It both cracks me up and weirds me out that competitive eating is one of the ways Americans celebrate our American-ness. Yeah, yeah, I know other countries do it too, but they don’t have the obesity rates we do! Just saying…

Did you know there’s a Major League Eating & International Federation of Competitive Eating? Me neither. I first heard about it today while googling “competitive eating” after hearing about the annual July Fourth International Hot Dog Eating Contest at Nathan’s Famous Hot Dog Stand at Coney Island.

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Joey Chestnut, the same dude who’s won the past five years, won again, downing 62 dogs in 10 minutes. He dipped them in water while eating so he could eat big bites. It’s not like he was just doing it for fun—he went home with $10,000. Sonya Thomas (who calls herself The Black Widow) took the title in the women’s division, eating 40 hot dogs in 10 minutes. Even that is more hot dogs that I’ve probably eaten in the past 10 years. True, they’re on my list of least-favorite foods, but that’s beside the point…

Over dinner (a bunch of leftovers made into a weirdly good pasta salad), Chris and I started talking about how competitive eaters must have to train their stomachs to be able to hold such crazy amounts of food. Turns out there are all kinds of resources, such as the Competitive Eating Network offering tips and techniques as well as scientific information and news from the community.

“You should become a nutritionist for competitive eaters,” Chris joked. It sounds crazy, but I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s someone out there who fits that description. They’d probably have to be a lot better at Biochem and Physiology than I am, though!

A few tips I came across include:

  • Plan ahead—know whether you’ll be focusing on volume or speed. Or both.
  • Train at least two months before the contest
  • Work out—some of the best competitive eaters are skinny. Apparently it’s easier for the stomach to expand when it’s not pushing up against fat.
  • Don’t starve yourself but do reduce intake on the day of event.
  • Lettuce and gases in boiled cabbage expand the stomach (without adding lots of calories)
  • Separate the bread from the meat
I guess you learn something new every day. Um, hooray for the USA! Or something. Since we just got home, I’m planning to spend the rest of the night relaxing, figuring out what I need to do this week, and maybe going up on the roof to watch the fireworks.
What did you do for the Fourth of July this year? 

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