Athletic Greens Review: Is It Life-Threatening?

Jessica Lewis
September 11, 2017

AthtleticGreens is a powdered nutritional supplement, almost wholly plant-based (no toxins or ingredients of animal origin), which should have a three-pronged effect on multiple systems of your body, not just digestive – providing extensive nourishment through its impressive content of vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients; improving digestion and thus a better absorption of these and other nutrients; working at a micro-level through directly delivering the nutrients to the cells.

Powdered dietary supplements, also known as green drinks or superfood drinks, have definitely caught the eyes of consumers in the past few years, their popularity being a phenomenon in constant expansion and, for sheer numbers, in 2013 the market for green drinks surpassing the $1 billion mark, and no downward trends have been identified since then.

In this review, we aim to provide you with a comprehensive analysis of one of the best known green drinks, or superfood cocktail as its eponymous manufacturer labels it, AthleticGreens. It is a supplement with quite a bit of history (entering its second decade on the market), an established star in the green drinks niche. We will start off by summarizing the product’s official description, trying to look for slight contradictions or other potential warning signs, and with key information about the manufacturing company.

Then we will peer at the ingredients that make up this premium superfood with particular attention given to the dosages, although with 75 ingredients listed on the label, we will be concentrating on the most important ones, and particularly the large nutritional groups. In the final section, we will draw on relevant information from the current body of reviews (which is impressive in its size) which, along with arguments we have outlined in the previous sections, will hopefully take us to a pertinent verdict in the case of AtleticGreen’s feasibility.

Official Description and Manufacturing Company

The broad-spectrum recipe contains 75 different ingredients and is supposed to help everyone with nutritional deficiencies. The main presupposition the official presentation makes is that modern life leaves every individual with these shortcomings. A careful analysis to find where these deficiencies lie is a tiresome and unreliable business, and even then we cannot rely on modern food to actually cover them. The superfood cocktail that is AthleticGreens is like an extensive course of antibiotic in the case of a generalized infection; therefore the consumer should feel a perceivable difference after about five days.

The people at AthleticGreens argue that those who already take multiple different supplements should consider their green drink as an all-encompassing dietary boost, because with just 30 seconds at the beginning of each day one can get all their extra nutrition without the efforts of considering each different product’s effects and possible interactions. Plus, it tastes delicious, mildly sweet without the help of artificial sweeteners or other preservatives.

One totally conjectural (and one of the most brazen selling pitches ever encountered) argument made by those who promote this superfood powder is to consider a separate supplement containing a separate ingredient in their recipe and arriving at the conclusion that the cost of a single serving of Athletic Greens by way of other products would cost over $400. As we have mentioned money, this supplement comes at a hefty price, with a standard trial supply of 30 servings, a month’s stock, costing $77.

The power food cocktail is the result of ten years of arduous research, and their official website cites the testimonials of four successful people in all walks of life – a famous author of self-help books, a veteran of the war in Afghanistan, a cancer survivor turned amateur athlete, and a professional model – as to the long-lasting benefits that AthleticGreens has brought to their lives.

A bothersome inconsistency lies in the “Reasons of Development” section on the official website. Written in the form of an uninspired coming-of-age story, Athletic Greens seems to have been developed when New Zealander entrepreneur and health specialist Chris “the Kiwi” (as if he does not possess a last name, upon further inquiry we found out it was Ashden) concluded that his body did not absorb nutrients at a satisfactory level. From this section (and from other websites) we learn that the supplement (and Chris Ashden’s involvement) dates back from 2009, although there is irrefutable evidence that the green drink was launched in late 2006, and there is no mention whatsoever of a reshuffling of the ingredients. Furthermore, “the Kiwi” is supposed to hold a Ph.D., yet no professional biography is to be found anywhere on the web.

That being said, the product indeed is manufactured in New Zealand, in a facility that officially sanctioned. There is a detailed description of the process of quality control each batch of AthleticGreens goes through, and the public is assured that every distributor of the product is carefully screened beforehand to avoid possible shady practices.

Moving on to the institutional dimension, let us start by mentioning that each major “region” has its own dedicated website. The information we have used until now is present on the US-dedicated website. The contact details available on this website is limited to a phone number, e-mail address, a mail address from Nevada, and the address for returning products in Aston, Delaware County, Pennsylvania.

