Tips For Eating Contests
The real contest is always between what you've done and what you're capable of doing. You measure yourself against yourself and nobody else. - Geoffrey Gaberino
► Assuming that you already know when the contest is going to be held, the first thing that you must do is to carefully analyze the contest so that you can plan ahead. How long will the contest last? What are you eating? How will the results be judged? These are important questions. If the contest is less than 5 minutes, you will not need to do any training for stomach capacity. You are not a fast enough eater to gut full off of any food in less than 5 minutes. If the contest is 6 minutes or more, I would suggest that you do a little training for stomach expansion. Even though you are not able to eat that fast, you may get to a point after 5-6 minutes where you start feeling full. Training Stomach Capacity will help prevent hitting "the wall." If you are doing a chicken wing contest, you more than likely don't need to do any stomach training. Chicken wings are referred to as a "technique food" and its very hard to eat them very fast. The same goes for hard to eat foods such as bacon. It takes forever to chew foods like that, so you won't have any issues with feeling full.
You need to consider how the contest will be judged. There are usually 2 ways to judge an eating contest which are by quantity and by weight. The only things usually measured by weight are chicken wings, liquid foods like chili, and a few other foods where its hard to count the quantity. Chicken wings are usually measured by weight because every chicken wing is a different size and this makes everything more fair. Knowing the details of the contest will help you get a better feel for the contest and can boost your confidence. If you know the details before the contest, you just have to show up, get comfortable, and get ready to eat!! Feel good & eat good!!
► I just want to briefly talk about contests where the results are weighed. I hate when things are measured by weight, because that allows for errors and for the contest to be fixed. If you do a contest measured by weight, especially if big prizes are involved, try to make sure the weighing is done in front of you. If not, the judges are in complete control of who wins. Thats not good, because most contest officials are not very competant. Just like any contest that is judged behind-the-scenes, you can't fully trust the results. That goes for big contests and small. I was scammed during a little chicken wing contest. I ate 2-3 lbs more than 2nd place (its even on tape), but I got called out as 3rd place. Why? The wings were weighed in the kitchen, & God only knows what happened. That may mostly just be me "venting" but let it be a lesson that you should be careful when getting involved in a contest that involves deciding the results behind-the-scenes. Make sure that you trust the sponsor!!
► You will want to train for the contest using the same food that you will eat in the contest, or something as close as possible to the real thing. If you are in a pulled pork contest three hours away and there is no location close to you, just get something as close as possible from a different place. It would be stupid to drive three hours for that! The reason for this is that all food is different. You may practice for a hot dog contest with a cheap brand hot dog, but the contest hot dog may be stiffer and harder to eat. That throws off your timing and everything else. You want to be prepared!!
► I try to practice at least once or twice before a big contest during the week prior to the event. As an example, I was in my first hot dog contest and had never done any similar training. It was a 10 minute contest for $500. You can either practice based on time or by quantity. If you have an 8 minute contest, see how many you can do in 4 minutes. You definitely don't need to practice the whole 8 minutes. I usually recommend practicing for half of what the contest will be, unless of course the contest is only 2 or 3 minutes. The other option is to train by quantity, which is the method that I chose for the hot dogs. I was shooting for around 23-25 hot dogs in the 10 minute contest. Hot dogs come in packs of 8. Therefore, I bought 4 packs of 8 hot dogs, and then 4 packages of 8 buns. I trained 2 different times. The first time, I tried to see how fast I could eat 16 hot dogs & buns. The contest was on a Saturday, so I did my 1st training session on the Tuesday prior to the contest. I took a day off and then did my 2nd training session on that Thursday. I attempted to see how fast I could eat the remaining 16 hot dogs & buns. I beat my time by over 2 minutes!! Then I was a lot more confident for the actual contest, which I did end up winning!! If you need a stopwatch to help keep time during your training, click here. If you are not very experienced with the contest food, I recommend practicing twice, following a schedule similar to mine. Figure out how to eat one the fastest, and then worry about eating more the same way. For the 1st round, focus on getting a technique down and a rhythm going. In round 2, try to smash your previous results. Then you'll be ready!!
