, it would cost:
- Two monthly bulk pouches with 60 servings of 12 grams total –> $147/month ($2.12/serving)
- Two monthly travel boxes with 60 servings total between them –> $167/month ($2.78/serving)
If you are a customer in the United States, there is no regulation or oversight of quality for products sold in the country that are under the classification of health supplement. This means that anyone wanting to make a quick buck in the US market can make a product out of a bunch of random ingredients, claim it has a bunch of health benefits, and sell their product to many unsuspecting customers–without anyone checking if it actually does what’s advertised, or even if the ingredients are safe for human consumption. If buying in the US, you never want to trust a supplement that does not list exactly what it contains, because that is a likely indicator that whoever created it is probably not all that invested in the science.
Anyone who really cares about science will actively promote that fact and be transparent about it, because that attracts loyal customers. This is especially important in the US, but applies to customers around the world as well. Clearly visible scientific content and transparency on a product website is great to see.
Athletic Greens does appear to be one of those brands invested in the science side of things. They list every single ingredient on their site, give a short description, and categorize them all by which benefits they give.
However, the one area where they fall short from top quality in this respect is that their ingredients page does not link out to scientific articles backing their claims. Although some of the ingredients are widely known to be scientifically-backed, not all of them are, and linking back to direct evidence would make their claims a lot more trustworthy.
Additional Safety / Nutrition Checks
Athletic Greens has also gone through an additional process to ensure that they are working with quality ingredients: getting NSF certified. NSF–The National Sanitation Foundation–is a global organization that conducts independent reviews of products to ensure that their ingredients and products meet certain standards for health, safety, and quality.
The NSF review process is pretty extensive and involves annual checks of manufacturing plants to ensure that they continue to operate at the same high standard over time. They ensure that no illegal substances are included in the final product and check that unsafe contaminants–such as heavy metals–do not get mixed in during production.
If a company goes through NSF review–as Athletic Greens has done–this is a great sign that they care about producing a quality product and that they are not cutting corners in their manufacturing process.
Many reviews online indicate a positive impact on digestion, with Athletic Greens promoting more regular movement and reducing issues such as constipation.
Other Potential Benefits
- Improved hydration
- Energy boosting, particularly if you drink it early in the morning to get fluids going
- Tits well into a lot of restrictive diets including vegan and paleo
- Gluten free
- Sugar free
- Helps fit in vitamins at times when you can’t fully control your diet (such as on vacation/travel or during times where you don’t have enough time to cook for yourself at every meal)
- Does not include any of the most common allergens
The Not So Good
The ingredients the mix are not balanced evenly. For some ingredients, the quantity in one serving of Athletic Greens is 100% or more of the daily recommended value (DV), while for others it’s as low as only a couple percent. That’s almost as useless as just leaving the ingredient out altogether and does feel like a little bit of false advertising.
Some of the vitamins and minerals that tend to be favored in the mix are Vitamin C (700% DV), Vitamin B12 (467% DV), Vitamin E (334% DV), Thiamin (200% DV), Vitamin B6 (150% DV), Riboflavin (118% DV), Biotin (110% DV), Niacin, Folate, and Zinc (All 100% DV).
Others are advertised to be included, but have such low amounts that they’re not really useful. These include Calcium (12% DV), Copper (10% DV), Potassium (9% DV), Magnesium (7% DV), and Phosphorous (6% DV). And some things that are necessary for optimal health (such as iodine, choline, and molybdenum) are left out completely.
There is no official breakdown of how many of each of the ingredients in the 75 item list actually goes into a daily serving (we just get an estimate of different vitamin and mineral percentages). This is because Athletic Greens uses a proprietary blend that is kept secret.
Usually the argument behind proprietary blends is to keep market share and prevent others from copying your recipe–and therefore not buying your brand–but the sheer number of ingredients and lack of availability via easy channels means that pretty much no average consumer could ever copy the recipe. There is not really too much of a valid reason for keeping the blend proprietary–besides potentially preventing other companies from trying to copy the recipe and take customers away from Athletic Greens–and it comes at a big cost of transparency.
