'Mud' drinks and 'greens powders' are all over social media. What you need to know.

·5 min read
Dissolve green juice in water
Dissolve green juice in water

If you're on social media, you've likely seen powdered wellness drinks showing up on your feed, from advertisements about energizing "mud" drinks to "greens powders" that claim to enhance your health with every sip. But do they?

While some of these products contain beneficial ingredients, experts say you shouldn't be so quick to grab them.

"While powered wellness drinks are very popular, seem convenient and may be portrayed as being 'healthier' than alternatives, a lot of the time these drinks are purely marketing ploys," says Jenna Litt, a registered dietitian at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York.

There are a few different powdered wellness drinks that have flooded the internet in recent months, including coffee alternative MUD\WTR, which despite its brown color isn't made from mud. Instead it contains mushroom-based adaptogens, cacao powder, herbs and spices and claims to benefit drinkers' "health and performance." There's also influencer-promoted "greens powders" like nutrition supplement Athletic Greens, which claims to squeeze nutrients into a tasty tonic with a simple stir of their powder in water.

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"Drinks like Athletic Greens are designed to show the consumer that they can meet their micronutrient needs in a small volume drink, however, typically that is not the case," Litt explains. "While these drinks may provide additional micronutrients, they are not providing anyone with all of their daily micronutrient needs."

Laura Ligos, a registered dietitian nutritionist and specialist in sports dietetics, also sees many greens powders as an "overpriced marketing ploy."

"If someone is traveling, needs shelf-stable nutrients or has trouble chewing, greens powders could be an option. However, for the average consumer they just need to spend more time on whole foods," she explains.

She wishes more people were willing to prioritize fruit and vegetable intake, which would provide "much more bang for your buck as far as nutrients go."

In a statement to USA TODAY, Chris Ashenden, founder and CEO of Athletic Greens, says he created their flagship productAG1 to fill in the micronutrient gaps in his own diet.

"At Athletic Greens we believe that food is first and know there are no shortcuts to a healthful life. No hacks. Just daily habits compounded for the benefit of our bodies," the statement reads. "Those habits include eating whole foods, exercise and being mindful daily. AG1 compliments and compounds these lifestyle choices with 75 science-backed ingredients including vitamins, minerals, probiotics from whole-food sources."

For anyone lacking in the daily recommended vitamins and minerals, Litt recommends to always choose food first.

"Food is the primary source for a majority of vitamins and minerals," she says, adding many people are able to meet their micronutrient needs via their diet.

"If one has difficulty meeting these micronutrient needs, the first recommendation is usually to start taking a multivitamin and rechecking deficiencies with their physicians as needed," Litt advises.

What about 'mud' drinks?

MUD/WTR is marketed as a coffee alternative, but Ligos points out coffee isn't unhealthy and has health benefits of its own.

"However, caffeine can have negative effects on people's stress response and ability to sleep so I do have many clients who benefit from lowering or eliminating caffeine intake."

Litt explains drinks like MUD\WTR's ":rise" may be considered a "better" choice to some people due to the difference in caffeine content. According to MUD\WTR's website, the drink contains a seventh of the caffeine of a cup of coffee.

Ligos says if someone isn't tolerating caffeine, she'd first want to know why to decide the best alternative.

"Is it because they are overdoing it? Is it because they aren't managing their stress well? Is it because they're not sleeping? We all want a crutch but often it's the basics that need attention," she explains.

For the best energy, Ligos says:

  • get 7 to 9 hours of sleep

  • stay well hydrated

  • get plenty of vitamins and minerals

  • eat enough

  • and manage our stress

"From there, I recommend just moderating caffeine intake or switching to decaf," she adds.

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Are powder supplements safe?

While using these products may seem beneficial, it's always important to check the label, Litt warns.

"Certain vitamins can be toxic if they are consumed in excess. Many of these powdered wellness drinks (if taken in excess), could provide excessive amounts of certain micronutrients, thus increasing risk of possible toxicity," she says.

Ligos notes it's also important to vet greens powder as "many have tested positive for heavy metals."

Many greens powders also use a proprietary blend of ingredients, which means the final amount of certain ingredients is unknown.

Same goes for mud drinks that have adaptogens in them.

"It is unclear how much is in each product, meaning it's hard to know the health benefits," Ligos notes.

If you're still tempted to reach for supplements like these, remember they're not well regulated, so it's important to check if they've been third-party tested. AG1, for example, is third-party tested to ensure there are no unsafe levels of heavy metals or other contaminants.

"This ensures that they are tested for contaminants and that they have what they say they have in the product," Ligos says. And she cautions against buying supplements pushed by your favorite influencers or celebrities.

"What works for them may not work for you and you don't truly know if they are taking it or just getting paid to talk about it."

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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: MUD\WTR, Athletic Greens are popular online. Are they worth it, safe?