It seems that all shakes claim to contain super-foods! While that may be true, what isn't always clear is whether the shake is a supplement or a meal replacement. I have been considering trying Athletic Greens. It is a new shake that has garnered a lot of attention. It claims to be trusted by professional athletes & top performers. So I am interested but have one question? Is Athletic Greens a supplement or meal replacement?

Athletic Greens is a nutritional shake and not a meal replacement. It doesn't contain adequate calories or protein to replace a meal. The 75 ingredients in the shake include minerals and super-foods that support immunity and digestion. It also provides energy and helps your body recover from exercise.

There is a lot of confusion on the internet around nutritional shakes versus meal replacements. Many sites confuse the two and claim that a nutritional shake and a meal replacement are the same; that is not accurate. Keep reading to learn the difference between the two.

Is Athletic Greens a Meal Replacement?

Athletic Greens’ website is somewhat coy about that. Their Logo is “The Daily Drink for a Healthier You.” And they tout their product has 75 super-foods, probiotics, minerals, and other good stuff..

Meal Replacement_Shakes

Look closely, and you can find hints that Athletic Greens thinks of itself as a nutritional supplement, not a meal replacement product. Before looking at those hints, let's explore the difference between the two.

What Is the Difference Between a Meal Replacement and a Supplement?

Many people are confused about the difference between the two, but the distinction is very important. This is especially true for someone trying to manage their weight. Even though supplements usually have fewer calories, using them to manage your weight can lead to weight gain.

Groups like the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and the European Food Safety Authority have established these criteria as essential to meal replacements:

  • 200-250 calories
  • Protein should be 25% to 50% of total calories
  • Less than 30% should be fat
  • Vitamins and Minerals should equal at least 30% of the daily recommended allowance

These are the related Athletic Greens Supplements Facts per serving:

  • 50 calories
  • 2 grams protein
  • 0 grams fat
  • With a few exceptions, most vitamins and minerals are well over 30%. Many of them meet or exceed the Daily Allowance

With so few calories and no fats, Athletic Greens shakes should be an ideal meal replacement, right? Except they are not because of what they lack—fibre and adequate protein.

Why Are Fibre and Protein Essential for a Meal Replacement?

A meal replacement shake is excellent for busy people who don't have time to make a meal. People who manage their weight can also benefit from replacement shakes. This is because the shakes have adequate fibre and protein.

Fibre fills your stomach. The full stomach triggers receptors, and they signal to your brain that you have eaten enough. Since fibre slows down food as it passes through the digestive system, it slows your body's glucose absorption. Finally, fibre increases how much liquid you need to move your food through your digestive system.

Meal Replacement_Fibre

Like fibre, protein makes you feel fuller, and it takes longer to digest. This is true for both animal and plant proteins. Soy-based protein has one advantage over animal protein—it is a source of fibre.

Athletic Greens contain the same amount of fibre as protein—2 grams. This is not enough for a meal replacement.

What About the Low Calories and Lack of Fat?

Reducing calories is vital for weight gain but reducing them too much prevents weight loss. To offset the lack of calories, your metabolism will change. Hormones such as cortisol, which control hunger, will increase to force you to eat more. If that is not bad enough, your resting metabolic rate drops to cope with the lack of calories.

A very low-calorie diet (under 1,200 calories) tends to create weight cycling. This pattern of losing weight and then regaining it is discouraging. It can also lead to diabetes and eating disorders.

Diets that have too little fat ignore the fact that our bodies need it. Along with fibre and protein, fats make us feel full. Fats help our bodies absorb fat-soluble vitamins, such as vitamins A, D, and E. A diet that lacks fats leads to hormonal imbalances, insulin resistance, and weight gain.

Since Athletic Greens contains too little calories, protein, and fats, the shakes are not considered meal replacements.

What Are Athletic Greens Shakes?

Since they are not meal replacements, what kind of shakes Athletic Greens?

They are not protein shakes for the simple fact that they do not have enough protein. A protein shake typically contains 25 to 30 grams (0.88 to 1.06 ounces) of protein, not the 2 grams (0.07 ounce) in an Athletic Greens shake.

Since they are definitely not milkshakes, there is one other possibility—nutritional shakes. These shakes are not meal replacements but provide essential vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients. This is exactly what Athletics Greens shakes provide.

What Nutrients Do Athletic Greens Shakes Contain?

Athletic Greens contains 75 different ingredients, a claim they are proud of. It’s the first thing you see when you go to their site and what they feature throughout the site. So what are those nutrients?

The company divides its nutrients into five categories:

  • Probiotics to support your immune system
  • Vitamins and minerals
  • Super-food antioxidants formula
  • Herbs and plant extracts to supplement vitamins
  • Enzymes to improve nutrient absorption

Next, they list each ingredient, its purpose, and how it works—all 75—if you are up to reading about them. Most shake manufacturers have lists that include their proprietary blends. These are the ingredients they claim to make their product unique. Athletic Greens is one of the few companies that does not hide its ingredients that way.

To give you an idea of the kind of information the company provides, these are a few examples of lesser-known ingredients and the benefits they provide: 

Ingredient

Function

Benefit

Beet Powder

Supports recovery

The compounds in beets support blood sugar and cardiovascular health.

Bilberry

Supports immunity

Bilberry contains tannin's to help protect antioxidants, and historically it has been associated with eye health

CoQ10

Supports energy

This enzyme is a fat-soluble molecule found in most body tissues and helps with fatigue and boosts athletic performance.

Magnesium Glycinate

Supports energy

It helps the body maintain blood sugar levels and eases muscle cramps.

Reishi Mushroom

Supports immunity

Its bio-active compounds work with other ingredients that boost immunity.

Slippery Elm

Supports digestion

This plant-based compound is a digestive aid.

If you are interested in seeing the entire list, it is available on their ingredients page. You will get the same kind of information for each of the 75 ingredients, including Policosanol (it helps control cholesterol).

Why Not Buy Vitamins Instead?

Athletic Greens are not cheap. The company has two pricing tiers—a monthly subscription or a one-time purchase. Currently, one-time purchase for 30 servings is $97. For a monthly subscription, the 12.7-ounce pouch costs $77.

If you buy Athletic Greens monthly, the servings cost $3.25 a day, but the subscription brings the price down to approximately $2.50 a day.

Meal Replacement_Vitamins

There are two reasons you might want to invest in the nutritional shakes:

  • Convenience - Mixing up a single shake with 75 nutrients is more convenient than taking several vitamin pills or running out of one early  
  • Saves Money - Vitamins can also be expensive. A product like MegaFood One Daily has 30 vitamins and minerals for around $25. And only several ingredients meet the minimum recommended daily allowance. 

Bottom Line

Athletic Greens might be a good option for those who only want a shake that gives an energy boost and adds nutrients to their diet. However, if you want a shake that can provide many of the same nutrients and be a meal replacement, then choose an actual meal replacement shake.

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