Before beginning an extremely large quantity food challenge that you know your body is not used to processing, it’s impossible to 100% guarantee that you will win. Sometimes the human body responds to situations in ways that you cannot predict or fully explain. You can however almost guarantee that you are going to be physically hurting with a stomach ache after you are finished. This not only applies to people attempting quantity food challenges, but it also applies to everyone attempting to eat a large meal, whether you are at a buffet, at your grandma’s house, or celebrating Thanksgiving. If you eat a significantly large meal that your body is not used to handling, you will more than likely experience an upset stomach along with multiple other side effects that stem from overeating. You may have a lot of fun while eating, but trust me when I say that how you will feel afterwards is not nearly as fun. There are many different factors that contribute to the feelings you experience. Your training and preparation beforehand compared to the size of the challenge has a major effect, and so does how your body personally reacts to the specific foods you are eating. For example, your body may not process chili very well compared to other foods, so you may feel worse after a challenge involving chili cheese fries that you would after an ice cream challenge. If you don’t process dairy very well, you will obviously have a harder time after milkshake, ice cream, and pizza challenges. There are other contributors too. Luckily for you though, there are ways to speed up the time it takes your body to fully recover after your big meal, for all situations.

Please note that this article specifically deals with how to recover from a large quantity food challenge. If you are wanting to find out how to recover after eating an extremely spicy meal, check out our Recovery From Spicy Food Challenges article. Before we dive into explaining what you can do after your large quantity meal, these are a few important things you should consider thinking about and doing before even taking your first bite:

Recovery Starts Before The Challenge Begins

1. Do stomach capacity training so that your body is more prepared – The human body is not known for being able to quickly adapt to rapid changes in a positive manner. If you spend an entire week eating normal sized portions and then suddenly attempt to eat a very large meal, your body will not have been prepared for that, and it will therefore go into “survival mode” while trying to compensate for what you just did to it. You will get a stomach ache along with other unwanted side effects, and your body may even “reverse” the meal if it cannot handle processing everything correctly within a reasonable amount of time. The best way to help your body prepare for this big meal is through stomach capacity training. For more information about how to do this, check out our very informative Stomach Capacity Training section. Over the course of a week, steadily increase the size of your meals and allow your body to gradually adapt to those increases. This will help your body become more prepared for the significant amount of “overtime” that your organs will have to work to digest everything.

2. Consider how your body reacts to all of the specific food items – There are over 28 different types of eating challenges, and your body may have a unique response to each and every one of them. Before the challenge, consider how your body is going to react to all of the foods and components involved with your meal. If you are eating or drinking some ridiculously unhealthy items, know going into the challenge that you aren’t going to feel very good afterwards. For example, I once completed a 100 ounce breakfast challenge involving 70 full ounces of sausage gravy poured over 30 ounces of biscuits and hash browns. I knew before I even took a bite that I would not feel great afterwards, and I was absolutely correct. If you are eating a twelve scoop ice cream sundae or eating a six pound plate of nachos, know going into the challenge that you are not going to feel great afterwards. Being mentally prepared and ready for those negative side effects will make it easier for you to get through the minor period of discomfort. Another thing you need to think about is the “digestibility” of your food. Your body will have an easier time processing a pho or ramen challenge than a 72 ounce steak challenge. If the challenge is very meaty, you should expect your body to take a little more time to digest everything. For more information about digestibility and how unhealthy the food is, please read our The Speed Of Recovery Depends On The Food article. The third big thing to think about is how much sodium is included throughout the challenge. Sodium has a major effect on how your body processes water, which then of course affects your body weight. For more helpful information about that, please read our Expect Your Weight To Fluctuate Significantly article.

3. Try supplementing digestive enzymes beforehand – The #1 thing that I feel helps me personally recover fast after large meals is not that I have been doing it for over four years now and my body is more used to everything. It is because I take a double dose of digestive enzymes ten to fifteen minutes before each and every challenge and big meal that I consume. Whether I am eating a big training meal or eating an actual challenge meal, I never forget to take them with some water while I am getting everything ready. Your body naturally produces plenty of digestive enzymes to process all of the regular foods and beverages you consume on a daily basis. Your teeth, mouth, and esophagus mechanically digest everything until it all reaches your stomach, and then your  body’s digestive enzymes take control from there via chemical digestion processes. Your body produces a lot of these enzymes, but not enough to easily digest the amount of food and calories consumed during a massive eating challenge. Your digestive system can and will of course slowly be able to process everything, but it will have to work much harder and take significantly more time than if you just supplement additional enzymes before you begin eating. For more information about digestive enzymes, check out our helpful Supplementing Digestive Enzymes And Probiotics article. It also covers supplementing additional probiotics which are the bacteria that move the digested food particles through your intestines into your colon to complete the digestion process.

