The question of whether to eat meats and proteins or the high carbohydrate items first during a food challenge is definitely one of the most heavily debated subjects related to food challenges and competitive eating. Some people feel that you will get the best results by eating the meats and cheeses first before the bun and fries, and then there are some people that think you should eat the fries and bun first and then the meats and cheeses. At the end of the day, the choice is up to you based on your own personal preference and experiences, but the sole purpose of this article is to explain which side we support when this question arises. I have been researching the answer to this question since beginning in 2010 and I have experimented with many different techniques and methods throughout all of my food challenges that have involved both meats and high carb items such as french fries and buns. After winning over 185 different food challenges throughout the world, I’ve 100% settled on the theory that you need to eat the meats, cheeses, and toppings first and then the buns, fries, and other high carb items, unless those high carb items will be too tough to eat late in the challenge when you are full and tired.

To improve your chances of winning your next food challenge, you need to begin by eating as quickly as possible for as long as possible. Eat as much of the challenge as you can before you start feeling full and then gradually slow down your eating pace. As mentioned in How Stomach Capacity Training Works, a person can eat a lot of food very quickly when he or she is fresh and hungry, but eventually will slow down to eating at a “snail’s pace” towards the end of a big challenge when that person is approaching maximum capacity, better known as “the wall.” Since you only have 15 to 20 minutes before your brain starts sending signals to the rest of your body, announcing that you are almost full, you must eat the foods that are the heaviest, yet easiest to eat quickly.

Would you rather try to eat a one pound thick and chewy hamburger bun or would you rather eat a one pound juicy and tender hamburger patty? Hopefully, you would choose to eat the juicy hamburger patty because you can eat that significantly faster than the chewy burger bun. Let’s say for example that we are doing a 5 pound burger challenge that consists of a 3 pound burger patty with cheese along with a 1 pound bun and then a one pound side of french fries. If you focus on eating the burger patty and cheese first, you will already be over 60% finished with the challenge once the beef and cheese is fully consumed. Then all you have left is the bun and french fries which are much lighter. Your Mind Is Your Body’s Strongest Muscle, and getting the heaviest portion of your challenge done quickly will definitely help boost your confidence even further so that you can power through the rest of the challenge and get the victory. You already have 60% of the challenge complete and there are still 35 minutes left. You can finish that remaining 2 pounds of food in 35 minutes!! You have plenty of time left to consume the bun and fries because you ate the burger and cheese first while they were warm and juicy.

Now let’s reverse the strategy and eat the fries and bun first. You will have a much easier time eating the fries first instead of last because they will be warm and greasy, fresh out of the fryer, and they have not had enough time to cool, dry up, and harden (or possibly become mushy too). Let’s say that you consumed the pound of fries in 5 minutes and then spent 10 minutes eating the 1 pound thick and chewy burger bun with the help of a large glass of water to help soften it up so that you could swallow faster. Rather than finishing the 3 pound burger patty in the 10 minutes, you finished the 2 pounds of high carb items first in 15 minutes, so now you have 30 minutes to finish all of the beef. There is one problem now though. During the 15 minutes that you were eating the high carb items, in addition to the time it sat cooling before starting the challenge, your 3 pound burger patty cooled off and is now pretty dry and lukewarm. You no longer have the greasy juices to help you eat the meat faster, and the flavor is not nearly as delicious as it used to be. You now have to drink a lot more liquid in between bites to chase your food down, and you also need to dip your bites into your choice of sauce to help make the meat taste good. You are taking longer to eat each bite, and you will soon have an even harder time eating because you are starting to approach maximum capacity. This isn’t the restaurant’s fault at all. It’s your fault because you did not strategize well beforehand and think about the consequences of eating carbs first.

As you can see, the main reason that you want to eat the meat(s) and toppings first is because they go down much quicker and easier when warm and juicy. You don’t want to eat them when they are hot enough to burn your mouth, but you don’t want to eat them at the end when they are cold either. The point of making sure your meat is cooked right is so that it will be tender, juicy, and delicious when you first bite into it at the beginning of the challenge. Hopefully you never arrive at the restaurant hoping that you need to cover your meat with sauce and drink an extra glass of stomach-filling liquid just to help force the tasteless food down. The second reason is because getting the heaviest portion of the challenge done quickly allows you a lot more time to finish the lighter remaining components. Start fast and strong, and then coast to victory!! The third reason is because quickly finishing a majority of the challenge, which also happens to be the heaviest part, really relaxes your mind and boosts your confidence so that you can finish off the rest of your challenge before time expires.

