7 Weird Things You Should Know About Competitive Eating
There might be a bunch of reasons why you’re fascinated by the world of competitive eating. Maybe you find it just insane enough to enjoy, or you’re thinking about trying it out as a hobby. Whatever the reason, competitive eating is no easy feat. Professionals like Adam Richman of the Travel Channel’s Man v. Food and Joey Chestnut (winner of the 2017 Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest), have taken competitive eating to a whole new level of intensity. There’s a lot more to this sport than you think. Here’s the scoop.
1. Water Is A Competitive Eater’s Best Tool
When competitive eaters are prepping for an event, they need to stretch their stomach muscles. Water training involves drinking an entire gallon of water in 30 seconds. This makes it easier for food to go down in massive quantities. This activity is by no means encouraged (you can get water intoxication, which is potentially fatal), but hey, it helps with the job at hand.
2. Jaw Muscle Workouts Are A Must
Throughout a competition, a contestant’s jaw might start to weaken. To prevent any kind of injury, competitors can either practice by chewing their food for a long period of time or chewing the food as fast as possible (CUTE). Probably the most widely practiced jaw exercise is chewing multiple pieces of sugarless gum to build up higher levels of resistance and jaw endurance.
3. They Control Their Breathing
When you think about it, breathing is a pretty crucial part of competitive eating. If you’re just eating a regular dinner, you can choose when to take a breather. When you’re racing against the clock, there’s no time for oxygen breaks. Competitive eaters usually develop a rhythm and stick to it. Maybe they’ll take a breath ever two or three burgers, or else they’ll burn out fast.
4. Hypnotherapists Get Involved
An article by The Wall Street Journal shines the light on competitive eater Yasir Salem. Salem was having a mental block that was preventing him from reaching his full potential. He sought out help from a hypnotherapist, where he says “the idea of vomiting is what I found held me back.” This fear was preventing him from powering through. Lifting these mental blocks can be huge progress in the world of this unique sport. Seems like a pretty rational fear, Salem.
5. They’re In Shape
If you’ve ever watched an eating competition, you’ve probably noticed that the competitors are in pretty good shape. There’s an organization called MLE (Major League Eating) that oversees all professional eating contests. NOT KIDDING. According to its website, there’s an actual theory that suggests skinnier people are more successful at competitive eating and in-shape gurgitators (the name for competitive eaters) seem to beat out the heavier eaters. For some of these gurgitators, the ability to consume mass quantities comes naturally, but they also train a lot and practice stretching their bellies.
An article by Women’s Health interviewed competitive eater Michelle Lesco (5″4 and 115 pounds). She says there’s a “practice run” a week before each competition where she eats all of the food she’ll be gobbling up on the big day. The size of someone’s stomach at rest doesn’t actually matter, all that matters is its ability to expand.
6. They Don’t Sit Down
Take all of your normal eating habits and reverse them. That’s what it’s like for competitive eaters. It’s not even about the food or enjoying it, it’s just pure quantity over everything. During these competitions, there’s no sitting. When you’re sitting down, you’re not giving your body the optimal amount of space to fill because you’re compressed. Standing up is the way to go. All of the food can easily flow right down into your stomach.
7. Perfecting The Solomon Technique
There’s a specific technique for eating hot dogs that was created by the Japanese competitive eater Takeru Kobayashi. The Solomon Method involves splitting the hot dogs and buns in half before eating them. This makes the throat act as a “conveyor belt.” Takeru tears the hot dog in half and places each half into both corners of his mouth since the molars are used for grinding and chewing large pieces of food. Soaking the buns in water is also a way to help them go down. The World Pickle Eating Champion Arnie “Chowhound” Chapman uses the same method for eating pickles.
Hey, competitive eating could be your next hobby. There are some gnarly prizes involved.