Health and Wellness

How this engineer-turned-world champ competitive eater preps to eat 75 hot dogs in 10 minutes

Joey "Jaws" Chestnut wins the 2019 Nathans Famous Fourth of July International Hot Dog Eating Contest with 71 hot dogs at Coney Island on July 4, 2019 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City.
(Photo by Bobby Bank/Getty Images)

Competitive eater Joey Chestnut (nicknamed "Jaws") set a world record on July 4 when he scarfed down 75 hot dogs and buns in 10 minutes to win the Mustard Yellow Belt at the famous Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest for the 13th time in 14 years.

At the event (which is typically held in Coney Island, New York but was moved this year to a private location due to the pandemic), Chestnut topped his own record of 74 hot dogs and buns, set in 2018.

"Oh my God, I still love it," Chestnut, 36, told TMZ Sports, denying rumors he was going to retire. "I love the whole thing, pushing myself, the prep, even the recovery."

But Chestnut told CNBC Make It in March that he never set out to become a full-time competitive eater. 

"It's ridiculous. I went to school for engineering, but I now I travel around the world and eat," he says.

Chestnut says he was pushed into competitive eating by his younger brother (Chestnut is one of six kids), who was impressed by how much Chesnut would eat when he came home from college.

"I could eat more than anybody. So, he signed me up for my first [competition]," a lobster-eating contest in Reno, Nevada, in 2005, he says. Despite not placing, Chestnut said he fell in love with the sport. 

"At first I was ashamed by the whole process and how much I could eat, but once I started doing it, oh my, I was made for it," Chestnut says.

Chestnut, who at the time, was taking a nutrition course in college, consulted the professor for advice on how to approach training. However, over the last decade, he has fine-tuned his regimen to help him eat more and recover faster.

While the top prize for a Nathan's Hot Dog contest is typically about $10,000, according to Chestnut, he makes around $300,000 a year through private and public companies, who hire him to break food records with their products on social media.

Chestnut once ate 32 Big Macs in 38 minutes, for example, which is another world record, and posted it on YouTube and Instagram.

For the annual Nathan's Hot Dog competition, Chestnut said he typically trains for three months straight, starting at the end of April with weekly practice runs on either a Saturday or a Sunday, followed by a few recovery days.

"After the first practice, [recovery] is the hardest [because] my body is getting back to digesting that ridiculous amount of food," Chestnut says. After that, each weekly practice gets a "little bit easier."

After practice runs, Chestnut forces himself to eat greens like cucumbers and lettuce to help with digestion. When he starts to feel better after a few days, he drinks only lemon water and coffee in the morning and fasts for a day and half before his next practice run.

"Its usually about every six days that I can do a practice," Chestnut says, though when he was younger, he could practice every four days.

During the week, Chestnut said he typically only one meal a day, which is usually a large salad with protein or a fish. (Even when he isn't training, Chestnut said he sticks with one big meal a day and occasional cheat days.)

Chestnut says runs and does yoga about two or three times a week. Both exercises help him control his breathing, which helps him eat more efficiently and find a rhythm during competitions. 

Chestnut also keeps a journal to track everything he eats and drinks to see how it affects him.

"It sort of trial and error," he says, which means Chestnut's engineering degree comes in handy. "I definitely try to solve everything like its a problem."

"I had to work my butt off to understand by body and I think that other people should too."

Chestnut also consults with his doctor regularly.

As for mental preparation, Chestnut says he tries to stay calm and loose during the competition, but really, "I love to eat so much that even when i'm uncomfortable, I still love to eat," he says.

After a contest, Chestnut does not typically get sick or vomit, but he is exhausted.

"I just want to fall asleep," he says.

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