Five Star General and U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower once stated, “In preparing for battle I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable (an absolute must).” While that quote was referring to actual military war battles, it also applies well to the process of preparing and planning for upcoming eating competitions. There are some elite eaters who possess the skills and ability to win some competitions without much training or preparation beforehand, but as an amateur still “learning the ropes” you must always be sure to plan and prepare yourself as well as you possibly can before each individual event. Win Before You Begin is the #1 motto we teach throughout all of the many FC articles, and it’s very important that you always remember the phrase and follow it’s meaning if you desire to be a successful competitive eater. Train. Strategize. Dominate.

Hopefully you have already read Selecting The Eating Contest Right For You, where we helped you find a few local eating contests available nearby which you may want to compete in. We briefly touched on many aspects of the planning process throughout that article, but now we will get into more detailed explanations so that you can fully prepare yourself for each competition you decide to enter. We also briefly explained how important your personal mindset is before, during, and after your contests, and how much your thought processes affect your enjoyment throughout the experience. We will now mention all the major and minor details involved with eating contests, and then we will explain the different variations possible for each detail and how they each affect your planning. You will be able to use this information to prepare yourself both physically and mentally before your upcoming events since you will know what to expect based on all these vital details mentioned:

Major Contest Details That Affect Your Contest Preparations

1. Date – This is an obvious one, but the date of the competition is the detail that matters first and foremost, since you don’t need to concern yourself with any other details if you aren’t even available on that particular day or night to actually compete in the event. If you are available though, then the contest date and how far away it is will let you know how much time you have to really prepare yourself for that competition. You can then plan ahead accordingly and figure out when you need to begin preparing for it, based on some other details below.

2. Time – The time of the event is also a big factor of course in regards to deciding whether you will even be available to compete in the contest, but it’s included as a separate major detail because the time of the event affects the last 48 hours of your training schedule, if training is even necessary. You will need to make different physical preparations based on whether the contest is being held early morning, afternoon, or in the evening.

3. Type – What kind of competition is it? Is it a type of eating challenge contest where you must eat a particular quantity of food or is it an actual eating contest where you must eat as much of something as you can within a pre-established time limit? That tells you whether you must prepare to eat a certain amount of food or if you must prepare to just eat for a specified amount of time. Typically, each type requires different preparations.

4. Length – Even if you will be competing in an eating challenge contest, almost all competition hosts set a maximum time limit to prevent it from becoming long and boring if nobody is able to finish their entire meal. During standard eating contests, the time limit tells you how long you will be allowed to eat for. During eating challenge contests the maximum time limit lets you know basically how long you have to finish the entire meal placed in front of you, if nobody finishes sooner. You will use the contest length to plan your training schedule.

5. Food – What kind(s) of food will you be eating throughout the event? Will you have to finish a large burger, fries, and a milkshake (multiple components), or will you have to just eat hot dogs, pizza, or chicken wings for a certain period of time? The type of food is really the most important detail you must know because that dictates everything else, including how much you will be able to eat, or how long it will take to eat it, and both of those affect your training regimen. There will be a unique eating strategy for each different type of food as well. Like every eater, you will perform better with some foods than you do with others, and there may even be some foods you just don’t want to eat during contests, such as spicy wings. For example, some eaters perform better in contests involving smaller “technique foods” such as chicken wings, oysters, and BBQ ribs. Then there are other eaters who do better with larger food items such as pizza, burgers, sandwiches, and hot dogs which don’t really involve much technique and quick hand speed. The type of food and contest length are both used to establish how much you must be prepared to eat, since some foods are easier to eat faster than others. For information on how to eat various eating contest foods quickly, please read How To Speed Eat Various Eating Contest Foods.

6. Quantity – How much will you have to eat during the event? If you are entering an eating challenge contest, then you already know how much you have to eat. Whether the contest is “first to eat 10 hot dogs” or “first to eat a 5 pound burger challenge,” you already know what your mind and body must be prepared to physically consume. If you are competing in an eating contest, then you will know how much food (#5) you will be able to eat based on the time limit in #4. This may be a little more difficult at first, but as you progress and gain solid experience, you will eventually get to a point where you can almost “know” (more like “guess”) how much of a particular food you will eat within a specified time period. That is obviously pending on your ability to maintain a realistic perspective of yourself and your abilities though. The longer the competition, typically the more you will eat, and therefore you must prepare yourself to eat more. Once you have a solid idea of how much you will need to eat, you can then plan your training schedule based on the time and date, if training is even necessary.