Another thing to consider is that this article is meant to serve as a general basic guide to help amateur eaters recover from one large quantity eating challenge at a time. If you have already completed many challenges and are looking for advanced tips such as how to recover for back-to-back challenges, please read our Advanced Tips For Chronic Food Challengers article. Now that we’ve established what to consider doing before your challenge begins to make recovery afterwards easier, these are things you should actually do after finishing your meal:

What To Do After Your Challenge Is Finished

1. Let your food settle directly afterwards – After you swallow that last bite, whether in victory or defeat, take five or ten minutes and let your food settle. Especially if you are really full, which you definitely must be if you “threw in the towel” and could not finish, that food will still be moving around trying to find places to fit and eventually settle while waiting to be digested. Relax and let your body settle itself down. It will be going crazy in panic while trying to figure out how to process everything you just put in it. If you get up and move around too quickly, your body may accidentally make a spur-of-the-moment decision to “reverse” everything back up. This tip especially applies when restaurants require a “waiting period,” meaning that customers are not allowed to throw up for a certain amount of time after finishing the meal. Even if you finish and proudly open your empty mouth, if you fail to make it through the “waiting period,” it will be counted as a loss. If you feel like there is still some air in your stomach or esophagus being held in, drink a carbonated beverage to help you release it.

2. Be careful ordering dessert if still hungry – You may see food challenge articles and posts every now and then about people ordering dessert after finishing a big food challenge, proudly showing off and letting people know they still could have eaten more. You may even want to do this yourself and get a nice bowl of ice cream to celebrate. Be careful deciding whether or not you really want to do that though. I personally love ice cream and all other desserts, and I do sometimes get dessert if the restaurant offers it to me as a prize. There have been many times though where I felt great after finishing the actual challenge, but then I began feeling terrible upon finishing the extracurricular dessert. This may happen to you too, so know that you may be much better off just getting some ice cream an hour or two later rather than right after finishing the challenge. If you order dessert and then start feeling poorly, you have nobody to blame but yourself. Just because somebody else was able to do it, that doesn’t mean you can handle eating an additional dessert too. The choice is obviously up to you though.

3. Rest! Rest!! Rest!!! – A hard earned food challenge victory that you trained for all week is very exciting and ignites a very proud feeling once you have successfully finished. Enjoy that excitement while it lasts, because soon after the challenge you will not want to do anything but lay down and take a nap. Especially for your first few larger quantity challenges, don’t schedule one within a few hours of an important event. You won’t want to dance, drink, party, work, or do any activity other than maybe watch a movie. For the next couple hours after your challenge, wherever you are at, lay down or relax in a recliner and let your body recuperate. For more information regarding why you feel exhausted afterwards, read Why Your Body Feels Tired After Eating A Lot.

4. Drink plenty of water – My #1 favorite drink after a big quantity challenge is not a beer, soda, lemonade, or milkshake. It is water!! Especially after a really salty challenge, you are going to really crave some ice cold water. Water is extremely important to your body and all of it’s digestion processes. For more reasons why you need to focus on drinking water, read Water Is Nature’s Ultimate Digestive Aid. You may not be able to drink anything for an hour or two after some regular digestion takes place, but start drinking water as soon as you feel that you are able to. The quicker you start really drinking water, the quicker you begin feeling better.

5. Get some great SLEEP – The length of discomfort as we said has a lot of factors involved, but it also depends on what time of day you attempt your big challenge or eat your large meal. If you eat that meal during breakfast hours, you will most likely feel pretty normal by the time you go to bed. If you attempt the challenge late in the day, you may still be feeling full when you are ready for bed. Getting a good night of sleep after a big challenge will definitely help you recover faster. You will wake up the next day after seven hours of great sleep feeling much better than you did when you first got into bed. You will need your rest like we talked about in #3 if you do your challenge earlier in the day, but you also need to make sure you get a great night sleep. After your first few challenges, if you are of proper drinking age, I would not suggest planning on going out bar hopping that night after your challenge. Your full recovery will happen much quicker and more efficiently if you get a good night of sleep. We all know that you won’t get very good sleep if you go out drinking until 2am. Plus, I would be willing to bet that you won’t be able to drink much anyway because your body is still very full!! Stay in and watch a movie, or spend time with your family. Then get yourself some sleep. You will be happy that you did in the morning!!

