Sports and Electrolyte Drinks

Electrolyte drinks, also known as sports drinks, are beverages designed specifically for the rapid replacement of fluid, carbohydrates, and electrolytes. They are of most benefit for athletes and active members of the public to aid in rehydration. Electrolyte drinks should not be confused with energy drinks (which contain caffeine) or formulated beverages.

Carbohydrates provide fuel for the muscles and brain, as well as contribute to the flavour of a sports drink. By law, electrolyte drinks must contain between 5 and 10% sugar content. By law, there is also a minimum sodium content to help in replacing that lost in sweat and to enhance absorption of both carbohydrate and water. The main electrolyte components include sodium and potassium. Fluid uptake via electrolyte drinks is better than with plain water alone.


Electrolyte drinks are regulated under Standard 2.6.2 (non-alcoholic beverages and brewed soft drinks) of the Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code. Beverages which are marketed as electrolyte drinks in Australia must meet the compositional standards set out in the Code such as maximum and minimum levels of carbohydrates and must comply with the labelling requirements.

Although manufacturers may choose the amounts of each ingredient, within the range permitted in the Food Standards Code, a number of bottlers have formulated their products to provide a beverage that is as close to normal body fluids as possible, these are called isotonic drinks.

It should be noted that ‘sports waters’, ‘fitness waters’ and ‘vitamin waters’ do not fall under the category of a ‘sports drink’ (electrolyte drink) and are regulated under a different standard in the Food Standards Code.