As a Registered Dietitian, one of the most common questions I get is, “Are greens powder worth the money?”. This Athletic Greens review goes into detail about what the science says about greens powder and what the benefits and downsides are.
I personally have not tried Athletic Greens, mostly due to the hefty price, so this review is based on the claims made on the website, the ingredients and nutrients in the product and what the science says about all of it.
To sum it up, taste is not a factor in this review. And honestly, how good the greens powder tastes is based on personal preference, so I couldn’t tell you if you’d like the taste even if I have tried it!
As usual, I’ll be backing up any claims I make with research, so if you are interested in diving deeper into the research, click the links I’ve sprinkled throughout the article.
Is there any science behind Athletic Greens?
Ok, to start off the review, I thought it would be good to go over each of the claims that are posted on the website. I’ve listed each of them below and provided some information on why I agree or don’t agree with the claims made. You can find each of these claims on the Athletic Greens website.
Claim #1: Boosts energy
The first claim is that Athletic Greens boost your energy. Specifically they say it will help keep your energy steady throughout the day and improve absorption of nutrients. So, is this true?
Athletic Greens contain a variety of vitamins that aid in nutrient absorption and the production of energy in the body. For example, vitamin C helps the body absorb more iron and B vitamins are essential when it comes to breaking down macronutrients into energy.
Considering this, yes the nutrients present in Athletic Greens will aid in producing energy, so this claim is correct.
But, that being said. You can easily get these nutrients from a balanced and varied diet. One cup of orange juice contains over 100% of your daily needs for vitamin C. Three ounces of ground beef contains over 100% of your daily needs for vitamin B12.
So, while this greens powder could be helpful if you don’t eat a very nutrient dense diet, these extra vitamins aren’t going to provide much additional benefit if your diet is already good. Plus, you can always opt for a multivitamin instead, which is much cheaper.
Claim #2: Helps recovery
The next claim is that Athletic Greens will aid in recovery, mostly due to the antioxidants, adaptogens and superfoods. So let’s look deeper into the claim.
The calcium and potassium present in the greens powder can absolutely aid in recovery since they are electrolytes. They play a huge role in muscle and nerve function and are important to replenish after an intense workout.
In the whole foods section, they claim that carrots and hawthorn berries have a role in recovery due to their antioxidant properties. These foods are both high in antioxidants and there is research to suggest antioxidants are important for recovery.
That being said, most of the research has been done using green tea, tart cherry juice and leafy greens and there are some negative side effects of consuming too many antioxidants, especially vitamin C and E.
As for the adaptogens, they claim astragalus, beet powder, milk thistle and policosanol can aid in recovery. Unfortunately, there isn’t too much research on adaptogens in general, so it’s hard to agree with or refute these claims.
What we do know is that astragalus may lower risk of upper respiratory tract infections in children and beetroot can help improve exercise performance. Research is unclear about policosanol’s effect on cholesterol.
As for milk thistle, while it’s commonly touted as beneficial for liver function, research has been rather conflicting and poor quality, so we don’t know for sure if it has a positive or negative effect on liver health.
In general, some of the nutrients in the greens powder have been shown to aid in recovery. As for the others, we still need more research to confirm these claims.
Claim #3: Aids digestion
Next, they claim bromelain, apple, artichoke, papaya, probiotics and prebiotics, burdock, dandelion, ginger, licorice, rosehips and slippery elm can aid in digestion.
There has been some research to suggest bromelain is helpful for digestive problems, but not enough research to confirm this claim. On the other hand, the enzyme papain in papaya has been used as a meat tenderizer for years and has been shown to help break down proteins.
Apples and artichokes contain prebiotics, which feed the good bacteria in your gut and can help improve gut health and digestion, though it’s unclear if a small dose (such as in this greens powder) will provide any significant benefits.
Athletic Greens contain the probiotics Bifidobacterium Bifidum and Lactobacillus Acidophilus, both of which have been shown to improve IBS symptoms. The greens powder also contains the prebiotic, inulin, which has been shown to improve digestive health. This prebiotic can also be found in asparagus, onion, wheat, garlic, oats, soybeans and artichokes.
As for the adaptogens, there hasn’t been much human research done on a majority of the ingredients. But, there is some promising research suggesting licorice and ginger can be very helpful for digestion.
Overall, there are some ingredients in the greens powder that can aid digestion, but many of these benefits can be observed by consuming a balanced and varied diet full of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and probiotic foods like yogurt and kimchi.
Claim #4: Supports immunity
On to the last claim. Do Athletic Greens support your immunity? Well, according to the website, there are a variety of vitamins, minerals, whole foods and adaptogens that contribute to improved immunity.
In the vitamin and mineral category, they mention vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin E, vitamin K2, selenium and zinc all play a part in immunity. There is good evidence to suggest all of these nutrients play a huge role in the immune system.
To elaborate, those who are deficient in these micronutrients are at higher risk for infection that those who aren’t. So supplementing with these nutrients can be beneficial if you aren’t getting enough of them through your current diet, but it’s unclear if supplementing with these nutrients when you aren’t deficient provides any additional benefits.
