The two most important factors in determining your potential success as a competitive eater are your maximum stomach capacity and the speed at which you can consume food. Liquids and how you use them during eating competitions have a very significant affect on both of those aspects, so you must definitely use them wisely. Unless you are competing in an eating challenge contest where there is a particular drink or milkshake you are required to finish along with your challenge meal, there is a very high chance that all beverages and liquids you consume are “extracurricular” (not required) and they don’t factor at all into your total “score” at the very end. Whether you use one bottle of water during a ten minute contest or six bottles, that has no affect on the final amount that you are officially credited with. Because of that, you need to be smart about your use of liquids and make sure they are helping you rather than hindering your performance. Before continuing on, and especially if you have any food challenges or eating challenge contests coming up, it would be very wise to read Proper Use Of Beverages During A Food Challenge. That article is focused on food challenge strategy and helping you use liquids wisely during those, and may help you better understand some of the slightly varied tips listed below.

In regards to the “art” of speed eating, we really should have included using drinks and liquids as one of the key points listed in our Speed Eating: How To Eat Food Faster article. Instead, however, we chose to just mention the use of liquids and link this article, since there are many different important aspects to how beverages can be used in eating contests, requiring an entire article on its own to fully explain. It is an unarguable fact that using liquids can help you consume many different foods much faster than you can without using any drinks at all. Liquids are one of the main reasons that the the winner of the annual Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest every July 4th is able to eat over sixty hot dogs and buns in just ten minutes. That number would not be nearly as high if “dunking” was not allowed, and contestants were only able to sip water and other liquids after the hot dogs were already inside their mouths. That number would then be even smaller if contestants weren’t able to use any extra beverages at all. While liquids can help you swallow and consume your food faster, they can also keep you from winning if you aren’t careful. If you don’t have a very high stomach capacity to begin with, you surely must monitor how much you drink during longer contests since those liquids just don’t evaporate or go away once they enter your stomach along with everything else. That liquid takes up stomach space just like food does (it moves around more easily though of course), so it is definitely possible to drink so much liquid that you aren’t able to maintain your pace during the last few minutes, since you are so full (doesn’t apply to short contests).

We’ve all watched a video at some point in our lives of a race where a person (or team) is in the lead and looks like he or she is going to win that race, but then suddenly the leader starts slowing down and ends up getting passed right before crossing the finish line, failing to win first place. You may have been watching swimming, track & field, cross country running, speed skating, cycling or a variety of other sports. The person “leading the pack” pushed themselves too hard throughout the beginning and middle of the race, draining themselves of the energy needed to finish the race strong and achieve victory. During races when this situation occurs, a lot of the attention gets placed on that person who “ran out of juice,” and people forget to recognize the real first place winner who was smart and made sure he or she was still able to finish the race just as strongly as when he or she began (and sometimes even stronger!!). This happens during competitive eating events too, where a person in the lead ends up slowing down during the last few minutes of the contest, and gets passed by the person in second place who still had the stomach capacity left to keep pushing hard and finish strong. Often times, that person ran out of stomach capacity because he or she consumed too much liquid throughout the competition.

We DON’T want YOU to be that person who loses the lead during the last few moments of your next contest, but we DO want YOU to be the person that actually wins!! Therefore, we have many tips to help you use the allowed beverages to your advantage rather than using them incorrectly and possibly losing your next contest because of those unnecessary mistakes. If you read Analyze The Contest Details And Plan Ahead, you know we mentioned you should inquire about the rules regarding liquids during the competition so that you can be sure the strategy you plan beforehand doesn’t break any contest rules. There are four basic answers you may hear in response to the question, and they’re listed below along with suggestions to maximize your use of those available liquids:

Guidelines For Proper Use Of Liquids During Eating Contests

1. No liquids allowed at all – 99% of the time, this rule is only used when there is really spicy food involved, as with spicy food challenges where there is no “extra help” allowed and there is sometimes even an “afterburn” period you must suffer through before you are allowed to drink anything to calm the intense heat/pain. Even then, most eating contests allow you to drink at least something, which greatly reduces any significant chance of contestants choking (and also helps them eat faster of course). If a restaurant or festival is hosting a contest which doesn’t allow the use of any extra liquids at all, for no real legitimate reason, then DO NOT ENTER THAT CONTEST. That is capitalized because it’s a very serious issue. I once competed in a bratwurst eating contest, wanting to win the first place prize which was a really nice Weber BBQ Grill. You had to be the first person to finish seven brats & buns without using any water at all. It was the dumbest contest I’ve ever competed in, and I’d never do it again, since I almost choked multiple times because the buns absorbed every bit of moisture my mouth could produce. If the contest rules specify that no extra liquids are allowed, kindly suggest that they do change the rules. If they say no, kindly leave after advising them to increase their liability insurance policy.

2. Only one bottle of water allowed (no dunking) – This stipulation is also rare, but I have competed in contests that only allow one bottle of water throughout the entire event (click to watch one). Your first priority needs to be making use of any creamy or runny items such as coleslaw or sauces (if available). Use those to help moisten the chewier foods and make everything easier to swallow, and then consider sipping that water when necessary. If you are just doing a hot dog contest or something which doesn’t involve any creamy  foods, then use as little water in the beginning as possible, especially while you are fresh and feeling strong. You won’t have to worry about drinking too much, but you do need to be concerned with running out before you are finished. If you have watched that video linked above, you probably noticed that I did accidentally run out of water, and that mistake cost me two extra minutes added to my final time (I would have finished two minutes sooner if I still had water left to help finish the last few bites). Don’t let that happen during your next competition with a one drink rule.

