While the International Federation of Competitive Eating
sanctions rules and regulations for many competitive eating events, very little is available in the way of training facilities for competitors.
In recognition of the just-posted odds for this year's famous Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest, Coupon Sherpa
has generously compiled 20 tips for those of you who want to combine your love of eating with a serious competitive streak.
1. Consult Your Physician
Before beginning training, ask your doctor if any of your medications or health problems could pose a problem. Discuss the types of food to be eaten and your strategy.
2. Choose Your Event
Only attend events that are held in a controlled environment. Check with contest officials or request that EMTs and an ambulance be present in the event of choking or allergic reactions. Rookies should cut their teeth on soft, single-component items like meatballs, funnel cakes and grits. Gradually work your way up to multi-textured, bread-and-meat combos like hot dogs and hamburgers.
3. Don't starve yourself before a competition
Starving makes your stomach shrink, which is the opposite of what have trained your body to do. "I try to find a sort of consistency in my training," says hot-dog-eating defending champion Joey Chestnut. "I'll watch my salt intake, especially if I know I'm going to an event where I'll be eating a lot of meat. But starvation itself is a very bad plan to prepare for a big meal. It's better to eat moderately."
Keep reading for the rest of the tips.
4. Drink Water
Under most conditions, drinking 8 to 16 ounces of water per hour will keep you hydrated. Never drink massive quantities of water in a short period of time as it can result in potentially fatal perforations of the stomach lining and water intoxication. It also dilutes the electrolytes in your blood, which can lead to loss of heart, muscle and brain function.
5. Eat Lettuce
Because lettuce is mostly water, it helps to stretch the stomach without high caloric content. Keep in mind, however, that you don't need a large stomach to stretch your stomach. Some of the world's top competitive eaters weigh less than 150 lbs.
6. Eat Boiled Cabbage
The gases in boiled cabbage expand the stomach without adding much to your calorie count, which may be why many professionals often go on a three- or four-day cabbage diet before competing.
7. Exercise Regularly
Cardiovascular exercise not only works up a good appetite, it also helps burn calories. "I go on three-mile runs twice a week, and it not only helps me stay in shape, it helps me eat faster," Chestnut said in a recent interview. "When you're eating 20, 30, 40 hot dogs in very little time, it's hard to breathe. That's one reason big guys sometimes have trouble at competitive eating."
8. Reduce Intake Directly Beforehand
Rather than avoiding food altogether on the day of the event, experts advise eating little things throughout the day so your stomach won't shrink.
9. Eat Strategically
Winning contestants are known for their strategies. For example, Japanese champion Takeru Kobayashi devised a controversial strategy to beat rival Joey Chestnut in the 2009 Pizza Hut P'Zone match. The "reverse fold" requires folding each pizza slice with the cheese on the outside to serve as a lubricant and protect the roof of your mouth from the abrasive crust.
10. Dunk Food in Water
Dip foods in water first, to soften them for easier mastication and digestion. Dipping is particularly important for foods containing bread products, like hot dogs. Virtually every competitor keeps a cup of water at the table to soften and lubricate the food, allowing them to chew it faster and swallow it more easily.
11. Breathe Through Your Nose.
Mouth breathers aren't contest winners. Breathe through your nose to avoid choking and wasting precious seconds as you gasp for air. For unimpeded consumption, breathe rhythmically through your nose.
12. Take Sips of Liquid
Sips of liquid, preferably water, help lubricate your throat and make it easier to swallow. Small sips are preferable as water takes up precious space in your stomach. Even the legendary Kobayashi drinks water throughout contests.
13. Divide and Conquer
Most contestants prefer to separate the meat from the bread during hot dog and hamburger contests, eating the meat first and then squishing the bread into their mouths. This allows you to stuff more food into your face at one time while cutting down on chewing time. Kobayashi's "Solomon Technique" (or "Japanesing") involves breaking a hot dog in half and then stuffing both halves into the mouth at once.
14. Wiggle Your Hips
Kobayashi is known for his trademark body wiggle, referred to as the "Kobayashi Shake," that forces food down his esophagus to settle more compactly in his stomach.
15. Ignore Taste
Competitive eating isn't for gourmets. Chew food just enough to mash it up for a quick slide down your gullet.
16. Keep Up the Pace
Eat at a steady pace so your body and brain won't have time to rebel.
19. What Happens If You Vomit
International Federation of Competitive Eating rules are clear -- though very delicate -- about vomiting. Those who suffer a "Roman Incident" are disqualified if the result of that incident touches the plate or table. Of course, competitors are welcome to empty their stomachs after the contest has ended.
20. To Purge or Not to Purge
Win or lose, you're going to feel pretty crappy after the adrenaline of competition has died down. Some competitors prefer to purge after a contest, rather than force their body to digest the massive quantities ingested in a short period of time.
For a list of upcoming contests with complete details, visit the International Federation of Competitive Eating.
Or, if you'd like to test your mettle (and perhaps expand your stomach) first in some non-sanctioned amateur events, here's a few of the 42 restaurant challenges
(with a shot at free food!) that Coupon Sherpa rounded up.