HOW TO BECOME A MAJOR LEAGUE EATERWorld champion Matt ‘Megatoad’ Stonie reveals the secrets to becoming a pro eater.
Seen Man v. Food and think you’ve got the guts for a challenge? The steaks may be huge, but those stakes are too low. Instead of shooting for a free feed, follow Matt Stonie’s lead. Six years ago, the California teenager entered a local lobster-roll-eating contest and won. “I pocketed $1,000 for 10 minutes’ work,” recalls the now-23-year-old reigning world champion. Yes, Major League Eating is a recognized sport. Last July at Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest, Stonie beat eight-time winner Joey Chestnut 62 hot dogs to 60 in a brutal 10-minute dogfight, cheered on by a live crowd of 40,000 and televised to the world on ESPN. As “Megatoad” warms up for this year’s Fourth of July rematch, he reveals the secrets to becoming pro-eating number one.
1 REMEMBER IT’S A SPORT
“To be a professional swimmer, you swim laps,” says Stonie. “As a pro eater, I practice technique, speed and endurance with whatever food is in the next contest. If it’s a 10-minute hot dog contest, then I do 12-minute practices once every four days to push my limits, starting weeks ahead, and adding two or three hot dogs each session. It’s dehydrating and bloating; you’re drinking a lot of water, taking a lot of naps … But come the day, I’m ready to eat 50-plus hot dogs.”
2 ALWAYS BE PICKY
“People ask what my favorite food is. I say it depends on what contest I’m training for. When it’s more enjoyable, you can eat more. That’s why a lot of pro eaters do a range of contests—there are a lot of good sponsors out there with great contest food. Sometimes it’s hard not to enjoy it when you’re up on stage, but you’ve got to focus. If you enjoy the food, you’ll slow down and lose.”
3 PREP IS EVERYTHING
“Exercise burns off calories and improves endurance, but I tone it down in heavy season. Combining competition eating and the gym is hard on the body. It’s about keeping a strict and healthy diet. I eat fruit and veg, lots of water, low-sodium food like nuts. It’s very boring. Then 24 hours before a comp, it’s liquid calories like protein shakes to flush my system. It’s mental, too. You need to get psyched for the event.”
4 GET A UNIQUE TECHNIQUE
“Hotdogs are technically difficult, the skin is tough to break down. I chew minimally, just enough not to choke, but without tiring out my muscles. Don’t eat it like a conventional hotdog – separate the meat from the bun, eat the dog and dunk the bun in water, because bread’s dry. A lot of people eat one at a time, I eat two. I like to move. It helps push the food down to the stomach. Shaking your body also releases pressure.”
5 YOUR BODY KNOWS BEST
“I’m not going to do anything to hurt myself, but at the same time you can’t be throwing up food, because you’ve got to take care of your throat muscles. Usually I let it go through the system. In a few cases, especially sweet contests, your stomach contains pure sugar and you start getting the jitters. Sometimes you’ve got to take care of yourself—get rid of the food. It’s about recovery.”