Nathan's Champ Joey Chestnut Gives a Minute-By-Minute Guide to Competitive Eating

1:11 PM PST 07/03/2014 by Erik Hayden
AP Photo/John Minchillo
Joey Chestnut at 2013's Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest.

Ahead of the annual July Fourth event, the seven-time hot dog eating champ -- who claimed $50,000 in prize money last year -- breaks down what he's thinking during a typical 10-minute contest.

One minute after an eating contest, Joey Chestnut says he's usually in shock.

Shortly thereafter, the seven time Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest champ would be thirsty and "working to digest this ridiculous amount of food." During the previous ten minutes, his sights would've been set on devouring an enormous number of hot dogs. 

The Coney Island binge-eating event, which will be broadcast this year on ESPN 2 on July Fourth, has brought fame over the years to Chestnut (nickname: "Jaws"). He has won the contest in 2007 (66 hot dogs consumed), 2008 (59), 2009 (68), 2010 (54), 2011 (62), 2012 (68) and 2013 (69).

The 30-year-old competitive eater, who at one time counted Pepto-Bismol among his sponsors, now has a deal with Hooters and a long-term partnership with Nathan's. He says he has collected $50,000 in prize money from winning at eating events last year, including the $10,000 prize won at the 2013 Nathan's contest. 

STORY What to Know About Competitive Eating

A day before this year's event, Chestnut explains to The Hollywood Reporter  what he's thinking during a 10-minute competitive eating contest. (The below interview has been condensed.)

Minute 1: "I'm a little bit jittery, I'm just trying to find my rhythm and get my hands and my mouth and my throat and my stomach all working together. I don't start off at my fastest at minute one — I definitely need to find my rhythm."

Minute 2: "The start of minute two, I'm going my fastest. Everything's working perfectly: my breathing, my jaws, my throat, the way I'm going up and down — everything’s compacting the food perfectly." Estimated Hot Dogs Eaten: 24

Minute 3: "It gets a little bit harder. I'm going to adjust my technique a little bit. … My breathing is going to change a little bit. I'm sweating more. … I'll slow down, but it's pretty much the same rhythm. I'm emphasizing more on the bobbing up and down to get back food."

Minute 4: "Minute three and four should be the exact same. Those two I always worry if there's a problem, if I start slowing down, if my breathing is more labored or if my jaw starts to feel fatigue at that point."

Minute 5: "I'm actually expecting my jaw to start to feel fatigue. And I'm going to start trying to take a little bit bigger bites. That's going to slow me down. But I'm going to maintain my rhythm to a degree."

Minute 6: "I'll try to do the same thing, except my throat's now getting tired because I'm swallowing bigger chunks."

Minute 7: "No matter how well I've trained, no matter how hungry or empty I am, minute seven I'll be past 50 hot dogs. … There's no ignoring the feelings ... By that time I probably have 10 pounds of hot dogs and buns in me and another nine pounds of water. And my body is dead, I feel heavy. … There's absolutely no hunger; it's just pure competition and pure drive to continue. I'm constantly telling myself 'eat it like I did the first one.'" Estimated Hot Dogs Eaten: 55

Minute 8: "A little bit more intense than minute seven is, this time everything is tired. Jaws, esophagus, even my stomach is starting to stretch."

Minute 9: "Worst-case scenario in minute nine: I'll also drink a little bit of water. Once in a while, I have to do that just to get it going down. Lately in practice I haven't, but it could happen."

Minute 10: "I try to speed up in the tenth minute. I usually can eat more in the tenth minute than I do in the ninth. Something about knowing that it's over, I can feel the end. … The last thirty seconds is very intense." Number of Hot Dogs Eaten at 2013's Contest: 69.

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