Another thing to consider is that the temperature of the bun never really changes much, especially the top bun. It may be hot in the beginning because some of the heat from the burger meat transferred to it, but that won’t change the consistency of it later when it is cooled down. This is another reason why you can save it for later, because it will taste about the same with the same consistency whether you eat it first or last. You may want to separate the bottom bun from the meat though as soon as your time starts because the juices will drip down into the bottom bun which will soften it up and soak it with grease, and that won’t be very good when the grease gets cold. Eat the beef and toppings first because the meat is more affected by time and temperature than the bun.

Now let’s talk about the high carb side items like french fries, onion rings, tater tots, and baked potatoes. First of all, before continuing, I want to remind you that in our example, the fries make up only 1/5 of the entire weight of the challenge, or 20%. Because the side is only 1/5 of the challenge, it should not be one of the major priorities. You need to be worried more about getting the burger down. I typically recommend taking care of finishing the main entree, and then finishing the side item. Therefore, in this example we would finish the burger patty and cheese, followed by the bun, and then we would eat the french fries. The one downside to eating the fries last is that they will most likely be cooled down and they won’t taste as fresh and delicious as they would if you ate them first. Believe me though when I say you would much rather eat 1 pound of cold, tasteless fries than 2 or 3 pounds of cold, dry hamburger meat. This is why we recommend drinking a carbonated, acidic beverage such as soda near the end of your challenge. The carbonation will help you burp up any remaining air in your stomach so that more food can fill those spaces, and the acidity will have multiple purposes. The soda will help overpower the taste of the cold potatoes (or onions), which will definitely be very helpful so that you don’t get sick, but it will also help break the food down faster too so that you can swallow much quicker and more easily. Potatoes and breads are lighter and therefore the acidity has a stronger affect on helping to break them down inside your mouth. Soda will not have the same effect on the dense hamburger meat, and will really only help overpower the taste of the bland, cold meat. You will not need to worry though if you just eat the meat first!!

Now I’d like to address the second part of our argument, “unless those high carb items will be too tough to eat late in the challenge when you are full and tired.” It is highly recommended during challenges that you eat any and all foods that you really don’t like first so that you get them done and out of the way while you are fresh and feeling strong. If you don’t like them when you are hungry at the beginning, you most definitely won’t want to eat them when you are full and tired of eating. For example, if you don’t like the taste of coleslaw, pickles, or onions, and they are part of your challenge, you need to eat them first and get them out of the way. Use liquids or combine them with some other food so that you can finish them and no longer worry about them. You can then focus on the rest of the challenge that you will enjoy. If you don’t like the taste of something and you try to force it down while you are really full, you are much more prone to throwing up and getting disqualified, so you definitely want to avoid that possibility completely. Along the same lines, you may come across a restaurant challenge that involves a particular high carb side item such as french fries that taste so terrible when they are cold and hard that you can’t even stomach them, chew them, or consume them. In this situation, you definitely need to eat that particular food first rather than last. It once took me five tries to finally beat a particular challenge, and I beat it because I realized after the fourth attempt that I lost each previous time because I was saving the 1.5 pounds of crinkle cut french fries until the end, and they were way too tough to eat. I was able to get the 5 pound sandwich down pretty easily but I just could not stomach the cold and hard french fries. On the fifth attempt, I finished the fresh, moist, warm fries in 3 minutes and then moved on to the sandwich. I finally won!! In a situation like the one I faced, you need to eat the carbs before the meats so that you can defeat the challenge. Please note that I still ate the sandwich bun last though, just like during all other food challenges.

This argument and theory works for basically every food challenge that involves both meats and carbohydrates. Even during a spaghetti and meatballs challenge with a 2 pound meatball and 4 pounds of spaghetti, you will want to finish most of the meat early in the challenge before it can cool off and dry up. Pizza challenges also follow this rule. You need to eat the cheesy and meaty inside of the pizza while the cheese is still moist, greasy, and warm. Once the cheese cools down and hardens, that pizza will be much tougher to chew and swallow. It will not taste as good either. When I do pizza challenges, especially ones with a large outer crust, I eat all of the interior squares first and then eat the crust pieces last. If my pizza is in triangles, I eat each triangle down until I reach the crust, and then I move on to the next slice, saving all of my crusts until last. I do this also because my taste buds can easily handle the taste of the crust chased down with soda, but they don’t like when the crust is still covered with cold pizza sauce. As you can probably guess, our proteins vs carbs argument works for steak eating challenges too. Eat the steak first!! When you are putting together the strategy for your next challenge and deciding the order that you will eat each main component, remember this rule and why you should follow it. You will have a much greater chance of winning your challenge, and you will enjoy your food a lot more too!!

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