What’s the difference between a sports drink and electrolyte drink?

There is a lot of nutrition information available about what to consume both before, during and after exercise.  Add in seemingly endless product options and you could be understandably a bit confused when it comes to fuelling and hydration.   

Don’t worry, you’re certainly not alone.  At events, the most common question people ask is, what’s the difference between a sports drink and electrolyte drinks?  And when do I use them? 

So many people are confused about the two and to be honest part of it is because the names are used interchangeably, and each brand has their own names for them too.  Plus, there are a huge number of options available, and their ingredients and performance can vary (a lot!).

Let’s explain the two, so you know exactly when and why to use them!

Key Points:

  • Sports drinks have improved significantly in recent years
  • Combined-carbohydrate sports drinks will benefit your performance
  • Sports drinks contain a range of electrolytes
  • Electrolyte drinks are sugar-free and don’t contain carbohydrates
  • Sports drinks and electrolyte drinks should be free of artificial chemicals and additives
  • Athletes can use a range of products, depending on training needs


Firstly, let’s dive into why we use sports drinks and electrolyte drinks and how they work.  Essentially, a sports drink will provide energy in the from of a carbohydrate source.  It will also include some electrolytes and the aim is to help you exercise for longer, and with less fatigue.  An electrolyte drink is simply that, electrolytes without the carbohydrates.  The aim is to replenish what you are sweating out, but without providing an energy source. 

Make sense?  Now let’s look at the two types more closely, so you know how to choose wisely…

Sports Drink (eg Bindi Natural Sports HydratioN)

The basic requirement for a sports drink is a carbohydrate source.  However as with a lot of nutrition products, there are a range of options.  The older style, more traditional sports drinks are based on sucrose, glucose and dextrose and provide simple sugars, or a single carbohydrate source.  These drinks are higher in sugar (up to 9 teaspoons per serve!), and although they will give you a quick hit in energy, the high is rapidly followed by a crash as your blood sugar drops, which can be pretty brutal during an intense race or hard game.  

Carbohydrates simple vs complex

Thanks to sports science, we know there are much more sophisticated mixes of carbohydrates to fuel you all day long.  

Using combined carbohydrates in a sports drink gives you smoother, more sustained energy (like eating brown bread compared to white) and it lowers the overall sugar component of your drink. 

These combinations are well proven to keep you performing longer until you start to fatigue. Look closely at your sports drink labels and choose one with combined carbohydrates like maltodextrin and fructose.  These are quick to absorb; with 30% less sugar than the old-style sports drinks, and will provide smooth, longer lasting energy. We created the formula for Bindi Natural Sports Hydration with specifically these performance and health benefits in mind.

Electrolytes; not just salt

As we discussed earlier, a sports drink will also contain electrolytes which will not only replenish what you sweat out, but will also to help absorption of fluid into your body and promote rapid hydration.  Old-style sports drinks had some salt, but again due to extensive research we know that using a combination of electrolytes such as sodium, magnesium, potassium and calcium can improve both physical and mental performance, and reduce the risk of cramping and fatigue. 

Bindi Natural Sports Hydration contains our Triple Electrolyte Advantage © formula which is a tried and tested electrolyte mix to support your hydration, particularly in Australian conditions.

Sports Drink – when to use?

For sessions longer than an hour your performance will decline, and fatigue will set in if you don’t replenish carbohydrates. These longer and more intense sessions are the ideal time to include a sports drink such as Bindi Natural Sports Hydration.  You can also use it in recovery to replenish carbohydrate stores, electrolytes, and fluid losses.  And finally, you can also use Bindi Natural Sports Hydration in the lead up to a big race or event, to pre-hydrate and carbohydrate load.  Read our full blog on carbohydrate loading here.

The role of Electrolyte Drinks (BINDILYTE)

More recently, electrolyte drinks have really taken centre stage as we recognise the negative effects of dehydration and electrolyte depletion on the body.  

Maintaining adequate hydration is quite simply essential to life, as electrolytes are critical for optimising both mental and physical performance.

These essential minerals regulate nerve and muscle function, maintain fluid balance in the body, help to produce energy and support strong bones. As we work, exercise and sweat, electrolytes are lost from the body. Dehydration and electrolyte loss can cause headaches, fatigue, nausea, poor decision making and impaired coordination, any of which can have a negative impact on your ability to perform at your best.

What makes an effective electrolyte drink?

A healthy, beneficial electrolyte drink will be sugar free simply because it is carbohydrate free.  Check your nutrition labels carefully – if there are sugars listed in the electrolyte drink they are unnecessary.  Look for a combination of electrolytes, such as sodium, potassium, magnesium and calcium. They will help your muscles contract and relax, avoid cramping, maintain body temperature, and help with any mineral deficiencies (magnesium deficiency is common). They’ll also keep your energy up, and mental clarity heightened.  When you choose an electrolyte drink, check it is sugar-free, additive free and concentrate on those four minerals which are found in Bindilyte.

A time and place for both types of products

So now you can understand that Bindi Natural Sports Hydration will help you during heaving training and competition to give you energy plus electrolytes.  An electrolyte drink such as Bindilyte is good for all other times such as easy training sessions and replenishing throughout the day.   

For workers and recreational exercisers, Bindilyte is the perfect solution to keep you hydrated.  Our athletes who are training and racing at higher intensity will use both types od products on a regular basis, depending on their needs.  



Sports Hydration 420g Small


Sports Hydration 900g Large

Sale! Bindilyte Tropical low carb Flavours

Bindilyte 120g


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Taste our clean & natural, Australian nutrition products and you won’t look back! All the energy you need to achieve peak performance is right here.

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