The speed at which science, marketing, and culture move today can be jarring. That experience can cloud a person’s judgment with a hostile skepticism, or maybe just some old-fashioned cynicism. What I’m saying is, greens powders seemed silly to me before I gave them a real shot.
And while not my first greens powder, Athletic Greens—also called AG1—is certainly the most popular brand I’ve given a shake. I tried it for a month to see what the hype was about.
What Is Athletic Greens (AG1)?
Athletic Greens launched in earnest in 2010, but the brand didn’t really make an impact until recently. The product falls into a category called greens powders and is essentially a powdered super vitamin you dump into water and shake up before consuming. Unlike a standard multivitamin, though, the stuff in Athletic Greens is derived mostly from whole foods, and the makeup is far more wide-reaching than a vitamin supplement. More on that shortly.
What’s Good About Athletic Greens?
Truckloads of nutrients
There are 75 vitamins, minerals, and whole food nutrients per daily scoop of AG1. That is a high number. For reference, most of its competition is camped around 40 or so. The most core component of AG1 and indeed other greens powders is typically the antioxidant lineup, which is robust: wheatgrass, barley leaf, grapeseed extract, chlorella, green tea leaf extract, spirulina, cocoa bean polyphenol, and a load of more common vitamins.
It’s true that sheer volume doesn’t mean AG1 is straight-up better than the other greens powders out there, but it’s worth noting that the 35+ extra ingredients in AG1 address a core part of day-to-day health: your gut.
Digestive health focus
It’s somewhat common for a greens powder to contain some prebiotics, or perhaps even a probiotic bacteria—the combination of which keeps your gut and immune systems in good working order. It’s markedly less common to see both in the same product, in addition to a fairly robust collection of digestive enzymes. Altogether AG1’s commitment to improving digestive health is one of its most standout attributes.
Editor’s Note: it’s worth talking to your doctor before taking a digestive health supplement, as not all people will react to added enzymes, probiotics, or prebiotics similarly.
In the name of taste, texture, and shelf stability, greens powders often include any range of non-essential ingredients that exclude a potential customer because of a dietary concern. AG1 is gluten-, dairy-, egg-, and peanut-free. There are no animal byproducts in it. There is no lactose, sucrose, or dextrose in it either. There aren’t any GMOs or preservatives, and there aren’t any sweetening agents.
This means AG1 is paleo-, keto-, and vegan-friendly, and won’t be an issue for folks with food sensitivities or artificial sweetener concerns.
Taste is totally fine
Getting the good stuff into your body is usually not a pleasant experience. One does not look forward to it. One endures it.
AG1 wasn’t so bad, which is to say, relative to its peers, it’s absolutely elite in regards to its palatability. It smells like a vitamin container and has a slight orange-citrus-mineral taste once mixed into the prescribed eight ounces of water. The aftertaste doesn’t completely ruin your morning (the time of day the brand suggests you drink your daily glass) and I generally don’t think it’s any more offensive than a cup of water. I will stop short of calling it a good drink, but it’s not objectionable.
What’s Not Good About Athletic Greens?
More expensive than competition
The best way to measure price in this instance is cost per ounce. If you buy the monthly subscription, AG1 costs $79 every month (30-day supply). While not as robust as AG1’s ingredient rap sheet, the popular Garden of Life greens powder is just $33, and only $22 if you’ve got Amazon Prime. Super Greens, another popular plant-based option, is $29 for a month’s worth of powder.
I have to assume price differences largely come down to ingredient volume and marketing, the latter of which Athletic Greens seems to spend a good chunk on if my social feeds are to be believed.
Doesn’t dissolve easily
I haven’t seen this note on other reviews of AG1, but I had trouble getting the powder to completely dissolve in water. I’m not about to shake a water bottle for ten minutes in the morning (or really any time of the day), but I should think a good minute-long shake would be enough for the powder to dissolve. Alas, it did not. All this really means is you need to give your water bottle a good twirl every few minutes as the powder settles at the bottom. It’s not a big deal, but it was peeving.
Before the first sip
I’ve tried greens powders before and found them neither here nor there. They’re undoubtedly packed with loads of antioxidants, vitamins, and bits and bobs from various foods—but I eat a pretty varied diet with plenty of vegetables, so there isn’t a ton in these greens powders I’m missing on at the outset. For me, Athletic Greens—and its competitors—are more like powdered super vitamins rather than an absolute necessity of my diet.
Athletic Greens is a brand whose success is thanks in some part to its branding. The branding is sharp, the packaging is sturdy, and the product just feels very serious.
You’re meant to drink your glass of AG1 and water in the morning, before you’ve eaten ideally. This is fine for me as I’m prone to chugging a liter of water in the first hour or two of my day as it is (I’m a hot sleeper). The powder turns a glass of water emerald green, but I did notice it doesn’t fully dissolve in the liquid, which can occasionally result in a significant clump of the powder resting in the bottom of the glass. That said, the taste isn’t nearly as bad as I expected. If some other reviews are to be believed drinking AG1 is tantamount to torture. To me it tastes like a vitamin with some citrus undertones—not all that objectionable.
More than a feeling?
One of the more frustrating aspects of reviewing a product as ethereal as a super vitamin is the inability to truthfully identify the effects it may or may not have had. Yes, I put a load of good stuff in my body. No, I don’t feel like a million bucks now. My back is still a little sore, I still get headaches around 4 p.m. each day, and I still get heartburn after most meals. Was AG1 meant to fix those things? Not really, but it stands to reason that, apart from my ailments, my body doesn’t usually feel down in the dumps, so it’s a challenge to say what a couple of months of this pricey powder has changed in me.
There are energy boosters and mood sharpeners in the powder—some functional mushrooms, for instance—and I do typically feel a bit more awake in the mornings between the time I drink my glass of Athletic Greens and pour a cup of coffee, though.
Garden of Life
While AG1 may be the most popular greens powder out there, Garden of Life greens powder is less than half the price and pushes a similar gut focus.
Super Greens is priced similarly to Garden of Life’s powder for a month’s worth of servings, and its ingredients list is very close to mirrored.
If you’re looking for a greens powder with a little added protein, Vital Proteins Collagen Beauty Blend is just under $30 as well and brings 14g of protein per serving to the party (but is not animal-free, if that matters to you).
The Bottom Line
Athletic Greens boasts a sizable collection of vitamins, minerals, and whole foods, and its focus on gut health makes it stand out from the crowd. But its price—roughly twice that of most competitors in this category—makes it a tough sell in head-to-head comparisons with other greens powders.