Is Competitive Eating a Sport? The Debate Continues

Is Competitive Eating a Sport? The Debate Continues

Competitive eating has been around since the early 1900s, with informal eating contents dating back thousands of years earlier. 

But, is competitive eating a sport, what makes it a sport, and what are the most popular eating competitions in the world? 

Let’s dive in.

What Is Competitive Eating?

Speed eating is an activity in which participants compete to see who can eat the most food in a given period of time. Eating contents are usually 8-10 minutes long, though some can last up to 30 minutes.

The person who eats the most food within the time limit is awarded a prize, usually money.

Contestants typically eat hot dogs, hamburgers, pizzas, and pies as far as food is concerned.

It’s worth noting that although eating contests are entertaining and may not be taken as seriously as other sports, the rules and regulations at these competitions are quite strict to ensure fair play. 

The rules often dictate the type of food contestants can eat and how they can eat it, such as no hands or no utensils. 

The history of competitive eating

The world of competitive eating traces back to the early 1900s in the US. According to the Major League Eating, the professional competitive league that organises official eating competitions, the first-ever hot dog eating contest took place in Coney Island in 1916 on the Fourth of July – the first Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest.

According to Nathan, four immigrants competed in the hot dog eating contest to determine who was the most patriotic.

However, eating contests aren’t limited to hot dogs.

The first recorded pie-eating contest was held in New York City in 1876 – the event celebrated the opening of the Brooklyn Bridge.

Where Do They Put All of That Food?

Competitive eaters eat an astonishing amount of food in a short amount of time. 

But how do they do it without getting sick every time? 

Like in any other sport, they train. 

Competitive eaters often practice by drinking large amounts of water to stretch out the stomach and work out to keep in shape. To help recover after competitions, they usually go on a cleanse that consists of water and foods that are easy to digest.

Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest

If you’re wondering, “is competitive eating a sport?” and “how is eating a sport?” there are plenty of competitions around the world to prove just how popular it is.

The Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest is the most famous eating contest in the world that’s held annually on the Fourth of July in Coney Island, New York. 

The contest attracts eaters from all over the world and often features some of the best competitive eaters in the business. In addition to eaters, tens of thousands of people gather to watch the mass consumption of hot dogs, and many more have made it a tradition to follow the competition on TV.

One of the most popular competitive eaters is Joey Chestnut. Joey has been competing since 2005 and has won the Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest 14 times. 

He recently broke his own record by shoving down 76 hot dogs in just under ten minutes.

Miki Sudo holds the record with 48.5 hot dogs and buns in the women’s competition.

Other professional eating competitions 

The Super Bowl of Competitive Eating 

Better known as The Nathan’s Famous Qualifier, this event is held every year on Memorial Day weekend and determines which eaters will compete in the Fourth of July contest.

The World Oyster Eating Championship

This annual eating contest occurs in Galway, Ireland, during the Galway International Oyster & Seafood Festival.

The Kobayashi Cup

Named after competitive eating legend Takeru Kobayashi, the Kobayashi Cup is held every year in Las Vegas and features some of the biggest names in the sport.

The World Chicken Wing Eating Championship

This contest takes place in Buffalo, New York (home of the buffalo chicken wing) during the National Buffalo Wing Festival.

The Calorie Control Council’s Jell-O Eat-Off 

This eating contest is the go-to event for competitive eaters that enjoy Jell-O. It’s been held annually since 1969 and is open to anyone who thinks they can challenge the best of the best.

Bottom Line

Is competitive eating a sport? It definitely has all the marks of a sport: prizes, bonuses, competition, official events, and a following across the globe. The best part about it? Most eating contents are open to the general public– at least those that believe they can stomach it.

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