“Continuous effort – not strength or intelligence – is the key to unlocking our potential.” That is a quote from the great British Prime Minister Winston Churchill which definitely sums up in a nutshell how to become the best competitive eater and food challenger that you can be. Another similar quote by American author James Whitcomb Riley is, “Continuous, unflagging effort, persistence, and determination will win. Let not the man be discouraged who has these.” If you are seeking to become a better competitive eater or just simply better at winning food challenges, that won’t happen by just wishing for your maximum stomach capacity to increase. You need to continually practice and gradually train your stomach to be able to expand further and further. If you have not already, be sure to check out all the helpful articles in our Stomach Capacity Training section.

Consuming food challenges is definitely not a natural thing for the human body to go through. You cannot just wake up one day and think your body will let you fit six pounds of food inside it without any prior training. You also cannot train hard and win a six pound food challenge, go back to eating normally for two weeks, and then think you can still eat six more pounds of food just because you could two weeks ago. Your body resists rapid changes and it knows many ways to keep you from accidentally harming yourself. If you want your body to do something that its not used to doing, you must continually train it and let it gradually adapt to those changes. You also need to continually maintain your capacity once you have it near the level you are wanting it to be at. Regarding stomach capacity, as quoted in the movie Forty Year Old Virgin, “If you don’t use it, you’ll lose it.”

While you do need to consistently train & maintain your stomach capacity, you still need to remember that you are a human being and not a machine. In regards to expanding and contracting, your stomach muscles are very similar to your exterior skeletal muscles that you use every day to move around and lift things. You cannot just train, train, and then train some more. Your body does not operate like that. Your muscles need rest so they can recuperate and gradually adjust to the changes you are trying to make. If you are wanting to continuously train and improve your eating abilities, you need to do it in a safe but effective manner. While continuous effort is the key to unlocking your potential, you also need to remember to work smarter and not just harder. Here is a list of four things to consider while figuring out how to go about training and maintaining your stomach capacity:

Continuous Food Challenge Training Tips To Consider

1. Your Body Needs Rest And Sleep – How often you train and what foods and liquids you train with mostly depend on your body type and metabolism. If you are like me and are prone to gaining weight (fat) easily, you won’t be able to train as often as somebody with a high metabolism that struggles to gain and maintain weight. If you train too often and consume too many excess calories, you will quickly gain undesirable body fat which will just decrease your performance at the dinner table. Obviously, you definitely want to avoid doing that. However often you decide that you want to train and compete, and you may even want to experiment initially, remember that your body needs rest and sleep. For this example, consider rest and sleep two different things. Getting “rest” refers to taking a break in between training sessions and competitions to let your body relax and recuperate. Getting “sleep” refers to taking a long break from competitive eating and food challenges to let your body completely rest and fully recover. A full month is usually plenty for a break like this, but you may want to take even more time off. Use this period to lose any excess fat that you may have gained during your “eating season.” The easiest thing to do is simply listen to your body and let it tell you how its feeling. Just like your body tells you that you need to sleep, your stomach and body will give you signs that you need to stop and “sleep” too. Take a long break to recover, and you will be well rested and stronger once you start eating again.

2. Be Smart On Days Off – Many people claim that food challenges and competitive eating contests promote obesity and serious weight gain, but that claim is very incomplete. Attempting food challenges and competing in eating contests only promotes serious weight gain if you have very poor nutrition habits when not competing. Like with most aspects of life, it’s not the big things that you need to worry about. Many little problems tend to add up to equal one extremely large problem, and this applies to competitive eaters and food challengers too. You may win a big 50 wing challenge, but that caloric challenge meal will not really make you gain weight. The 10 tablespoons of ranch dressing (very high in fat) you ate with the wings, the 3 scoops of ice cream for dessert, and the 12-pack of beers you have afterwards to celebrate is what will really increase your body weight. In order to maintain your weight while still continuously training and actively competing, you need to be very smart on your regular days off. You need to keep your calories lower and it would be very beneficial for you to get some additional exercise too. If you practice very poor nutrition habits in addition to regularly training and competing, you will really gain weight quickly. To be able to fully enjoy the delicious massive meals that food challengers get to consume, you will have to make some minor sacrifices and be as healthy as possible when not training or competing. This also of course depends on your body type and metabolism too though. You can’t have your cake and eat it too. If you want to be the best you can be, you must be dedicated on both training days and off days.