These Are The Minor Contest Details You Must Also Consider

1. Is dunking allowed? – The word “dunking” refers to whether the contest rules allow you to dunk your contest food in some type of liquid before actually putting it in your mouth. Dunking is popular when allowed because the water or other liquid used soaks into the food (especially buns, pizza crusts, and other breads) before even entering your mouth which moistens it and makes it easier to swallow faster. The food will also require less chewing which saves your jaw from having to work as hard. If dunking is allowed and your are competing in a contest where dunking will actually help you eat more food faster, then you must consider that when planning your training regimen. For more information about dunking, read The Use Of Liquids During Eating Contests.

2. “Picnic style” rules vs “anything goes” – These are the two most commonly used styles of rules which dictate what do you can during the competition. “Picnic style” basically means that you must “respect” the food and eat it how the food is meant to be eaten. There is no dunking (#1), mashing (crushing it into a compacted ball which is easier to eat faster), or separating (you cannot eat the hot dog separate from the bun) allowed. “Anything goes” means you can do just about anything in order to eat the food faster, and therefore basically you can do whatever you want within reasonable means. As we said in #1, you will be able to eat more when the rules are “anything goes,” so factor that into your plans. More on eating quicker: Speed Eating: How To Eat Food Faster.

3. How many people will be in the contest? – There is often something included with the contest advertisement stating how many people will be allowed to compete. Some contests are smaller and some are bigger, depending on many different variables such as how much food the sponsor will be providing. Not only will knowing this tell you how soon you must sign up, but also you can generally assume that more popular, bigger competitions will require you to perform better in order to win. Therefore you must train even more if you want to be victorious!!

4. Are professionals allowed or is it “amateur only?” – There’s a very misguided rule being increasingly used by contest hosts who are classifying their event as “for amateurs only” which denies all Professional Eaters from competing. They do this to prevent one or two highly skilled eaters from traveling in from out-of-town and beating all of the local “amateurs” by a very large margin, which then discourages them from entering the next year, since nobody wants to enter a contest if they already know they cannot win before they even start. As a beginner (amateur), rules denying professionals from competing actually favor you since that rules out any possible well-known eaters from competing who are highly likely to eat more than you currently can. In most cases, this means the contest has a higher chance of being more competitive, meaning that you have a higher chance of placing and winning a prize. In these cases, you definitely want to prepare for an intense battle!!

5. The restaurant’s location and how far you are away – This is a fairly important detail for two reasons. The first reason is because it affects the last few hours of your training regimen. If you have to drive a few hours for the competition, you’ll need to plan everything accordingly. If the contest is less than thirty minutes away, your plans can be much more relaxed. The second reason the location is important is because competitions in larger cities typically have higher quality competition, simply because there are more people in those cities that may be interested in competing. If the contest is in a major high-traffic, popular area, or even just at a really popular restaurant/festival, then you should expect some better competition. Therefore you must prepare accordingly!!

6. How skilled will your competition be? – All of the above details are pre-established by the restaurant, festival, or contest host and 99% of the time these details are beyond your personal control as well as beyond the control of all your possible competitors. Who all enters the competition is not directly controlled by the event host, but to an extent that host still influences the quality of the competition you may be facing. The factors that really influence who all enters the contest are the details which don’t really affect your training or strategy. Those minor details are the required entrance fee and more importantly the prizes for winning. Typically, better prizes attract higher level eaters. If there is a descent cash prize involved, it would be worth a few hours of travel for a skilled eater to make the trip and enter the contest. Great eaters from all over may travel via plane for contests with really big prizes. For more about judging your competition, check out Tips For Analyzing Your Competitors.

Using the information you gathered through finding out all the details mentioned above, you can now plan out the personal strategy and training regimen you will use before, during, and after the particular competition. For more information which will help you recover after the event, please check out our After The Challenge section which also applies to recovering after eating contests. As for your training and your strategy, they are similar to what you would do before and during a food challenge, but they are slightly different. For more information that will really help you strategize for the event, check out all the other helpful articles in this Eating Contest Tips section, and especially How To Speed Eat Various Eating Contest Foods. Please read How To Train For An Eating Contest before beginning your physical preparations. There will be some eating contests which will not require any Stomach Capacity Training beforehand, simply because the event isn’t long enough for you to eat so much that you begin feeling full. You can still always Train To Increase Your Jaw Strength and Train Yourself To Eat Faster though. No matter what the circumstances, you should always plan well and do all the preparations you can beforehand so that you can do your best. Going back to that first quote by President Dwight D. Eisenhower, you may not actually use the entire plan you develop, but the confidence gained by actually doing the training and strategizing is absolutely invaluable. Never forget to Win Before You Begin: Train. Strategize. Dominate!

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