What’s Competitive Eating?

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Competitive eating involves consuming large amounts of food in a set time frame, with cash prizes awarded to winners. The International Federation of Competitive Eating organizes events worldwide, with the Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest being one of the most popular. The main foods consumed are fast food items, and contestants must have the ability to stretch their stomachs. Safety guidelines are in place, and health aspects are important. Competitive eating is not recommended to try at home.

Competitive eating is the process of consuming large quantities of food within a required time frame. Traditionally, food contests were held at fairs to dispose of leftover food. Now competitive eating has become big business. Competitors can enter contests across the country with huge cash prizes awarded to the winners.
The International Federation of Competitive Eating (IFCO) organizes competitive eating events around the world. In 2005 the prize money awarded was 230,000 US dollars (USD). One of the most popular contests is held every 4th of July on Coney Island in New York. Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest originated in 1916 and the event was dominated by Takeru Kobayashi. The Japanese contestant managed to eat 54 hot dogs in 12 minutes and won the contest six years in a row.

The main types of food consumed in contests are of the fast food variety. Hot dogs, chicken wings, pickles, corn dogs and pizza are the specialties of the contests. Races usually last about 8 to 12 minutes. Takeru Kobayashi is currently number one in the world after eating 57 cow brains in 15 minutes.

While most of the contestants are men, there are also women involved in competitive eating. Being large and overweight isn’t necessarily an advantage in competitive eating. The biggest advantage a competitor can have is the ability to actually stretch the belly. Many competitors will drink gallons of water over a period of time to achieve this. This type of training is frowned upon by medical experts.

Besides having an unusually stretchy stomach, the other important factors appear to be speed and hand-to-mouth coordination. After the competition is over, the contestants have very bloated stomachs. Their stomachs resemble inflated balloons that are ready to pop.

IFCO has very strict safety guidelines on competitive eating. The races must take place in a controlled area and only competitors over the age of 18 can enter. They also advise against any type of home workout. There has been a lot of talk about including competitive eating as an Olympic sport. Although the IFCO has approached the Olympic committee, it appears they will not approve it at present.

Health aspects are an important factor in competitive eating. Competitive eating has been a big hit on Japanese television recently. Due to a stunt involving the death of a fast eating student, it is virtually unheard of in Japan now. The biggest rule of competitive eating to remember is don’t try it at home.

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