Not All Ingredients Are Scientifically Backed
While some ingredients in the Athletic Greens formula have been scientifically shown to be beneficial (see dandelion root, ginger, green tea) others have not. For example, licorice root has not yet been shown to have any real health benefits and in some cases can actually lead to dangerous side effects.
Many customers of Athletic Greens online have commented on the unpleasant taste of the mix. The best way to build sustainable habits is to set them up in a way that is enjoyable. If a daily activity is unpleasant, it is going to be very difficult to stick with long term. The only way to really keep up with a healthy habit long term–and actually go far enough to receive the benefits from that activity–is to make it enjoyable. If you hate the taste, Athletic Greens is probably not going to work for you in the long term.
Perhaps the most significant downside is the price. Athletic Greens costs nearly $3/day, which can start to add up really quickly. A single monthly subscription of the bulk pouch for an entire year would run nearly $1000 (and even more if you got the travel packs). You could buy a year long membership to a nice gym with that, which––for the average person––would probably be a much more useful way to spend that much money.
Athletic Greens is one of the most expensive greens powders out there, so it’s not hard to find something comparable that costs you less. You could also try the alternative option of just buying a multivitamin and fiber supplement and you’d get the same benefit without all the extra potentially non-useful ingredients.
Who Is It Right For?
If you meet all of the following conditions, then Athletic Greens might be a good option for you:
- You have a lot of disposable income and can afford to drop $80 or more per month on supplements.
- You do not dislike the taste of the mix (I’d recommend doing a trial period to test this out–they have a 60 day money back guarantee).
- You do not already get your daily quantity of vitamins and minerals from your diet. If you do, it would be a waste of money to consume more, because your body won’t be able to absorb much else.
- You travel a lot or have some other barrier that prevents you from being able to prep your own food regularly, limiting your ability to get all your vitamins and minerals from your normal diet. Note that if you don’t have this limitation, it’s probably a better option in the long run to learn how to just cook healthy and nutritionally dense meals for yourself, rather than relying on a powder that is not 100% scientifically backed.
- You prioritize convenience over all else. Another way to get the same benefits as athletic greens would be through a combination of multivitamins and fiber supplements. That would likely be less expensive, but would take more steps.
Who Is It Wrong For?
If you meet any of the following conditions, Athletic Greens probably isn’t right for you:
- You don’t have a lot of disposable income.
- What should you do, then?: try to purchase inexpensive, healthy fruits, vegetables and grains at the store to help promote a balanced and nutritious diet on a low budget (See the r/eatcheapandhealthy discussion board on Reddit for some great tips).
- You already eat a balanced diet.
- What should you do, then? Nothing. You probably don’t need a supplement. Just focus on getting good exercise in and you should be fine!
- You don’t like the taste.
- What should you do, then? Options include: 1. Find another greens powder you like better. 2. Take a multivitamin or pill combo that would not have as much of a taste. 3. Attempt to get your vitamins and minerals through your normal food, which tends to taste a lot more pleasant if you take the time to learn how to make enjoyable recipes.
- You have the time and flexibility to learn how to plan and cook a healthy, balanced diet for yourself (or at least the time to pick out some multivitamins that might work better for you) and don’t need an instant solution to your lack of vitamins/minerals.
- What should you do, then? Do some research into healthy eating. A good place to get some inspiration is r/healthyfood on Reddit, but there are thousands of resources easily accessible via search engine.
Athletic Greens is a decent greens powder–and can help meet daily vitamin and mineral needs–but it’s not likely to be the best option for most customers. The high price point and lack of balanced ingredients mean it is only best for those with a lot of money and not a lot of time. Anyone not in that category could likely do better with an alternative strategy for nutritional balance–whether that be another, less expensive, product or an entirely different health strategy altogether.