Athletic Greens launched in 2010 and quickly grew into one of the best known green superfood powders on the market; if you spend time as much time reading content from internet fitness gurus as we do, there’s a good chance you’ve already heard of them or even read an Athletic Greens review.
The product is particularly well known for being the favorite supplement of entrepreneur god-king Tim Ferriss who has called it his “all-in-one nutritional insurance.” It describes itself as such on the packaging itself, saying it supports energy, immunity, gut health, liver function, hormone function, brain function, and the body’s natural detoxification process. Phew.
Of all the greens powders on the market, Athletic Greens is probably the most talked about, the most beloved, and one of the most expensive.
Sure, it’s got a solid reputation and a lot of big names behind it, plus Athletic Greens’ reddit fanbase is pretty serious, but greens powders as a whole also have a reputation for making big claims without the science to back them up. So let’s take a really close look at Athletic Greens and the very, very detailed nutrition label.
Athletic Greens Nutrition
One heaped tablespoon contains forty calories, 4.8 grams of carbs, 1.9 grams of fiber and 4 grams of protein.
When looking at the micronutrients, there’s an awful lot to talk about. Besides a day’s worth of zinc, 20 percent of your daily manganese and chromium, and 35 percent of your selenium, it doesn’t have a ton of minerals. But the vitamins are another story: 700 percent of your daily Vitamin C, about 100 percent of most B-vitamins, 80 percent of Vitamin A, and over 300 percent of your Vitamin E.
But with greens powders, the real focus tends to be on the ingredients.
Athletic Greens Ingredients
With seventy-five of them, Athletic Greens’ ingredients pack in more than any other greens powder I’ve seen. They’re broken down into four categories:
“Alkaline, Nutrient-Dense, Raw Superfood Complex”
Organic spirulina, lecithin, organic apple powder, inulin, organic wheatgrass juice powder (leaf), organic alfalfa powder (leaf), organic chlorella powder, organic barley leaf powder, carica papaya powder (fruit), pineapple concentrate, bilberry fruit extract, beet root powder, rosehip powder, carrot root powder, spinach leaf powder, cocoa bean polyphenol extract, grapeseed extract, green tea leaf extract, licorice root powder, goji extract, ginger rhizome powder, slippery elm bark powder, kelp powder.
Nutrient Dense Natural Extracts, Herbs, and Antioxidants
Alkaline pea protein isolate, citrus bioflavonoids extract, globe artichoke extract, citric acid, rhodiola rosea extract, eleutherococcus senticosus root extract, gotu kola extract, rosemary extract, milk thistle seed extract, alpha-lipoic acid, ashwaganda root extract, dandelion root extract, hawthorn root extract, beta glucans, policosanol, co-enzyme Q-10, stevia.
Digestive Enzyme & Super Mushroom Complex
Astragalus root extract, bromelain, burdock root powder, reishi mushroom powder, shiitake mushroom powder.
Dairy Free Probiotics
Lactobacillus Acidophilus, Bifidobacterium Bifidum.
Athletic Greens and keto fans should get on just fine, as should vegans, paleo folks, and people with sensitive allergies — there’s no gluten, dairy, corn, egg, peanuts, animal byproducts, lactose, sucrose, dextrose, herbicides, pesticides, GMOs, preservatives, or artificial colors or flavors or sweeteners. There is technically some soy, but they note that it doesn’t contain any trypsin inhibitor or other soy proteins.
(We tried 47 brands: check out our best green superfood powder picks!)
Athletic Greens Health Benefits
So what can you expect all these ingredients to do? When looking at the product’s claims for it to be able to support “energy, immunity, gut health, liver function, hormone function, brain function, and detoxification,” it’s worth remembering that the vitamins and minerals can carry out many of those functions independent of where they originate.
But the ingredients themselves are still pretty interesting and can mostly be broken down into three main categories.
First, let’s talk antioxidants. Probably the main benefit associated with green superfood powders, antioxidants can help to slow certain kinds of cellular damage, meaning that in some respects they can slow the onset of aging.
Some vitamins (A, C, and E) act as antioxidants but many of these ingredients are known for their antioxidant content, particularly the wheatgrass, spirulina, barley leaf, chlorella, cocoa bean polyphenol (think of all those antioxidants dark chocolate is meant to have), green tea leaf extract, and grapeseed extract.
