Deconstructing: Competitive Eating

800px-Nathan's_Wall_of_Fame_by_David_ShankboneI understand that not everyone spends their 4th of July watching dozens of people cram their stomachs full of 60+ hotdogs (I don’t either for that matter but 1 million other people did – there’s even a professional league), but it’s always interesting to see what happens at the annual Nathan’s Hotdog Eating Contest each year at Coney Island. If you hadn’t heard, the longtime champion, Joey Chestnut, lost to newcomer Matt Stonie who ate 62 (SIXTY TWO!!) hot dogs in ten minutes to Chestnut’s 60.

Now, I’ve got quite the appetite, and people that have seen me eat wonder how I’m able to eat as much as I do. I’ve even tried my hand (or would it be stomach?) at a few “food challenges” before, but the idea of eating (if we can call it that) 62 hotdogs and buns in ten minutes is mind boggling even to me. Give me a full day and I still probably wouldn’t be able to do it. This got me thinking, just how do these professional eaters do it?

The first thing that boggles my mind is the sheer space that that many dogs must take up. That’s about 6 full packages, not to mention the bun (and you don’t even want to know how many calories). The average stomach can hold between one to two liters or maybe stretch to hold three to four.  So how do they do it?  It turns out most competitive eaters train by drinking lots and lots of water – we’re talking a gallon in one sitting.  This helps to stretch out the stomach, but more importantly gets the eater used to relaxing the stomach muscles to avoid feeling full.  Check out this article if you really want to dive down the rabbit hole.

Preparation is a large part of the battle, but each eater also has their own technique when it comes to the day of the competition.  Nearly all eaters use water or some other liquid to help was down the food.  The water acts as a lubricant to make it easier for things to go down (which is why you see them dunk the buns into water).  It’s a careful balance however, as each ounce of liquid takes up valuable stomach space. There are other techniques employed as well.  Kobayashi revolutionized the Nathan’s contest, doubling the previous record, when he introduced techniques such as breaking the hotdog in half before eating.

2013-12-29 19.01.24I don’t think anyone would call any of this healthy – even the “preparation” can be detrimental to your health.  It is fun though, and I know when I see the opportunity for a free T-Shirt I jump on it.  I’ve tried everything from hot wing contests (won twice), to gigantic pizzas (lost) to the monstrous burger above (won).  It’s stupid, silly, disgusting and unhealthy, but it is fun to try these challenges every now and then.  I don’t do any preparation, I’m just a hungry guy who happens across some of these challenges and figures why not?  I don’t think I’ve ever felt sicker than when I finished that burger, but hey, I got a new T Shirt so it balances out.

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