In the whole foods category, they mention acerola, alfalfa, artichoke, barley grass, bilberry, bioflavonoids, broccoli flower, carrots, hawthorn berry, lycium berry, pineapple and spinach can improve immunity. A majority of these claims are based on the high antioxidant capabilities of these foods along with a high micronutrient content.
There is evidence to suggest that antioxidants can help improve immunity, so these ingredients could potentially aid in immunity. That being said, whole foods are always the best option and you will consume more antioxidants by adding more fruits and vegetables to your diet compared to adding a greens powder.
As for the adaptogens category, as mentioned in the previous claims, there isn’t too much human research on these ingredients so I can’t say anything for sure. What we do know is that ashwagandha may be helpful at reducing stress, eleuthero may help reduce genital herpes outbreaks, grape seed extract may help reduce LDL cholesterol and stress and green tea may improve cholesterol and blood pressure.
Overall, these ingredients may help improve immunity but there is no strong evidence to support these claims.
Are Athletic Greens a good replacement for a multivitamin?
It really depends. Athletic Greens contain a wide variety of micronutrients that can help prevent deficiencies. So if you like the greens powder and have found they work well for you, you can use them as a replacement for a multivitamin.
But, if you are on a budget or just looking to save money, I would definitely recommend sticking with a multivitamin. I personally love Nature Made’s multivitamin (affiliate link) along with Ritual’s multivitamin.
The Ritual multivitamin costs about $30 per month and the Nature Made multivitamin costs about $25 for 300 vitamins, which comes out to about $2.40 per month. Both of these are much cheaper options compared to the Athletic Greens powder and provide fairly similar micronutrient profiles.
Along with this, if you are eating a balanced and varied diet containing fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein and dairy products or calcium fortified products, you likely don’t need a multivitamin. In some cases, adding on an additional multivitamin or greens powder can bring you over the recommended upper limit for some micronutrients.
Are Athletic Greens FDA approved?
Athletic Greens are not FDA approved, as most supplements are not. But, they are made in a TGA regulated facility and are NSF certified, both of which help ensure the supplement is safe and the nutrition label is accurate.
In general, I wouldn’t worry too much about the product not being FDA approved since it has been approved by a third party certification with a good reputation.
Downsides and side effects of Athletic Greens
Now that we’ve discussed the potential benefits of Athletic Greens powder, let’s discuss some potential downsides and side effects you may experience.
The first thing to consider is potentially consuming over the upper limit of certain vitamins and minerals. If you already consume a nutrient rich diet and are taking a multivitamin or other vitamin supplement, you are particularly at risk for this.
If you are taking a daily multivitamin, I recommend choosing one or the other (multivitamin or the greens powder). If you do choose the greens powder, the only thing I would recommend taking in addition is a vitamin D supplement, especially if you are deficient or live in an area that doesn’t get much sun.
It’s also important to look into the safety of the adaptogens in the greens powder. We often think because something is natural, it’s automatically safe, but this isn’t always the case. The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health has a great database discussing the benefits and potential side effects of a variety of herbs and natural remedies.
The biggest downside, in my opinion, is the cost of Athletic Greens powder. $100 a month is an incredibly steep price for a supplement. If you have the extra money to spend and find you feel better when taking the greens powder, go for it. But, if you are on a budget and purchasing this greens powder every month becomes a financial burden, try purchasing a multivitamin instead.
Good alternatives to Athletic Greens
The best alternative to Athletic Greens is a nutrient dense diet and a good quality multivitamin. Simple as that! Plus, if you are consuming a well balanced diet, you probably don’t even need a multivitamin.
So what do I mean by a “balanced diet”? Well, you should be consuming a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins and dairy products or calcium fortified alternatives. Having these foods in your diet ensures you are covering all your nutritional needs and preventing deficiencies.
You should also try to consume foods high in probiotics for gut health, including yogurt, kimchi, kombucha, sauerkraut and miso, as well as foods high in prebiotics such as artichoke, garlic, onion, asparagus, banana, oats, apples, cocoa and flaxseeds.
As for the adaptogens in Athletic Greens, ashwagandha, ginger, beet powder and green tea have been shown to possibly have a positive impact on health, but we simply don’t have enough research on the other adaptogens to make any guarantees.
You can also include more ginger, beets (especially beet juice) and green tea in your current diet to reap some of the benefits. You don’t need to get them from a greens powder!
Dietitian's Opinion: Are Athletic Greens worth it?
Overall, I would not recommend purchasing Athletic Greens powder, especially if you are on a budget and already eat a nutrient rich diet.
That being said, if you have tried Athletic Greens, feel better when taking it and have the disposable income to purchase it every month, then you shouldn’t feel like you need to stop.
In the end, you can get many of the benefits of taking a greens powder by eating a nutrient rich diet. If you need a supplement to “fill in the gaps”, I recommend trying out a good quality multivitamin before diving in and purchasing a greens powder.
While Athletic Greens can provide some benefits, it’s probably not worth $100 a month. Focusing on making impactable changes in your diet, including eating more fruits and vegetables, choosing mostly whole grains over refined grains, choosing lower fat meats, eating more high calcium foods, reducing added sugar intake and drinking more water will make a much bigger difference than adding greens powder to your diet.