Note that despite the good reputation of the ingredients, Athletic Greens hasn’t actually quantified its antioxidant content relative to, say, a cup of blueberries, which you can do with something called the ORAC score, which isn’t perfect but it’s more useful than nothing. I would have liked to see that here.
The digestive health aspect is also really interesting. The most remarkable component here is the probiotic bacteria, which have been linked to everything from better immunity to lower anxiety. But there’s also prebiotic fiber in the inulin, burdock root, and artichoke leaf, which acts as food for the probiotic bacteria and has also been linked to better digestive health and immunity. Finally there are some digestive enzymes here like bromelain, which may improve nutrient absorption.
Then there are the adaptogens, which may help the body to respond to stress. What’s interesting is that adaptogens help you respond to the stress of a tough day at the office and to the stress of a tough workout and some of the adaptogens here include rhodiola rosea, which may improve endurance and recovery, and reishi mushrooms which have been linked to everything from subjective wellbeing to better immunity, both things that stress can affect. Other adaptogens here include astragalus and ashwaganda, but I should emphasize that these are all proprietary blends — you don’t know how much of each ingredient it contains.
This is the biggest potential issue with the product. Are these ingredients impressive? Yes, but we don’t know the dosages. How strong is the antioxidant effect? How much prebiotic fiber is there? Do the adaptogens reach the doses used in studies?
A common recommendation for astragalus extract, for example, is about 250 milligrams and for reishi mushroom it’s over a gram, but in a scoop of Athletic Greens both of those ingredients are both in the 125-milligram Digestive Enzyme & Super Mushroom Complex, along with several other ingredients. There’s always a chance they work synergistically with all the other adaptogens, but there’s just not enough transparency here for me to know for sure.
With all that said, this remains one of the most nutritious green super food powders I’ve seen as far as micronutrients and probiotics go. For a lot of greens powders, the probiotics and the antioxidant levels are the primary selling point, but Athletic Greens is also a solid replacement for vitamins A, B, C, K2, and zinc supplements. It’s certainly got more bang for your buck than other greens powders I’ve tried.
Most greens powders are terrible, some are OK, but this is the first I’ve ever had where I truly enjoyed it, savoring each sip instead of feeling a need to shotgun it like a freshman drinking beer. The main flavors that come through are pineapple, vanilla, and papaya, though the base of added flavorings also includes cherry powder, carrot, and broccoli.
Unlike a lot of powders, Athletic Greens doesn’t try to smother the bitterness of its ingredients with sweeteners; it also contains notes of ginger, which work alongside the bitterness to make a slightly sweet and spicy beverage that’s actually pretty pleasant.
Compared to most other greens powders, Athletic Greens is expensive. A bag of thirty servings is $97, which makes it $3.23 per serving. Even if you sign up for a subscription package, the price drops to $77 per bag, which is $2.56 per serving.
Compare that with $35 for fifteen servings of Onnit’s Earth Grown Nutrients ($2.30/serve), $30 for 30 servings of Pharma Freak’s Greens Freak ($1/serve), Sunwarrior’s Ormus Super Greens at $50 for ninety servings ($0.55/serve), and $52 for a hundred serves Amazing Grass’s Green Superfood ($0.52/serve).
But none of those products have anywhere near as many vitamins and minerals as Athletic Greens, and they typically contain less than a third as many probiotics. Athletic Greens does indeed function as a supplement for probiotics, antioxidants, vitamin C, B-vitamins, zinc, and K2.
Note that you can also pick up Athletic Greens travel packs, which come in boxes of 20 or 30 single serve pouches. They’re a bit more expensive than getting a big sack of scoopable greens, with the pouches costing between $3.50 and $4 per hit.
This is one of the most nutrient-dense greens powders I’ve tried. It’s not crazy high in minerals like calcium and magnesium, so this shouldn’t replace green vegetables in your diet, but it’s super high in vitamins, seems to contain plenty of antioxidants, and could well have a big impact on digestive health.
I would have really preferred Athletic Greens to have done a better job of quantifying its benefits and stating the doses it uses, plus it’s four times the price of many other greens powders, which could be prohibitive for some consumers.
But if the price is no issue, it could definitely be a convenient source of a lot of essential nutrients, adaptogens, and ingredients for digestive health.