3. Unlimited water/drinks allowed (no dunking) – This is the rule used during almost all “picnic style eating contests” (eat the food how it was meant to be eaten) and during many other contests as well. Contestants may drink as much water or liquid as necessary during the event, but no dunking is allowed. Most contest hosts only offer water as their “readily available” drink, so if you prefer (or think you’ll prefer) something else, it would be wise to ask beforehand if you are allowed to drink anything besides water. Most will say you are welcome to drink whatever you want, so the next step is to decide whether you need to bring your own beverages to use, if you don’t think your drink of choice will be available at the event. For example, I bring my own cold lemonade whenever I’m in a hot dog eating contest, just to be safe, since most of them are outside at festivals and there is never anything besides water available at most of those events (most festivals at contests are disorganized). If I am going to a contest at a restaurant, I really don’t worry about bringing anything since I know they will have other drinks available. During shorter contests, you really don’t need to worry too much about how much liquid you are using, but obviously don’t get too crazy. In longer events, try to minimize your beverage use when you can, but don’t use so little that it decreases your potential maximum speed. There’s a fine line between using a proper amount and going overboard, and judging that “fine line” will get easier as you gain more experience.

4. Unlimited drinks and dunking IS allowed – These rules are what they use during the big Annual Nathan’s July 4th Hot Dog Eating Contest that everyone watches on ESPN. Basically, anything goes, and the contestants are able to drink as much liquid as they want (their choice of liquid) and use as much liquid as they need to fully dunk their hot dogs and buns before putting them in their mouths. These rules are often used at other hot dog eating contests as well, and even during other contests too. The host will basically tell you that you’re allowed to do whatever you think will help you eat as much as you can as quickly as you can. Whether you like “dunking” or don’t like doing that, I’m sure you’ve heard the phrase, “Don’t bring a knife to a gun fight.” I’m sure you know this already, but people dunk their food in water and liquids so that the liquid soaks into the food and softens everything up before it even enters your mouth, making each set of bites easier to swallow much faster. It is not an easy task to beat people who are dunking without you dunking too, unless you are all eating a food that is really moist already. For example, you may want to dunk pizza crust but it’s unnecessary to dunk the cheesy and gooey interior parts. This is my own opinion which I’m sure some other eaters will disagree with, but I find that dunking foods like tater tots actually hinders my speed rather than helping it (I may just use a poor technique though). For these contests, use the same tips I mentioned in #3, and consider that you may want to go prepared with your own dunking cups to use in case the ones provided are not very good. You may or may not be allowed to use them, but at least you’ll have them in case. Always try to be steps ahead of your opponents at all times.

The other reason we did not add the use of liquids as a key point in our Speed Eating: How To Eat Food Faster article is because you won’t be allowed to use as much liquid as you want in every contest or challenge. You can use all the tips in that article whether you have liquid available or not, but of course the use of liquid will usually enhance your performance and allow you to swallow your food much faster. Therefore, we have this new entirely separate article helping you use beverages efficiently, in addition to that speed eating “how to” article. For even more information about the use of liquids, read The Best Liquids To Drink During A Challenge, which also applies during eating contests as well. If interested, you can read The Effects Of Drinking Carbonated Soda which tells why some eaters drink soda/pop during and at the end of competitions. If you have a contest coming up which involves something really cold such as ice cream or milkshakes, read How To Avoid Getting Brain Freeze which recommends the use of warm water during those. There are other articles in our During The Challenge section too which you may want to read while researching how to use beverages correctly, so please check those out.

When it comes to giving advice on how to actually use the liquids to maximize your speed while eating, it would be wrong for me to say there is only one correct method to use. The best technique to use is the one you are most comfortable with after a considerable amount of practice and experimentation during competitions. There are a few thought provoking questions I can ask though which will help you think about what your individual preferences are. Do you prefer drinking out of a bottle which keeps the liquid more contained, or do you prefer drinking out of an open cup or glass? How big and how full do you like your cups or bottles to be? What are all your flavor preferences? Are you able to stomach the taste of food dipped in water? I personally cannot stand the taste of food dunked in water, so I use lemonade (regular or pink) whenever possible. If you are okay with dunking, do you like to let the food sit in the liquid for a few seconds and get completely soaked or do you just like to quickly dip your food and then eat it? You will not know or be able to figure out all those answers right away. You may even want to watch a few videos of other eaters and analyze what they do with the liquids. Then adapt what you learn to fit your individual preferences and abilities, so that you can be as efficient as possible during competitions. Whatever you do though, be sure to keep your drinks right by you and convenient at all times. Don’t waste time moving your drink around a lot, and don’t keep switching hands either. You may want to eat with your main hand and drink with your other hand, but again the choice is up to you and what you prefer.

If you have read this entire article along with Proper Use Of Beverages During A Food Challenge and some of the many articles linked throughout both articles, you should have a very solid idea regarding how you want to use liquids and drinks to your advantage during your next competition. You may even want to practice some of these contest tips during your next challenge as a way of training for future contests. Whether you use liquids just to eat food faster or to Mix Things Up To Minimize Flavor Fatigue, drinks and beverages play a key role in helping you win eating competitions. Just be sure you don’t chug those liquids throughout the event and fill yourself up too fast unnecessarily. The amount of liquid you can handle obviously depends on your stomach capacity, so be sure to check out our Stomach Capacity Training section if you haven’t already. You’ll also want to check out How To Speed Eat Various Eating Contest Foods because we do cover “dunking” a little further in that article. Last but not least, liquids can help increase performance but they can also get really messy too if you are not careful. Therefore, please read Rules For Proper Eating Contest Etiquette after you are finished reading this.

NOTE: This is not talked about in detail, but always have plenty of liquids around as a safety precaution in case you or anyone needs that liquid to help prevent any type of choking or other issue that may arise. Safety first!!

Thanks for reading about proper use of liquids during eating contests and using!!

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