American tennis player Michael Chang, the youngest male athlete to win a Grand Slam singles championship, once stated, “You can work really hard, but if you’re not training in the right way you’re not going to improve and get to the level you want to.” This is especially true in regards to training for both food challenges and eating contests, since there are many various incorrect and unhealthy ways to go about preparing your body for these types of competitions. As we discuss in The Extreme Dangers Of Water Training, practicing very unsafe “water training” techniques in order to temporarily increase your stomach capacity can possibly result in very severe physical harm due to all the water causing critical nutrient imbalances within your body. In You Will Gain Weight If You Are Not Careful, we discuss how going “overboard” and training with food too often can lead to gaining excessive amounts of body fat. If you train properly based on your current physical eating abilities and practice moderation though, using the tips throughout our Stomach Capacity Training section, you will be able to prepare your body safely and effectively, without having to worry about experiencing the unnecessary physical risks.

The training process for an eating contest is very similar to the preparation process when getting ready for a food challenge, but there are a few differences, and those will be explained throughout this article. In Analyze The Contest Details and Plan Ahead, we discussed all the various major and minor details you must find out about the particular eating contest you want to compete in before you actually develop your plan of attack and how you will prepare yourself to achieve victory. If you haven’t already read that article, please do that now before continuing on because we will be referring to many of those details below. With that said, let’s now get into training specifically for your eating contest and the various circumstances you may possibly encounter.

Before continuing on with anything related to training for increased stomach capacity, you must first decide if you really even need to worry about doing that!! For example, you don’t need to worry about stomach capacity when attempting a really spicy food challenge that only involves six or twelve extra HOT chicken wings, since I’m sure you are able to eat more than twelve wings during regular meals. There will be some eating contests that you don’t need to train your capacity for either. For example, you are highly unlikely to encounter any “full” feelings during any type of contest lasting less than three minutes. If you classify yourself as a “beginner” still, then you may not encounter any type of stomach capacity issues during contests lasting less than 6 minutes, simply because you cannot eat that fast… YET. Before worrying about training, you must analyze the contest length and decide whether that is enough time for you to begin feeling full if you don’t do any prior training.

If you are concerned about possibly feeling full, then you should definitely plan on doing at least some physical preparations. At the very least. you should train just so you establish a higher level of confidence beforehand. The other major detail you must analyze is what food(s) you will be eating during the event, since some items take longer to eat than others. BBQ ribs, chicken wings, and other foods with bones are considered “technique foods” which means you must have great technique and hand speed in order to eat those foods quickly. For help improving your techniques while eating these foods, please read our How To Speed Eat Various Eating Contest Foods. Whether you have great technique or not, these foods still take longer to eat than other foods such as pizza, hot dogs, meatballs, and hamburgers. It also takes much longer to eat tougher, chewier foods like beef brisket and bacon (yes there are some bacon eating contests). You may not have to worry about feeling full during a five minute chicken wing eating contest, and it just depends on your base stomach capacity and your current eating skills. Before you worry about training to increase your stomach capacity, analyze the length, food(s), and then the quantity you think you will be eating (your quantity is already decided if the competition type is an eating challenge contest). You will also need to factor in some of the minor details such as whether dunking is allowed or not. If you think you will need to train for the event, then you most definitely should!!

After choosing whether you need to train and increase your stomach capacity before the contest, you should then decide whether you will need to train and increase your jaw strength/endurance before the competition. This just depends on your analysis of the food(s) you will be eating. If you will be consuming very chewy foods such as thick-crust pizza which you know will require a significant amount of chewing, then obviously you need to have your jaw prepared for that, and especially if the contest is a longer one. The higher your jaw strength and the better your endurance, the better you will perform during the contest. Even if you have a lower stomach capacity than a competitor, you may still be able to eat more within the time limit if you have much higher jaw strength. Please read How To Increase Your Jaw Strength for more tips on that. You can train your jaw while training your stomach capacity, and you may even want to train your jaw strength even though you don’t need to worry about capacity. In a serious competitive eating contest, every extra little bite you consume may make a BIG difference when all the totals are counted, so be sure to read How to Train Yourself To Eat Food Faster too.

