Entering A Competitive Eating Contest: 5 Things To Know

You can eat a large pizza by yourself. A dozen pancakes is just breakfast; a half gallon of ice cream a snack. All your friends stopped inviting you to cookouts long ago.

You’re a big eater. But are you a competitive eater? Maybe it’s about time to find out. After years of competing against yourself, perhaps it’s time to belly up to the table at an eating challenge. Put your mouth where the money is.

Don’t tie that bib just yet. While you might be ready to dig in, there’s a lot more to consider than the type of food. Here are some important tips for entering a competitive eating competition.

1. Know The Rules

Food competitions involve more than shoveling hot dogs or ribs into your mouth faster than the other competitors. There are waivers to sign and rules to follow, and knowing this stuff is very important. For example, eating competitions may have age restrictions. According to George Shea, co-founder of Major League Eating (MLE), the governing body of competitive eating contests, contestants must be 18 or older to participate in a league-sanctioned event. You should also understand the eating techniques allowed in the challenge. (Dunking the food in water, for example, may be off limits.) Nothing ruins an appetite like a disqualification. Knowing what to expect going in keeps the contest fun and exciting.

2. Play To Your Strengths

While you could sign up for the first eating competition you see and hope for the best, consider playing to your strengths instead. A timed event, for which competitors must eat as much of a particular type of food as possible within a set amount of time, might be ideal for someone who can pace their eating and develop a technique. An event that focuses on finishing a plate of food may be more appropriate for someone willing to go all-in and get dirty.

Read more about competitive eating.

3. Do Your Homework

Whether eating a bowl of ice cream or a plate of tacos, you need a game plan to be successful. For example, some competitive eaters will eat only a salad and drink water the morning of an event; others will eat a more substantial meal. Information on eating techniques is widely available. But don’t extend your training to scarfing down pancakes or hot dogs at your kitchen table. For safety reasons, MLE discourages at-home training. And they know what they’re talking about.

4. Get A Reality Check

The phrase “Your eyes are bigger than your stomach” definitely applies to competitive eating events. Thirty hot dogs or chicken wings may not seem like a lot, but wait until you’re faced with all that food at the competitors’ table. Meredith Boxberger, MLE’s 19th-ranked competitive eater from Barrie, Ontario, told Tailgate Fan how she stays motivated during a competition. “When you eat the same thing, it’s difficult to keep up with the pace and you’ll hit the wall. It’s like running. You have to tell yourself to keep going, you can do it. Flavor fatigue sets in, and you think ‘I don’t want to eat it any more.’”

5. Consider Your Options

With so many competitive eating contests on the schedule, which one should you enter? While you wouldn’t force yourself to eat food you loathe in a competition, you might want to avoid your favorite food too. Boxberger told Tailgate Fan that she typically does not compete in events for food that she loves. “Eating that much at that pace for 10 minutes kind of ruins it for a while,” she explained.

Megan Horst-Hatch is a runner, reader, baker, gardener, knitter, and other words that end in “-er.” She is also the president of Megan Writes, LLC. Her work can be found at Examiner.com.


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