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How do you train for a competitive eating contest?

Competitive Eating Training And Health

Arnie "Chowhound" Chapman (Competitive Eater) gives expert video advice on: How do you train for a competitive eating contest?; What is 'picnic style' eating in competitive eating contests?; What training techniques work best for competitive eating? and more...

What is 'picnic style' eating in competitive eating contests?

With my group, The Association of Independent Competitive Eaters, we eat our food 'picnic style'. We don't mutilate the food, we don't mush it, we don't mash it, and we eat the food as is presented in accordance to history, custom, and the culture of that food item. So you have to eat the food as is without it being transformed. When people take food and they pour water on it, and they dunk it in water, what they're doing is transforming the molecular structure of that particular food item and they're really not honestly eating the food. So, 'picnic style' rules is how I like to eat food. I've been in contests before where there wasn't 'picnic style' rules. You can eat the food faster when you're allowed to pour water on it and stuff like that, but first of all it's disgusting. Viewers can't see where people are at in the contests, because one guy has got three wieners, and one or another guy has buns all over the place and it's a sloppy mess and it doesn't pay any respect to the food.

What training techniques work best for competitive eating?

Well, first of all people shouldn't be getting into contests that are excessively long. They should be seven or eight minutes long. There are contests that may go to ten minutes but that's a little bit longer than it should be. But in terms of preparation, again, familiarize yourself with the food item that you have. Don't, I repeat, don't eat a ton of food getting ready for it and stretching your stomach. You don't know what the long term damage of that is, ok? Competitive eating is one of the fun things out there. It's like going back to sixth grade. The integrity of it should be kept. Guys should not be staying up late at night, or wrecking their relationships, overeating a ton of cabbage or trying to define the answer over what's going to give them a little bit more capacity. So, I can't emphasize this enough. Competitive eating shouldn't be something that people do excessive training for, only just getting familiar with the food. That's all you really need to do.

Should competitive eaters train at home?

Well, you know something? No, they shouldn't train at home. But I think the reality is, if you are going to get familiar with a food, obviously that's going to occur at home. But again, you shouldn't be eating at the pace that you would eat in a competition. If you are getting familiar with the food item you can eat a little bit fast but the key isn't to eat to the point where you're eating so fast that an obstruction will be created. Because if you're training at home and you're doing really long fast runs and you don't have a medical person that can supervise you, something could happen . It's rare that anything ever does happen but certainly eating large amounts of food at home, doing really fast training runs at home, could create a situation if you don't have medical person there.

What medical problems can competitive eaters develop?

I would think that all the things that are connected with the pitfalls of over eating really. Competitive eating itself is safe if somebody does it once or twice a month. You know, or every two months, and they otherwise take care of themselves. Now for the individual that's competing every week, and they're doing this foolish training that I talked about before. A person like that can develop all the problems that you would develop with over eating, diabetes, that's a system wide disease it impacts on the entire body. You know I don't want to mention names but there are some eaters who had developed that. I know that it has to be in your genes, but I think it makes sense that if you're taking in those kinds of calories, and you have a predisposition to being diabetic. That it's just going to enhance that. And obviously, being overweight impacts on your entire structural system. If you're overweight and you're staying overweight - You're less likely to be engaging in exercise as well. So you're living this kind of lifestyle simply of eating a ton of food, maybe kicking ass at events or whatever. So maybe you fashion yourself as an athlete of some sort. But you got to take care of business in terms of exercise and diet and if you keep you're keeping to about once a month you should be okay. The body is very resilient.

How often should one see their doctor if they plan to eat competitively?

Probably the recommendation is that you should come in every year for a wellness visit, and that's a strong recommendation. I think if you're competing, if you're doing events more than every two weeks, three weeks and sometimes the way events fall you may end up doing that, then you might want to make it every six months. And if he or she does a full complete physical they should be able to identify any problems that might be there. It's also very important too; that if you do have a predisposition to high blood pressure that, you keep away from pickles, keep away from high salt type items. So you can be selective and choose certain things. Competitive eating needs a lot more healthier alternatives. We need to do a lot more things - clementines and even apples and fruit type items because, I think when you overeat with that stuff you just have a bad day in the bathroom. But when you overeat with stuff that's really, really high in calories then you really start engaging in things that might have some residual effects.

Can one die from competitive eating?

There's only two or three documented cases of somebody dying form Competitive Eating. I can tell you real quickly about the cases that I know about. There was an individual in Canada, during a wing-eating contest, and he was apparently really drunk. So one of the rules that a sanctioned organization does is, you don't really allow people to compete in contests who are intoxicated, and that should be really very clear to all participants. There was a guy in the Marines who apparently competed in a doughnut contest, and choked to death. I don't know all the circumstances around that. I think that was in the mid-70's. And then there's maybe one other case, and I'm not remembering what it is right now. But for the most part, if you look at the amount of events that have been done, and the amount of people that have gotten hurt from Competitive Eating, it is really, really small.