A five pound burrito, 50 or more hot dogs and hot wings so spicy you have to sign a waiver to eat them — sounds like enough food to feed an army . In the world of competitive eating, these are just a few examples of what could be devoured in a single competition. One of the most famous competitions is Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest on Coney Island during the Fourth of July. There are many others out there, including local restaurants that enable people to test their eating abilities.
If someone says competitive eating is not a real sport, they may need to think again or call up the International Federation of Competitive Eating (IFOCE), which established eating as a sport in the 1990s. It hosts more than 100 major league eating events worldwide and will award nearly $400,000 in prize money this year.
The Association of Independent Competitive Eaters (AICE) holds contests as well. They are different from the IFOCE because they forbid the dunking of foods in water, a practice which allows the food to be more easily broken down.
Training for a competitive eating contest can be compared to training for a foot race. You have to practice daily, work your way up and push yourself to your utmost limits. Competitive eater Takiro Kobayashi was featured on a segment of MTV’s “True Life: I am a competitive eater,” where he was shown going through his various training methods.
He would eat large quantities of different amounts of foods, drink a lot of water over a short period of time to stretch his stomach and eat large quantities of low calorie foods (like vegetables and pasta) along with a lot of water. Kobayashi emphasized the importance of exercising and staying fit, which seems ironic for a competitive eater, but he maintains a six pack and is not overweight at all.
Moving on to the biggest worry with competitive eating — health and long term effects on the body. Of course, the obvious health problem would be excessive weight gain, which could lead to obesity.
Studies from the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine tested a competitive eater immediately after eating excessive amounts of food and found “the stomach failed to have normal muscle contractions called peristalsis, a function which transfers food from the stomach down the digestive tract.”
Other medical professionals said it can lead to ulcers and the large amounts of water consumed can lead to water intoxication. Another concern is the condition gastroparesis, which can occur when the stomach is stretched routinely beyond its capacity, causing indigestion, nausea and vomiting.
There are some local eating challenges in San Luis Obispo and cities close by. Franks, located on the corner of Monterey and California, has a challenge on Mondays to see if you can eat 10 of their mini hamburgers. Sylvester’s, on Santa Ynez Avenue off of 10th street from Los Osos Valley Road, challenges you to eat their gigantic, tray-sized hamburger, which you even have to order the day before.
All in all, competitive eating is a sport where the negatives can sometimes outweigh the positives. I’m a fan and give props to all those who go out and compete.
Since large competitive eating competitions do not occur often, I suggest you watch the show “Man v. Food” on the travel channel Wednesday nights at 10. Adam Richman, the show’s host, is not a competitive eater in the training sense, but he competes in eating challenges at various restaurants around the country. He is pretty inspiring and makes you want to try the restaurants out.
Competitive eating is a great example of how doing something too much can hurt you, but in moderate amounts you should be OK. So the next time you are hesitating to try that eating challenge, remember that doing it one time won’t kill you. So put on your game face, tell your stomach who’s boss and come out on top in the challenge of man against food.