In the beginning of an intense food challenge, everything is great. You are fresh and feeling strong, the food tastes absolutely delicious, and you know you have plenty of time to finish the meal sitting in front of you. As time goes on though and you begin making serious progress, you start feeling full, the flavor of the food weakens, and that big smile you once had significantly decreases. Anybody can start an eating challenge, but it takes a lot of hard work and effort to be able to successfully finish one. Those first few bites will go down quickly, but those final few may take forever to chew and swallow. You may even need multiple minutes per bite, depending on how prepared you were for the challenge you chose. Even the best food challengers need help finishing sometimes, especially when the last few bites are cold and mushy. For me personally and for many other competitive eaters around the world, it is hard to drink only water during a large food challenge, especially towards the end when the food is cold and bland. Water and cold fries don’t really mix well. That is why we use carbonated soda towards the end of large food challenges.
3 Reasons To Drink Carbonated Soda Towards The End Of Challenges
1. The carbonation helps burp up existing air in your stomach – As your stomach begins to approach its full capacity limit near the end of a big challenge, the food you are still shoveling in will have a harder time finding places to go and rest while waiting to be digested. There will basically be one big game of “Tetris” going on inside your stomach, and you don’t want any air taking up precious spaces that you need food to fill. By drinking carbonated soda or some other carbonated beverage, you will allow the carbonation to enter and permeate throughout your stomach. The gases will help free up and remove existing air inside your stomach to make room for the remaining food you have left. That air will come up via a series of burbs, and you will immediately feel a sense of relief. Water and other non-carbonated liquids do not have the same affect as carbonated beverages.
2. The acidity helps break down the carbs making them easier to swallow – Many different studies have been done regarding the acidity in soda beverages like Coca-Cola, Pepsi, and Dr. Pepper. The intense amount of acid in Coke and Diet Coke can break down meats and other thick materials, which is why most doctors and health enthusiasts do not recommend drinking soda (you may call it pop?). While Coke and Diet Coke may be able to break down meats and other dense foods, they are even better and more efficient when it comes to helping to break down less dense items such as breads and french fries. During the first 2/3 of the challenge, I stick to drinking water and other non-carbonated liquids like lemonade. In the beginning, not only is your stomach fresh and empty, but your jaw is fresh and feeling strong too. Late into a challenge, especially with chewy foods like pizza and steak, your jaw will begin to get tired from all the intense chewing, and it will want a break. You still have to finish your challenge though so a break is not an option. Help your jaw finish the remaining carbs and food by drinking your favorite soda. By this time, it will be taking you longer to chew and swallow each bite. After each series of bites, sip on some soda and let the acidity go to work. You will find that the soda will make it easier to swallow french fries and buns much faster than you would while drinking some water or lemonade.
3. The intense flavor overpowers the flavorless, cooled down food – As mentioned above, the flavor of the meal may start out absolutely delicious in the beginning, but you will surely be tired of it towards the end of a large challenge. Even if you are eating your absolute favorite food, you will get tired of the flavor if you eat enough of it in one sitting. Using liquids is one of the main ways to Mix Things Up To Minimize Flavor Fatigue, and soda is definitely the most powerful option. The flavor is up to you and your own taste buds, but sweet and intense soda can definitely help you power through finishing the last few cold, bland, and mushy bites of your challenge, and especially the buns, french fries, and other carb-loaded side items. Late in a challenge when you are full, you are much more susceptible to “getting sick” and throwing up which will cause you to be disqualified and lose the challenge. You can’t do that!! Therefore, you need to be able to consume the last few bites even if they are cold, greasy, and have a very unappealing texture that you don’t like. I typically choose dark sodas like Diet Coke over light sodas like Sprite and 7up, but that is just my personal preference. It would be smart to settle on a common soda flavor though because almost all restaurants and bars carry standard flavors. You may have a hard time finding restaurants that serve uncommon flavors such as Cherry Pepsi or Grape Soda. If one of those is your preference, you may want to bring a bottle yourself rather than rely on the restaurant to have it available.
The use of carbonated soda during and towards the end of eating challenges and contests is totally up to you, but know that it is a common tool that many professional food challengers use around the world as part of their eating strategy. We don’t use it just for fun. We use it because it works!! If you are 100% against drinking soda, that is completely fine, and you are welcome to choose from the many other drink options available. Whether you choose diet soda or regular soda is up to your own personal preference too. Before you get really worried about the extra 200 or 400 calories consumed through regular soda, remember that the soda is sitting next to a multi-thousand calorie meal!! If you want carbonation to help release air bubbles in your stomach but you don’t want to use soda, feel free to use carbonated water, and even flavored carbonated water. It just depends on your personal preferences and what works best for you and your body. You may even need to experiment until you settle on which options you prefer. I personally stick to diet sodas because I am highly prone to weight gain.
To see firsthand how carbonated soda can help win a food challenge, please watch this video of me conquering Pizza Deck’s 22″ Colosseum Pizza Challenge in Cookstown, Northern Ireland. I had to finish an undefeated very chewy pizza in less than 22 minutes. The restaurant even added an extra full pound of chewy dough without telling me so that I would not be able win as quickly, if at all. It took a lot of intense chewing and effort, but thanks to some help from Coca-Cola, I was able to finish the crust and become the first person to win, well ahead of the time limit expiring. Hopefully this article and video has helped you decide whether or not you want to add drinking carbonated soda into your food challenge strategy when the opportunity arises. Obviously, you will not want to incorporate drinking soda into ice cream and milkshake challenges, and other meals that don’t pair well with soda. If you do drink soda, please use proper manners and do NOT burp really loudly inside the restaurant. That will gross people out, which is why many restaurants prohibit belching in their “house rules.”
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