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Athletic Greens Review: Why We're Unimpressed

Athletic Greens Review: Why We're Unimpressed


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Athletic Greens makes superfood powder that they claim provides “convenient daily nutrition”. The product is expensive and the brand is positioned as premium.

In this article we’ll review the ingredients in Athletic Greens AG1 based on medical research to determine if it’s as nutritious as the brand claims. We’ll also compare the product to alternative superfood powder brands like Ka’Chava, and highlight some issues we have with their vitamin and mineral blend and health claims.

Comically Unscientific Absorption Health Claim

Athletic Greens health claims

Athletic Greens’ homepage proudly states that their product is “better than pills and capsules” because when you mix it with water, it’s more efficiently absorbed by the body.

Not only is this claim uncited, but it makes no logical sense. Their product is not superior to other products because they tell you to take water with it. You could also take water with supplements if you so choose, but we haven’t come across any medical research suggesting this improves absorption.

Unnecessary Vitamin & Mineral Blend

Since Athletic Greens is a high-priced superfood powder, consumers would expect that all of the vitamins and minerals in the blend are naturally occurring from the various ingredients, but instead Athletic Greens adds vitamins and minerals to their formulation, which we believe to be unnecessary and potentially harmful.

There is no proven benefit to random blends of added vitamins and minerals; with these compounds it’s not “the more the better” (unless achieved from whole foods), and this is well-established in medical research.

As this extensive review published in the International Journal of Preventive Medicine detailed, nearly all clinical research on multivitamins has found them to provide no health benefit on average, and may even “slightly increase the risk of cancer and cardiovascular diseases.”

Americans consume so many foods fortified with synthetic vitamins that the aggregate vitamin intake may push some consumers’ blood levels of various vitamins and minerals into suboptimal range. This is why we always recommend that consumers avoid multivitamins or products with added vitamins and minerals, and instead get regular blood panels at a doctor’s office and only supplement in a targeted manner if the data shows it’s necessary.

Athletic Greens does appear to use high-quality forms of the added vitamins they include, such as methylcobalamin for Vitamin B12 and magnesium glycinate (which we highlighted as a well-absorbed form in our magnesium review), but we’re genuinely surprised at this aspect of their formulation and would be curious to read an explanation of why they included so many added vitamins and minerals, especially considering the brand isn’t positioned as a multivitamin.

Ingredient Review

Aside from the vitamin and mineral blend, Athletic Greens AG1 does contain a wide variety of different plant compounds. We counted 46 different botanical compounds or derivatives, along with 2 probiotics.

We know from medical studies that optimal dietary diversity is essential for healthy gut function, and that many Americans today fail to eat a wide breadth of different types of produce, so the inclusion of so many plant compounds (even at low individual doses) is definitely a benefit to most consumers.

Athletic Greens does appear to be well-formulated in regards to nutrition, with many of the botanicals included backed by research. Spirulina is the first-listed ingredient in the Superfood Complex, and it has been shown to have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and gut-restoring properties in clinical studies.

Wheat grass powder is another ingredient from that same blend, and it’s shown to contain various minerals, enzymes and phytochemicals that contribute positively to human health. The linked study suggests wheat grass is an optimally nourishing food product.

The probiotic strain selections made by Athletic Greens are somewhat strange to us.

We can’t locate a single clinical trial suggesting that Bifidobacterium strain Bb-10 has any proven health benefit. Strain Bb-12 seems to be much better-studied.

The only study we could find on Lactobacillus acidophilus strain La-01 was a test tube study suggesting the probiotic may “inhibit cell invasion by enterovirulent bacteria”, which is a good thing but probably not the main concern of potential Athletic Greens customers.

Both probiotics used come from very common genera of probiotics, so we have no concerns over their safety, we’re just more confused about the specific strains chosen. This strikes us as the type of ingredient inclusion that helps fill out a Supplement Facts label and looks impressive, but doesn’t seem to provide much tangible benefit (though supplemental probiotics can be beneficial for those eating a poor diet).

The final ingredient we want to highlight is natural flavor. This term is a broad categorization that encompasses a wide variety of chemicals. Because this descriptor doesn’t indicate which chemicals are actually used, we never recommend products containing natural flavor as an additive ingredient, because without knowing the actual chemicals used for the flavoring we cannot determine if those chemicals are safe.

We find the Supplement Facts label of Athletic Greens AG1 to be somewhat underwhelming. It does contain a wide variety of botanical ingredients and it’s likely to be a net positive for the average consumer, but the inclusion of natural flavor, the probiotic strain selection and the added vitamins and minerals make this a product we wouldn’t recommend (especially given the price).

Lack of Published Third-Party Test Results

Athletic Greens is NSF Certified for Sport; an independent testing standard that confirms label accuracy, product purity and lack of added contaminants such as banned substances.

It’s a good sign that Athletic Greens went the extra step to pursue this certification, but we’d also suggest that the company publish the test results proving the quality of their product. If you have the data, why not share it?

We believe it would be valuable to consumers to have access to the test results themselves, and if the company is spending significant amounts to achieve certifications they may as well publish the results in the interest of transparency.

Athletic Greens Vs. Ka’Chava 

We previously reviewed another popular superfood powder on Illuminate Health called Ka’Chava. We recommended avoiding the brand due to vitamin and mineral additions and the inclusion of raw maca powder which is difficult to digest.

We would recommend Athletic Greens over Ka’Chava due to a lack of potentially discomforting ingredients, and an increased diversity of ingredients. It’s also a plus that Athletic Greens has the NSF Certified for Sport certification while Ka’Chava has no similar certifications.

That being said, it’s a small difference and we wouldn’t recommend either brand.

Athletic Greens Vs. Beyond Greens

Beyond Greens is a more direct competitor to Athletic Greens, as they're both botanical-based green powders.

We would again recommend Athletic Greens over Beyond Greens, due to the ingredient diversity (Beyond Greens barely has over 10 active ingredients) and the certification.

The NSF certification becomes particularly important when a product contains certain botanicals like spirulina, which is very healthy but often contaminated with various toxins if it’s grown in uncontrolled conditions. Chlorella (an ingredient in Beyond Greens) falls in this category too.

Better Alternative Supergreens Product

For consumers with high discretionary income who like the convenience of a green powder, we would recommend Amazing Grass Greens Blend over Athletic Greens.

We want to note that we have no commercial affiliation with Amazing Grass and receive no compensation for recommending them.

The Amazing Grass product contains no added vitamins and minerals, no “natural flavor”, and is about one-third of the price ($32.99 for 30 similarly-sized servings to Athletic Greens at the time of writing).

Stay up-to-date on our research reviews

Conclusion

We find Athletic Greens to have a relatively underwhelming formulation for the price they’re charging, and we don’t recommend the product.

Athletic Greens unnecessarily adds vitamins and minerals to their powder, includes probiotics of questionable efficacy and includes natural flavor. While the formulation is varied and nutritious otherwise, we don’t believe it’s worth the price.

We also would urge Athletic Greens to publish the independent testing data proving their product is low in contaminants and accurately labeled. We do believe they have this data because of the NSF-certification, so it would be great if they shared it with consumers (and researchers like us).

While we found Athletic Greens to have a superior formulation to Ka’Chava and Beyond Greens, we would recommend Amazing Grass Greens Blend as our top supergreens product because of its clean formulation and affordable price.





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