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Is competitive eating a sport? 5 ways to train your body and mind

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World-class athletes are the people who push human potential to its edge — the fastest runners and lithest gymnasts. They spend years training for mere minutes of competition.

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But what about the best eaters?

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Competitive eating is very much a “not sport” — a pursuit that just falls shy of being a sport.

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1. There is a clear elite class of eaters — folks like Joey Chestnut (pictured) don’t come along often.

2. Competitive eating draws crowds, in real life and online.

3. People pay to see it.

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Major League Eating

This is the closest thing we have to an Olympics of eating. It includes the International Federation of Competitive Eating — basically, MLE is the league and the IFOCE is FIFA.

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Before we go further, a disclaimer: Always consult your doctor before you embark on any kind of eating regime or extreme diet.

But if you are curious...

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And just like the Olympics IRL, if you want to compete. it takes commitment — and training — to become a top eater.

Here’s how to become a competitive eater, in 5 steps...

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5. Train your brain

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Like any sport, competitive eating is a mind game as much as it is a test of physical prowess. You need to persevere through mental blocks and exhaustion.

Not only do you need to swallow your disgust, but you will need to rewire your brain so you can power through the barrage of neurotransmitters telling you that you’re full.

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4. Prep your stomach

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Typically, the stomach can hold about one liter of food.

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Big leaguers expand their stomachs to hold more food by chugging gallons of water or milk. They also prep by eating enormous, low-calorie, high-fiber meals — think a tower of iceberg lettuce.

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3. Prime your jaws

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There’s a reason he’s called Joey “Jaws” Chestnut: His mandibles pulverize dozens of hot dogs in less than 10 minutes. That ability doesn’t come naturally.

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A common way for super eaters to build jaw strength is by chewing gum — sometimes up to 20 pieces at a time.

2. Ready your esophagus

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You may have never given much thought to swallowing techniques, but this aspect of high-octane eating is key.

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Learn either to take bigger bites or small bites in rapid succession. Tilting your head back means gravity helps the work of peristalsis, in which food naturally squeezes its way down toward your stomach.

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1. Avoid the pitfalls

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Another parallel between training to eat and training to be an Olympic athlete: Training the wrong way can be dangerous.

Drinking too much water in a short amount of time can make you sick. And crash dieting can permanently alter how you metabolize food.

Basically: Consult with your doctor if you plan to train for competitive eating.

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Read more Mind and Body stories here.

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