On this particular website, there is a section with a form for those who wish to become affiliates and promote Athletic Greens online. There are numerous (too many to count or list) affiliate websites, most of them purporting to be genuine reviews. Yet this is to be expected, for a product that has been on the market this long. The style of these affiliate website is far too obvious, and anyone with a little web experience can spot them a mile away. At least they do not shy away from recognizing they endorse the practice.

The real problems have more to do with the fact that there are no statements about how the product is shipped from New Zealand to the US. Moreover, in the product description it is stated that they exceed FDA guidelines in the manufacturing process; however, the disclaimer “FDA not approved” can be found on every page of the site.

When we consider other green pastures, an interesting fact arises when we take a look at Europe. AthleticGreens has a European website in English, doubled by separate websites for the UK, Germany, France, and Spain, each mirror images of the main website. Judging by the design and overall quality of the site, it seems that the European market is more important to the company than the American one.

First of all, the brand sells more products in Europe – in addition to the prototypal green drink, one may also purchase an individual AthleticGreens pack dedicated concocted just for travelers, a liquid D3 and K vitamin supplement, an omega-3 fish oil supplement, and a vanilla flavored whey protein one.

Furthermore, there is quite an extended blog section, authored by Chris “the Kiwi”, dealing with various health tips and techniques, with over 70 posts, although there are inconsistencies about the dates of the articles.

The price for the AthleticGreens in Europe was equivalent to the $97 approximately for late 2016, not being adjusted for the recent slight decline of the euro, a 30-day supply costing €87. As is the case for the US, the contact information consists of a mail and e-mail address plus a phone number.

We have seen that AthleticGreens is promoted through well-written, convincing if somewhat inconsistent copy, with one or two instances of the ridiculous. There are numerous differences between the United States and Europe, with the latter clearly the more effort-worthy market, yet a big similarity exists – the average customer will probably never be able to bring legal action against an opaque company if he or she desires. Let us move on to the analysis of the ingredients.

The Recipe

The 75 ingredients in AthleticGreens constitute a recipe meant to nurture your body with a portion equivalent to 12 servings of vegetables, improve the digestive function so that the body can actually absorb the impressive amount of nutrients, which includes the neutralization of the body’s acidic pH often caused by modern lifestyles and diets. One serving per day is recommended, meaning a heaped teaspoon or 12 grams.


On the official website, the ingredients are grouped into five categories. In the descending order of their number of ingredients, they are:

  • The actual superfood complex which provides nutritional support and is supposed to have the alkaline effect – 25 ingredients.
  • The vitamins and minerals complex – 22 ingredients.
  • The antioxidant group, comprised of herbs and other natural extracts – 17 components.
  • Enzymes that promote digestion and mushroom powder – 5 entries.
  • Probiotic strains – 2 components.

This all sounds really well thought out and remarkable, but there is always a catch. The vast majority of supplement manufacturers exploit the fact that many of the ingredients in their recipes (particularly the “special, revolutionary” ingredients) do not have a universally accepted daily recommended value, so they merely mention that said compound is part of the said supplement, mentioning just the total mass of all components. This is also the case with AthleticGreens which states the total mass of each individual group (though not of each ingredient within that group), except for the vitamins and minerals, whose values are listed separately.

Let us now move on to the analysis of each group, highlighting what is especially relevant for it, because scrutinizing each component could be the purpose of only the most academic of reviews.

THE SUPERFOOD COMPLEX, made up of 25 ingredients amounting to 8453 mg, impresses at first as it definitely is a long list, however, most ingredients are found in other green supplements; therefore the bragging rights have expired. That being said, AthleticGreens is among the first superfood green supplements out there so at the moment of its conception the statements may well have been true. Interesting compounds found in this group include:

  • Wheatgrass powder – the main ingredient amount-wise, is so popular among healthy eating aficionados that many people actually grow their own. It has no scientifically proven health benefits, except the dietary fiber, it brings to the table.
  • Extract of cocoa beans – as cocoa is intimately related to coffee, the active substance in cocoa beans – theobromine – has about the same effects. It is also similar in effect to green tea extract, although much less potent.
  • Alfalfa – a herb used for centuries in traditional medicine, it can increase the frequency of urination.
  • Fruit extracts – bilberry, Goji, apple, pineapple, cherry, grapeseed, and ginger. These powders provide an increase in antioxidants intake. However, the jury is still out if extracts or powders have even a significant fraction of the antioxidant effect that the consumption of whole, raw fruit does.
  • Vegetable powders – here we encounter the usual suspects like carrot, broccoli, spinach, and beetroot. Also, we have licorice, dandelion, and kelp. All of these have significant benefits when studied individually, in significant amounts over relevant periods of time.