Alright, so now it’s time to actually discuss training for an eating contest! For the most part, training for a food challenge versus training for an eating contest is pretty much similar, but there is one major difference. During food challenges, your main objective is to finish the entire meal within the time limit specified, and typically you are allowed plenty of time to finish… if you have the required stomach capacity to fit the entire meal inside you. Therefore, your eating technique(s) is not nearly as big of a factor during food challenges as it is during eating contests. During eating competitions less than ten minutes in length where other people are competing against you, stomach capacity is a major deal of course, but technique is extremely important as well. This is especially true during shorter contests where stomach capacity isn’t even a minor factor, and it is even more important during intense competitions involving “technique foods” such as chicken wings or oysters. If you are competing against people with similar skills and abilities in a contest less than 6 minutes, the person who wins will be the person who uses the best technique and eats that particular food the fastest on that particular day. Because of that, you may want to train and significantly improve your technique before tougher competitions.

The main thing you need to remember is that just because you are entering a hot dog contest, that doesn’t mean you should go to the grocery store and get the cheapest (or even most expensive) hot dogs and buns available. Because you are entering a pizza eating contest, that doesn’t mean you should just go purchase three of your favorite pizzas from your local pizzeria and practice by eating those. While it may help your technique a little to practice with the particular food type, it won’t help nearly as much as it would if you practiced with the exact same food(s) that you’ll be eating during the competition (same brand and size). If you are competing in some particular restaurant’s pizza eating contest, then you may want to go a few days or even weeks prior and order the same pizza you’ll be eating during the competition. Get an understanding of the pizza’s texture and decide how you should go about eating it, using tips from our Speed Eating: How To Eat Food Faster article. If you are competing in a hot dog contest, call ahead and see what brand and type of hot dogs are being used. Get that same brand and size at the grocery store with similar buns and practice eating them before the competition.

There will of course be times when you are not able to get the exact same thing you’ll be eating during the event. You may be a few hours away from the restaurant or festival you are competing at, and there may be a variety of other reasons why you can’t practice with the exact same thing. In those cases, make the best of the situation and do some research so that you can figure out the next best thing to practice with (as close to the original as possible). Just remember that eating deep-dish pizza won’t really help your technique during an event involving thin crust (it may help improve your jaw strength though). If you are in a pulled pork sandwich eating contest, check out the sponsor’s website, Facebook page, and menu. Look for posts, pictures, videos, and anything else that may show you what you’ll be eating during the actual contest. Then do your best to find the next best thing to train with, whether it be at the grocery store or from a fairly similar restaurant around you.

Back when I was first getting involved with competitive eating, I was much more into the “eating contest” side of things than I currently am now. There are two very different experiences that stand out as major lessons I learned. There was a 10 minute hot dog contest awarding $500 to 1st place and dunking was allowed (I’d never competed with hot dogs before). I wanted to enter, and I knew that the returning champ was a pretty good eater. Since it was a longer contest with tough competition, I knew I had to train both my stomach capacity and my technique, since I had never eaten hot dogs or dunked any foods during any previous events. After consulting with the restaurant and finding out the necessary details, I went and got 32 (4 packs of 8 EA) hot dogs and 32 buns, along with a few big “dunking cups” and a few bottles of lemonade (I can’t stand the taste of anything dunked in water). During the week prior, along with training for stomach capacity too, I did two different “trial runs” (16 hot dogs per practice session). I really didn’t have any better ideas at the time, so I just timed myself and ate the 16 hot dogs and buns as fast as possible, knowing that I’d have to eat way more than 16 to win the contest. After the first trial run I critiqued everything and figured out ways to improve. Two days later, I ate the other 16 hot dogs and buns over 2 minutes faster!! Then I improved everything again and ended up winning the actual competition (and $500!!) by eating 23 in only 10 minutes (I can of course do better now). Through that preparation, I learned the importance of training my techniques with items I had no previous experience with.