6. Increase your dietary fiber intake – Does a 72 ounce steak, 66 ounce burger patty, 100 ounce bowl of ice cream, or 1.5 kilogram meter-long hot dog contain the most dietary fiber? The answer is… who cares?? They all basically have little to no fiber in them, and sorry but the few slices of tomato and onions sitting next to that 66 ounce burger patty are not going to be much help pushing that burger through your digestive system. If you don’t do anything to improve the situation, your food challenge will stay inside your body for a long time, and that is because 95% of eating challenges include very little fiber in them. If a challenge did consist of many high-fibrous foods, people most likely wouldn’t want to order it. Sadly, that’s why there are so few “healthier” challenges, because not many people would be interested in attempting them. Increase your dietary fiber intake during your next few meals to help “clean your system.” For more information about the importance of dietary fiber for speeding up your full recovery, read our helpful Increase Your Dietary Fiber Intake Afterwards article.

7. Try using  a stool softener or laxative – An increase in dietary fiber will help make sure that the challenge meal has exited your body sooner than later, but it will not produce very quick results. If you are wanting to get that large meal out of your body quickly, you need to supplement a stool softener or laxative. Popular laxatives include Dulcolax, MiraLax, and of course Ex-Lax. They will help soften all of the digested fiber-less waste from your challenge meal that is still sitting in your body so it can be excreted faster and more easily. Rather than specifically using a laxative, I prefer taking a simple Colon Cleanse high fiber product that also contains natural laxatives. They can be found in the same area at the store as stool softeners and laxatives, and they work very well. I take them before going to bed the night after my big challenges and let them work while I’m sleeping. For more details about laxatives, read our very informational Optional Medicinal Drugs That Help Recovery article.

8. You may use upset stomach medications – I’m sure by now you have heard of Tums, Pepto-Bismol, and Alka Seltzer that treat upset stomachs and other side effects that stem from overeating. I never use these after quantity challenges, but you way want to try your preferred option to help speed up the recovery process. Whether you use the real thing or an off-brand product, make sure to also drink a lot of water to help move the medication down into your stomach where it needs to be. The mental placebo affect of the medication plus the actual results achieved by drinking water will definitely help you feel better much quicker than if you just sat there hoping the discomfort would go away. For more information about upset stomach medications, please check our Optional Medicinal Drugs That Help Recovery article that goes into further details about them all.

9. Maintain healthy control of your weight – If you are anything like me and you are prone to gaining weight quickly, and I am not talking about muscle weight, you need to be careful and maintain control of your weight. During your training week and especially during your challenge, you will most likely be taking in many extra calories that your body and metabolism is not used to handling or burning as regular fuel. Therefore, those extra calories will be stored as fat, and excess fat is not a good thing for most people. Weight can be added a lot faster than it can be subtracted, and I will be the first person to agree with that. For more details about how food challenges can affect your weight, please read Expect Your Weight To Fluctuate Significantly. To get rid of the excess calories gained you will need to either limit your calories for a couple days or you will have to increase your amount of exercise. If you consumed a lot of extra calories, you most likely will need to do both at once.

10. Do NOT attempt to throw up on purpose!! – In the beginning of the article, I did not 100% guarantee that you would be physically hurting with a stomach ache afterwards because there is always a chance when dealing with high volumes of food that you may end up “getting sick” and reversing all of your food back up into a trash can or toilet. In that case, you would be feeling great again within a few short minutes. It is obviously not at all considered “healthy” for your body to have to digest six pounds of food amounting to over 8,000 calories, but it is most definitely not healthy to get into a habit of throwing up your food after you get done eating. Your high-powered stomach acid will quickly ruin your entire digestive system if you continually make yourself throw up. Yes, doing it once 99% of the time will not do much harm or damage, but doing it once can easily lead to doing it every other time and then to every time. “Pulling the trigger” should NOT be one of your solutions to recovering quickly after a food challenge. For the reasons why, read our Dangers & Risks Of Self Induced Vomiting article.

Following the advice in this article along with reading the articles linked above will definitely help you recover from your next large quantity challenge much faster than you would by not doing anything. I have been using these tips to help recover after challenges for over three years now, and I rarely experience any discomfort the next day after a big challenge, especially after a good night of sleep. If you are attempting an extremely spicy challenge rather than a quantity challenge, please read our Recovery From Spicy Food Challenges article. Also remember that these tips don’t just apply to people attempting food challenges. If you will be eating a very large meal that you know your body is not used to, these tips can all definitely be used and applied. You will notice results quickly and recover much faster than you could ever expect to before finding this website 🙂

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