This is a guide for athletes traveling to China, what to expect and how to be prepared.
For athletes traveling around the world, there are challenges not only finding food that you like, but finding healthy food that can meet your requirements as an athlete. For someone traveling to a new country and culture, this may seem overwhelming. Those from anywhere but China may find it hard to find the foods they are familiar with from home. Sometimes it is just knowing where to look. This article is to help guide someone who is planning to travel to China in their chosen sport.
Food in China
In China, many dishes are served to the table and shared among the group. Soup dishes are very common.
- Northern China: (Beijing) bread, noodles or other wheat products (e.g. dumplings, buns), lamb and mutton. Cooking methods include frying, stewing, braising, dry frying without oil.
- Southern China: rice, vegetables, fish and other seafood (mainly shrimp, oysters and squid), pork, poultry and eggs. Cooking methods include stir frying, broiling, steaming.
Other Chinese Foods
- Breads and Cereals: Rice and wheat products tend to be low in fibre
- Fruit and vegetables: Fresh vegetables are used commonly in meals. Fruits are best purchased from markets or supermarkets for snack options.
- Dairy Products: Not as abundant – Yoghurt is usually drinking style - Milk is usually UHT and available at little stores and supermarkets – Cheese is not very accessible.
- Meat and seafood: Most seafood and meats such as pork, lamb, and mutton are readily available. Usually fairly fatty cuts
What if you don't like Chinese food?
- Hotels may provide more 'western' foods
- Don't be afraid to experiment and try local food but be careful with timing around you competition.
- If there is no food that you wish to eat, at least eat the rice or noodles for carbohydrate.
- If you are not eating the meat, chicken, fish or eggs, make sure you have at least 1-2 glasses of Sustagen (or similar meal replacement drink) per day.
- Take some "extras" from home
When traveling to another country, it is usually cheaper to self-cater. Self-catering is possible in China, though most of the places you will stay will not have facilities to enable you to cook your own meals. There are many mini-marts and supermarkets which stock a large range of foods, but with the language barrier you may find it hard to decipher what they are. For athletes with food allergies or intolerances this is a significant problem.
Food Safety in China
- The water from taps is not always safe to drink. In big cities it may be OK, but to be safe you should drink drink bottled, boiled or sterilised water. Always check the seal.
- Avoid ice, and foods washed in local water
- Avoid raw foods, unpeeled fruit, locally washed salads and shellfish
- Be careful with self preparation of foods
- Avoid local markets and street food where hygiene looks poor
- Avoid undercooked meat or unpasteurized milk products
- Look for well cooked food that is steaming hot
- Avoid food from buffets that is not very hot or very chilled
- Take live cultures (acidophillus/bifidus) or cultured yoghurt prior to leaving
- If you experience diarrhoea make sure you replace lost fluids and try to avoid further dehydration. Use Gastrolyte powder (or similar rehydration powder) to rehydrate mixed with water &/or a sports drink.
Things you may need to bring from home?
Gels, supplements, medications.
- Sports Nutrition for the Traveling Athlete
- Travel Nutrition Guide for Athletes, including Japan Travel Food Guide for Athletes
- Olympic Games Nutrition in Beijing 2008, and Nutrition in Beijing 2022
- List of tips for travel – mostly for on the plane
- Food Safety — When traveling, foods and water can be a source of contamination and have the potential to make you sick.
- Guide to watching what you eat while traveling.
- If you are traveling to a hot climate, hydration also becomes a very important issue.
- Fitness and Traveling
- Tips For Healthy Restaurant Eating — while traveling you may need to eat at restaurants.
- For information about foods available around the world, read Clare Wood's travel food blog.
- About Sport in China