Sports Drinks and Physical Activity

Electrolyte drinks are regulated by the 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 they must also comply with the labelling requirements.

Carbohydrates provide fuel for muscles and the brain, as well as contribute to the flavour of a sports drink. By law under Standard 2.6.2 of the Food Standards Code, electrolyte drinks must contain between 5g and 10g of sugar/100mL. There is also a minimum sodium content to help in replacing electrolytes lost through sweat and to enhance absorption of both carbohydrate and water. The main electrolyte components include sodium and potassium.

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.

Isotonic drinks contain the essential electrolytes in the same concentration as in the body. Under the Food Standards Code, a claim that an electrolyte drink is isotonic may only be made if the electrolyte drink has an average osmolality of 250-340 mOsm/L.

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. Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) is currently reviewing the composition and labelling of electrolyte drinks. Further information can be found here.

Find out more about sports drinks here.

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