Sadly, Thanksgiving comes but once a year. Which means all that amazing food you're about to encounter is but a fleeting experience. You want to get the most out of it, but you can only eat so much, right?
What if you could eat more?
Nobody is better at eating more—a lot more—than professional eaters. So we tapped three of the best and got their tips for packing it in come Thanksgiving.[jump]
Disclaimer: Please be smart. These guys are (literally) professional eaters. You cannot eat as much as them, nor should you attempt to do so. If you have medical conditions that might be exacerbated by overeating, then you probably shouldn't friggin' overeat, mmkay? If you're in pain, stop. You are responsible for breaking your own digestive system.
Meet Our Eaters
We reached out to the International Federation of Competitive Eating (a real thing), which runs Major League Eating (also a real thing). In response, they gave us three highly-ranked (yes, there is a ranking system of competitive eating) eaters who have graciously offered their strategies not just for competitive eating, but for Thanksgiving specifically.
Age: 44. Weight: 285. Currently ranked #5
Some of B.O.B.'s accomplishments include: eating 2.4 gallons (that's 312 fluid ounces) of salmon chowder in six minutes (with a spoon); downing 95 Krystal hamburgers in eight minutes; 13.9 pounds of chili spaghetti in 10 minutes; 36 peanut butter and banana sandwiches in 10 minutes; 7.9 pounds of french fries in 10 minutes; and 2.2 pounds of blueberry pie in 60 seconds.
Age: 38. Weight: 215. Currently ranked #17
Crazy Legs Conti is one of the most colorful characters in competitive eating, which is saying a lot. He once downed 34 dozen oysters (that's 408) over a period of three hours. He recently took on Guy Fieri's American Kitchen and Bar (no, he didn't like it, either) and there's even a documentary about him called Zen and the Art of Competitive Eating.
Age: 37. Weight: 230. Currently ranked #24
Steakbellie always wears traditional Scottish garb to competitions. On it appears the phrase, "Si Je Puis," literally "If I can," but Americanized it's "You gonna finish that?". He holds the record for haggis at 3 pounds in 6 minutes. Yeah, haggis. This summer he set the pulled pork record at a contest in Guam. He's huge in Guam.
Those are our manimals, now let's hear it from them in their own words on how you can dominate Thanksgiving.
I train by drinking large amounts of water. Here is close to the formula that I train with. Take whatever you think is a huge amount of water. Round that up to the nearest gallon. Then add 1 to 2 gallons and that is what I drink to prepare for eating contests. But I have been training for over 10 years teaching my body to accommodate that volume... there are probably only two people on Earth that can even come close to the volume of water I can drink. If we only had a water chugging contest...
I also will not eat solid foods for two days before a contest, to make sure I have enough space for the food.
1. Fitness: I prefer to start my training, lifting weights and kickboxing to harden up my body and sharpen my competitive edge. The added muscle mass will increase your metabolic demand for food. I like full body movements like squats and deadlifts to stabilize the core and build my pain threshold. I supplement my workout with forward-fold yoga poses that simulate the feeling of a full stomach and place pressure on the diaphragm. Hold these poses and concentrate on breathing into the bases of the lungs.
2. Capacity: Build a bat-cave inside yourself. Eat fewer, larger meals meals as Thanksgiving approaches. Choose low calorie, high fiber foods as the bulk of your training regimen, like 5 or 6 heads of romaine lettuce, or a few pounds of cabbage. Once you have eaten your fill, start drinking water so that the cabbage swells and stretches your stomach further. Go lay down and catch up on Honey Boo-Boo till you feel better.
3. Thanksgiving week: As Thursday approaches, reduce your calories but maintain your cardio workouts. To guarantee maximum room for your stomach to expand, discontinue solid foods after lunch on wednesday and just have a protein shake and a beer for dinner. Your next meal will be glorious Turkey.
Crazy Legs Conti stresses proper attire:
Sweatpants or any elastic based waistband. Wear a nice shirt and tie and no one will notice that you have on the equivalent of diaper pants. You'll need to feel free and breezy as you hit every side dish offered. Have you ever seen a male porn star in skin tight jeans? Anticipate needing the room so fashion takes a back seat.
Go for a walk in the morning and find a distraction from your roaring hunger.
As you approach the table, make sure you get an end spot. This is a key pivot spot at the table. Kind of like the quarterback in a football game, you determine where the ball or in this case food goes.