► The first thing to do when you get to a contest is to analyze the competition. Read the people that you are going up against. Its really easy to tell who your competition is, especially if you talk to everybody. If the contest occurred last year too, find out who the winner was, and if he or she has returned. Obviously, that person will be one of the top contenders. Once you decide who the top 1 or 2 contenders are, make sure that you get a spot right next to them, or as close as possible. You want to be by them so that you can monitor how he or she is doing during the contest, and then you know where you stand in the order. You then also know whether you need to eat faster, or if you can coast to victory in the final minutes.
► While eating during the contest, focus more on swallowing the food rather than chewing. You don't need to make sure to chew each bite 27 times before swallowing. You are in an eating contest, so nobody expects you to have manners. Don't put too much in your mouth either, because then it will be hard to move food around and to chew, which causes you to eat more slowly. Just chew the food enough so that you can swallow quickly & avoid choking. Another eating tip is that its better to take many small bites than to take only a few big bites. By taking small bites, you don't have to chew as much which saves a lot of time and effort. You should have practiced your technique during your practice sessions so that this all comes easier & faster during the actual contest. Now just EAT!!
► During longer contests, especially when the food is tough to chew, your jaw is going to get tired. You can increase your jaw strength & endurance simply by chewing your food more during normal meals. That also burns more calories and is better for you digestive system. The other way is to chew gum. Chewing gum burns an average of 12 calories per hour, and it can really help your jaw strength. I recommend chewing more gum during the week prior to the contest or challenge. Your mouth will thank you after the eating contest. I suggest you chew sugarless gum though, because its a lot better for your teeth. As an eater, you need healthy & strong teeth!!
► Finally I will briefly talk about the use of liquids during contests. First things first, I hate dunking food in liquids!! It completely ruins the taste and you really are not eating. Instead, you are just shovelling a bunch of soggy, gross crap into your mouth. The only time I will dunk something in liquids is if thats what I have to do to win. There are really 2 types of contests. The first is "picnic style" where you eat the food just like its made, and you eat the food one at a time. You have to finish the first one before going on to the next one. I definitely prefer that type of contest. The other type of contest is where just about anything goes, and you can dunk the food in water or another liquid. Nathan's Hot Dog Contest is like this. The eaters all dunk the hot dogs and buns in water before shovelling them in their mouth. They do this to moisten the bread, and then it all slides right down while eating. You will never see me dunk anything during a challenge. If I have to dunk my food in a contest, I always use lemonade. Water would be GROSS!! Another tip is that you need to make sure that you have your drink of choice for the contest to dunk in. Unless its at a restaurant, you most likely will have to bring it. Also, if your event is at a festival, those are typically very unorganized, so you may want to bring your own cups!!
► I need to add some more information about the use of liquids. Even when you are not dunking, you still will be able to drink something while you are eating. You need to use the liquids to help you swallow. Use your drink of choice not only to help with the flavor of the food, but also to help speed-up your rate of swallowing the food. I try to take a good drink after every series of bites during a contest. The liquid helps to moisten the food even more, and it helps the swallowing process. In reference to drinking liquids, eating food is just like taking pills, and it really helps to drink something to get it all down your throat through your esophagus. Please don't be unreasonable though and get your drink everywhere. If your drink is getting all over your shirt, you need to settle down a little bit. Thats not helping anything at all, and just making you look disgusting. Unlike big challenges, don't worry about the liquids making you full. There is not enough time for that to happen in a contest...
If you follow & use most of the advice in this section along with the other sections previously mentioned, you will have a very successful & fun contest!! If you lose, thats no big deal. You will get a lot better with practice!! If you have not already checked it out, go to the Strategies Per Food Type section which offers even more eating tips and breaks them down specifically based on the type of food challenge and/or contest that you are competing in...