3. You Don’t Need To Train Everyday – Not even Michael Jordan or Serena Williams trained everyday for their particular sporting events. The top level professional competitive eaters certainly don’t train every single day either. You don’t need to continually stretch your stomach every day in order for you to be able to eat and drink more. Remember that Rome was not built in a day. As mentioned in True Stomach Expansion Takes Time, to be successful, you must start slow and gradually build up your eating capacity and endurance. Your capacity isn’t going to increase by one full pound in just one week. Not only will you gain large amounts of weight, but you’ll also experience serious decreases in your performance. As mentioned above, your body needs rest and sleep.

4. Stomach Expansion Is Like Weightlifting – When in doubt, treat stomach expansion just like lifting weights. If you continuously lift weights and don’t give your body enough rest, you will start suffering from “overtraining” and your strength will then rapidly decline. Then you have to take a long break (sleep) and let your body fully recover. The funny thing about this though is that after your muscles fully recover and become well rested, you may feel and be even stronger than you were before you began overtraining. If your stomach and body needs a break from food challenges and eating contests, take a long break. You may even come back with a higher capacity and endurance than you had before. Just like with lifting weights, you need to increase gradually and let your body slowly adapt. You would not pick up 60 pound dumbbells when your body is used to the 30 pound dumbbells, so you shouldn’t expect your body to fit a 6 pound challenge when you have just been training with 4 pound meals and smaller. This depends on your body type and metabolism, but you may want to schedule your training similar to a lifting schedule. Treating your stomach as one muscle, you may want to train that muscle two or three times per week, just like you would train your leg muscles and back. In my opinion, two training sessions is plenty. If you are trying to gain weight or have a high metabolism, you are welcome to train 3 times. If you are like me though and gain weight easily, once or twice per week is fine so that you don’t gain weight.

Just like throughout our Stomach Capacity Training articles, we can’t establish a one-size-fits-all schedule or training program. Since All Stomachs Were Not Created Equally, this would need to be done on a case-by-case individual basis so that we could analyze each person’s activity level, body type, routine nutrition habits, and other factors. For more information about training stomach capacity, read our How Stomach Capacity Training Works article. If you are wanting to become a serious food challenger or competitive eater, consider the advice above when planning out your training and competition schedule. Be safe and be sure to keep maintaining your personal health as the #1 priority. With continuous effort, intense training, and proper rest, you will gradually increase your stomach capacity and eating abilities so that you can become the best food fighter you can be.

NOTE: When using the quote, “If you don’t use it, you’ll lose it” up above, we were referring to the fact that if you don’t maintain your high level of maximum stomach capacity (the ability of your stomach muscles to relax and expand further), your stomach muscles will contract back down to a normal size. This is why you may be able to eat five pounds of food after training, but only able to finish regular sized meals two weeks later. Your stomach muscles have contracted back to their normal size because you didn’t maintain them, and you have temporarily “lost” the stomach capacity you built up. Please keep in mind that you don’t actually fully lose your maximum stomach capacity if you take a long break from training and competing, which is definitely recommended every now and then when you feel your body needs to “sleep.” There is no science behind this, and only four years of dedicated training experience, but your stomach muscles do obtain a sense of “muscle memory” over time. As you continue to progress with your training and competing, and as you continue to improve, you will find that your stomach muscles gradually become easier to train and adapt. I may take two months off from doing any challenges or contests, but it no longer takes a long time and multiple training sessions to raise my capacity back up to where I need it to be. My stomach muscles remember from last time, and everything is much easier than it was back in 2010 when I started. So please know that it is fully okay to take a break and let your body fully recover. Your next training and preparation period will be quicker and smoother than the previous one.

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