Steakbellie sees it differently:
One hour before the meal, start scoping out the best seat at the table. Often the middle seats have the least elbow room but greatest access to the serving bowls.
Where to Start
Each of the guys has a different perspective on how to kick off the meal itself.
Like a game of tetris, the order that you eat the food will help determine how much you can stuff into your stomach and how quickly you will start digesting it. Start with the turkey and ham; they are the densest and you will want these foods closest to the Pyloric sphincter located at the base of your stomach. Use minimal gravy so the fats don't satiate your hunger. Make sure you cut them small so you don't have to exert too much energy chewing early in the game. Move with deliberate purpose, today you will be a Champion.
Crazy Legs Conti:
"Pre-sert" - I recommend book ending two pieces of pie - that way your meal becomes a full circle (not dissimilar from a lazy susan). Plus the quick sugar rush will be a Pavlovian prep for the meal to follow. The great Cookie Jarvis used to have a brownie fifteen minutes before every contest to get his digestion going. Of course, post contest Cookie would finish the pan, but I do swear by pre-sert.
Food knowledge is key here, this is what separates the big eaters from the really big eaters. Are the mashed potatoes very light and fluffy? If so this will be your year. Most people will tend to wait on them as they think the starches will fill them up. In truth, the light, mashed potatoes will actually go down easy and they can quickly break down and leave your stomach. This will allow for even more food. So I like to get in a quick 2 - 3 pounds of mashed potatoes before anyone else senses what is going on. [ed. Jeeeez, please don't try to match B.O.B.'s portion size.]
What To Drink
Crazy Legs Conti:
Going with beer or soda is a sure way to do yourself in before you hit fourths or sevenths. Don Ho had it right - it's all about those tiny bubbles that will make you feel full when really you are just gassy. Switch to scotch and use bitters - they act as a digestive, while you get drunk.
Wash the potatoes down with hot liquid, something you should always have a full glass of if you want to be a contender.
During the Meal
Here's where the champions are separated from the dudes puking in the corner.
As you continue with round after round of food, do not fear the turkey. Just beware of the dry meat that was on the outside of the bird. Dark meat will have a higher moisture content and will be easier to eat.
Crazy Legs Conti:
Use the buddy system — not only good for Tijuana or swimming, pairing your dryer meats with moister foods in the same forkful will make you last longer and will help stack the food in your belly easier. Dry turkey? Just mix with the mashed potatoes. Stuffing that tastes like sawdust? Gravy it.
If you get the meatsweats, it means your liver has just kicked on like a furnace to process all that protein. Time to switch gears and put down a thin layer of greens like salad, greenbeans or spinach. These are lighter foods but the fiber in them will slowdown the spike in bloodsugar from the mashed potatoes which you are eating next. Once you are two-thirds full then switch to something lighter like stuffing. Casually scarf serving after serving of stuffing until you feel the Apex of your stomach begin to tighten. At this point its ok to start some casual small talk with your relatives while you keep sipping your water. Breathe deeply to apply downward pressure back into your gut.
About 20 minutes into the meal the turkey will begin emptying into your intestines and will open up some room for more food. If you are experiencing flavor fatigue, chose stronger tasting items or sweets. I like to get cranberry sauce or sweetpotato pie at this point. Try standing to alleviate pressure or start sipping coffee.
By dessert time, I usually have the contest well in hand. However, if you are still in a tight race you need to concentrate on the pumpkin pie and avoid all other desserts. You will need to go heavy on the beverage. Get the beverage so hot that it melts the pumpkin pie and it will go down quicker than ice cream on a hot day.
Once you think you've had enough, go for a slow walk. This will help stimulate peristalsis and continue digestion. It will also keep you from falling asleep from the load of calories in your blood. When you meander back into the kitchen, you might even have more room for more! Grab a turkey leg so you can keep eating while you go to check the score of the game.
Crazy Legs Conti offerred the following advice that we can't recommend, but we like it anyway:
Add an element of danger - nothing whets the appetite like adrenaline so instead of just ingesting caffeine pills or energy drinks - try deep frying the turkey blindfolded or install a "must throw all cutlery like a knife thrower" rule. Or just bring two dates and don't tell them. Your stomach's butterflies will soon be smooched by the mashed potatoes.
So, there you have it. You now have the knowledge to completely dominate your Thanksgiving dinner. Please use this wisdom for good, not evil, and never to the detriment of your health.