The other experience & lesson I learned is that you should NOT attempt to practice your techniques when you have no real idea what you are going to be consuming. There once was a $500 “king cake eating contest” to celebrate Mardi Gras in Kansas City that I really wanted to win. The event was so disorganized though that I was never able to find out any real details beforehand. I did not know what we had to eat and I didn’t even know how long the contest would be. Because I was very inexperienced but really wanted to win that money, I went to a local bakery and just bought two big “king cakes,” and ate them the night before the competition. I did all my usual stomach preparation just like I was going to have to eat a lot, but then I arrived at the contest to find out that it was “hands-free” and there wasn’t really even any cake. There was just a bunch of icing in the shape of a king cake that you had to eat the fastest, without using your hands. I did still win and got the $500 prize, but I consumed thousands of unnecessary calories simply because I still tried to practice even though I had no idea what was involved. Some may argue that it was helpful just in case, but it’s nothing that I’d ever do again. In those cases, I just make sure my stomach capacity is ready to dominate, but I don’t worry about techniques.

To say there is only one correct way to train for an eating contest would be completely inaccurate, since everyone differs in skill, techniques used, capacity, and preferences. There are many correct ways to eat a hot dog and all other foods, but the best way is simply the one that helps you personally eat as much or as many of some particular item as you can, as fast as you physically can. Your goal during your practices should be to experiment and figure out which technique(s) helps you eat one individual item the fastest, and then you should work on consistently using that technique for each proceeding item so you can maximize your effectiveness and performance throughout the entire contest. Training hard is a great thing to do, but not if you are training hard while using wrong and unsafe methods. Perfect practice makes perfect, and you must do that sometimes if you want to win tough competitions against competitors with similar capabilities. To specify a certain number of training sessions you will personally need would also be inaccurate, since everyone is very different. Whether you need just one training session or five, that is up to you, based on your personal situation, metabolism, and personal/family budget. It also may depend on who else will be entering the contest, so please read Tips For Analyzing Your Competitors. At the end of the day, you must do what you need to do to make yourself as ready for the competition as you can be, physically & mentally. Win Before You Begin: Train. Strategize. Dominate!!

NOTE: Be careful not to train TOO MUCH or TOO OFTEN with a particular food during the week or two prior to the contest. This may cause you to get “burnt out” and no longer enjoy the flavor and taste of the food during the actual competition you were training for. A lack of excitement will hinder both your performance and results.

While the importance of technique differs between food challenges and eating contests, training to increase your stomach capacity before each various event is basically the same, when necessary of course. Therefore, please consult our Stomach Capacity Training section, if you haven’t already. You can learn how to safely and effectively expand your stomach using food, water/liquids, or by using both food and liquids combined. There are also articles to help you if Training On A Budget or if you simply need to Minimize Your Calories Consumed. Then of course there is the 48 Hour Stomach Crash Training Plan for situations where you find out about an eating event only two or three days ahead of time. You should also read about The 24 Hours Before Your Eating Competition and all the other articles in our Before The Challenge section. Use all the information and links throughout this article to help you develop your physical training plan to help you win your next event, based on all the important contest details. Another thing to remember when training is that it’s not a very smart move to worry about saving $5 when it could lead to you failing to win the $500 first place prize. Do NOT just simply train harder. Train SMARTER, and keep on improving your individual training and preparation regimens so that you can actually “get to the level you want to” (Just don’t forget that True Stomach Expansion Takes Time).

Thanks for reading how to train for an eating contest and checking out!!

The next article in this section is Tips For Analyzing Your Competitors.

To go back and view other Eating Contest Tips articles, click here.