21 Things You Didn't Know About Competitive Eating

Perhaps the most famous competitive eating event in the world, Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest, will take place, as it always does, on Coney Island in New York City this Fourth of July. Many fans will likely be rooting for American eater Joey "Jaws" Chestnut, who is now going for his eighth-consecutive win this July. But, come on now, is competitive eating really a sport?

Those involved in competitive eating are quick to point out that not only is their passion a sport — it has its own Major League. Yup, Major League Eating (MLE) exists, and it also includes a governing body; the International Federation of Competitive Eating (IFOCE). The MLE currently oversees about 80 professional eating events a year.

Hot dogs aren't the only food served at these stomach-stretching eating contests — there is an entire smorgasbord of contests out there; from ice cream, to deep-fried asparagus, to bull testicles. Still not convinced competitive eating is a real sport? ESPN has been airing the Nathan's event live since 2004.

In anticipation of this year's Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest, here are 21 crazy things you should probably know about the strange, amazing world of competitive eating.

Competitive Eaters Go Through Intense Training

Don't assume that preparing for an eating contest just means that you should be really hungry that day. Pro eaters will train for weeks leading up to events, alternating between days-long fasts, full-scale practice contests, and breathing exercises.

Slow and Steady Wins the Race

Another misconception is that speed will win you the contest. Amateur eaters who inhale their food too quickly from the beginning will get winded long before time's up.

The World Record For Most Hot Dogs Eaten During the Nathan's Contest is 69

Joey "Jaws" Chestnut, who is arguably the most famous and accomplished competitive eater in the league, set a new world record last year in Coney Island by eating 69 hot dogs in 10 minutes.

Joey Chestnut and Takeru Kobayashi Have the Most Intense Rivalry in Competitive Eating

Since being overtaken by Chestnut in 2007, six-time champion Takeru Kobayashi has been absent from Nathan's stage, citing contract issues with the MLE.

Eaters Literally Have to Jump Up and Down to Push the Food Further Into their Bodies


Women Are a Force to Be Reckoned With too

There are four women ranked in the MLE's top 10 competitive eaters:

Miki Sudo

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Sonya "Black Widow" Thomas

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Juliet Lee

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Michelle "Cardboard Shell" Lesco

yup, Most of the Top Eaters Are actually oddly skinny

Joey Chestnut, the No. 1 competitive eater in the world, is 6 feet tall and 225 pounds

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His rival, Kobayashi, is 128 pounds

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No. 2-ranked Matt Stonie is only 120 pounds

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Maybe it's because, we assume, this happens all the time?

(though Vomiting during competition Will Disqualify You)

Don't even think about puking and rallying.

so Professional Eaters Use Various Techniques to Help Them Eat More in Less Time

The most notable technique they use is soaking hot dog buns in water before consuming them because it helps them go down easier. (Chewing is presumably looked down upon.)

Joey Chestnut Will Sometimes even Eat the Bones During a Wing-Eating Contest

It may help him win contests, but don't try that at home!

Hot Weather Can Affect eaters' Performance

Naturally, if you're competing on a hot, muggy day, you probably won't do as well as on a perfect 75-degree day with no humidity.

You Can Win $40,000 For just One Eating Contest

The top prize at Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest, which many consider to be the Super Bowl of competitive eating, is $40,000. Most of the smaller contests will win you cash prizes as well, so one could feasibly make competitive eating their full-time job.

Unlike Most Other Professional Sports, Anyone Is Welcome to Compete Against Seasoned Veterans

Who knows? You could be the MLE's next weapon of mass digestion.

Image: Wikipedia