THE ANTIOXIDANT GROUP would seem to be superfluous considering the significant input from some of the ingredients in the previously mentioned group; however, it comprises another 17 compounds amounting to 3659 mg. The most talked about ingredient here is stevia extract, which is a natural sweetener, which contributes to the pleasant taste of AthleticGreens, a trait that definitely separates this particular green supplement from other less-than-appealing products on the market. Other noteworthy extracts which have proven their worth, scientifically or merely speculatively, are Withania Somnifera, milk thistle, Rhodiola Rosea, pea protein isolate or hawthorn extract.

ENZYMES AND MUSHROOM POWDER – all of the ingredients (amounting to 233 mg) in this particular group are aimed at boosting the digestive function. Bromelain is supposed to be the key component here, extracted from pineapple; it has a variety of applications in folk medicine, thought to improve digestion, although the only scientific application relates to the speedier recovery of burnt tissue. Extracts of astralagus root, burdock root, reishi and shitake mushrooms are thought to improve constipation symptoms and cholesterol levels, though these hypotheses have never been proven.

THE TWO PROBIOTIC STRAINS present in AthleticGreens are the widely-used Bifidobacterium Bifidum and Lactobacillus Acidophilus. They are the best researched and their presence is ubiquitous in almost any probiotic supplement. That being said, the low CFU-count (colony forming units) of just 3.6 billion per serving is doubtful to make much impact on a damaged gastrointestinal flora.

12 grams of this green cocktail contains 22 essential vitamins and minerals. They are listed on the label with the daily recommended value also mentioned. The supplement contains at least 100 percent of that value in the cases of vitamin C (700 %), vitamin E (over 300 %), vitamin K2, vitamin B1 (almost 200 %), vitamin B2, vitamin B6, folate, vitamin B12 (almost 500 %), and zinc. Now having a vitamin boost every once in a while certainly has its benefits, yet bombarding the bloodstream with seven times the recommended amount of vitamin C, every day for a month, certainly can have its harmful effects, and could benefit only elite athletes.

Body of Reviews and Our Verdict

Before we get to the general vibe the current body of reviews suggests, we should state that nowhere on the official website or affiliate sites does it state that the best way to get one’s nutrients is still the old-fashioned balanced diet. According to Kathleen Zelman, the long-standing director of nutrition at WebMD, the most one can get out of dietary supplements is a filling. The smartest way of using supplements is to begin by monitoring your regular diet carefully, find out what it is lacking, maybe consult some reliable statistics into the dietary habits of people in your region, and only then resort to supplements to fill the nutritional gaps.

Getting back to AthleticGreens  reviews, there certainly are some peculiarities in comparison with your average dietary supplements. Most supplements, affiliates and purposeful bad press aside, have balanced reviews, that may occasionally touch upon the extremes while most of them garner constant high score, constant bad scores or mediocre scores.

AthleticGreens invariably gets glowing or scathing reviews. There simply is no middle ground when it comes to this supplement. While there certainly is no doubt that the actual formula does have some potential since its launch date most green supplements have followed suit or have surpassed it. Nevertheless, the formula has never been in doubt.

Even the most glowing reviews, when opting for slight criticism to provide the air of objectivity, comment on the institutional shadiness of the manufacturing company, a point we have discussed at length in the first section of this review.

Other than that, the price is always a factor. The simple reality is that AthleticGreens is way too expensive at more than $3 per serving, something that cannot be overlooked by anyone. The hefty price trumps the potential benefits it may bring to the table (though far from a certainty). Some trusted review sites even suggest that there are possible side effects (not to be excluded, as a result of over-vitaminization), therefore the price tag is totally unjustified.