While the term “Performance Beer” might seem counterintuitive, non-alcoholic beer is an emerging athletic/energy beverage trend – thanks, in large part, to one of its active ingredients: malt.  As health-conscious Americans thirst for functional, natural sports drinks, malt-based beverages can help enhance performance, energy and recovery for everyone from weekend warriors to elite athletes.  

While non-alcoholic beers are gaining traction the U.S. as sports beverages, the trend is already strong in other countries. Notably, it has become the beverage of choice for many Olympic athletes in Germany. Their switch is backed by science: a 2012 study revealed that runners who drank non-alcoholic beer before and after the Munich Marathon reported less inflammation and fewer incidences of upper respiratory tract infections post-race than runners who drank a placebo.  Global brands like Heineken are joining the once-niche market with “Heineken 0.0”, while small “functional” craft beercompanies like Athletic Brewing Company – whose very name connotes fitness – are quickly springing up in America.

Historically, the taste of non-alcoholic beer has been a challenge.  When alcohol is removed during the brewing process, so is the “beery” flavor, resulting in the beverage earning a bland reputation.  So, brewers often add malt extract – sprouted malt that is naturally processed to produce nutrient-dense, natural sweeteners – to beverages like beer, as well as other popular malt-based drinks including Ovaltine, Nestle’s Milo and Kombucha. 

Malt Extract’s Natural Performance Benefits Include:  

  • Athletic Recovery: Non-alcoholic beers eliminate the health risks of alcohol while retaining the advantages of malt and malt extract including high antioxidant content and substantial amounts of polyphenols, which are plant compounds with anti-inflammatory properties.
  • Boosts Energy: Malt extract contains Hordenine, a plant-based, naturally occurring nootropic compound that has been found in scientific studies to boost focus, energy and motivation without the caffeine consequences. 
  • Sweetener Type Matters: Malt extract is comprised of glucose and maltose, as opposed to fructose. While glucose is an “energy sugar” necessary for cell prosperity, fructose – which is found in HFCS and sucrose/table sugar – is basically a toxin processed by the liver.
  • Antioxidants Galore: Malt extract packs more than 5 times the antioxidant power of fresh broccoli and nearly 50 percent more than blueberries. It is an abundant source of vitamins, minerals, amino acids, dietary silicon, B complex vitamins and micro minerals.

With nearly one-third of consumers having increased their consumption of nutrition or performance beverages, according to a 2017 Mintel report, a significant number of malt-based beverages, including non-alcoholic beer, are on the fast track to being the next big sports drink trend.  


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