How hard can an eating challenge be? I mean, ever since I was little I’ve had a lot of pride in being able to eat a lot of food. I had this delusion that eating like a grown up made me a grown up. So at 8-years-old, I was maybe four feet tall and 170 pounds and yeah, I could eat two quarter pounders at McDonald's (which always made my grandmother laugh) and still be hungry. 

I’ve made some really healthy changes since then, like  eating more vegetables and watching my portion sizes. I exercise every day and have been able to loose a few pounds, but I still love food. In fact, when I joined powerlifting club, there was a wing eating contest and someone dared me to do it, and I won.

So screw it, I want and love to eat a lot of food. So I decided to find out how hard a real food eating challenge is. Here's how to prepare for an eating challenge if you've never done one before, based on my experience leading up to my first ever food challenge. 

The eating challenge I’m going to tackle is the Airbus Burger Challenge at Airliner. It requires eating a two-pound burger and one pound of fries in under 30 minutes, and I’m so excited to get started. Yet, while eating a massive burger sounds like fun, I’ll need to put in some prep work. 

I started with 1-2 pounds of veggies, a meal for expansion, and a liter of water after every meal. My first two days of prepping I ate two big meals followed by three days of one giant meal, paired with normal meals. I’m pretty sure Masala is about to ban me for life because I've been using the all-you-can-eat-buffet to its full capacity.

The last day I’ll max out my stomach content to see where I’m at. I plan to go to the unlimited salad bar in Burge Hall and go to town. I’ll eat until I can’t imagine eating anymore, and then eat some more out of spite because my body doesn’t tell me when to stop, I tell it when to stop. However, I won’t eat until I throw up because just like straining a muscle while exercising, it only sets you back to push yourself too far too fast.

Let's break down the two best eating challenge prep tools: water and food. Here’s why I chose both and not one over the other unlike other food challenge eaters.

I mean, it makes some sense to prep by drinking large amounts of water. Water is your best friend as a competitive eater because it’s free, has no calories, and is very accessible. Unfortunately if you don’t do it right, you can drown yourself.

Being the rookie I am, I decided a watery death on dry land wasn’t my idea of a good time. I took the water prep training slow by starting with a quart after every large eating session.

I wanted to include food because the best way to eat food fast is to practice. You can do all the fancy prep styles you want but without the proper practice mechanics of speed eating and having that solid mass in your stomach, your performance will be poor. That’s the other reason I’m only drinking water, I need to understand what eating three pounds of food feels like before competition time so my body can handle it.

Yasir Salem, one of the top 10 competitive hot dog eaters in the world, eats 3-4 pounds of broccoli or cauliflower twice a week to prep himself. All of my meals will be mostly vegetable based to avoid going over the recommended daily 2,000 calorie count. 

Which brings me to a final discovery with competitive eating. The best ones aren’t overweight. They might be large, but they exercise and maintain a low body fat percentage. It stems from this theory called the fat belt in which the fat around your belly actually prevents it from expanding past a certain point.

Here's some additional advice I have if you are looking to start prepping for a food challenge yourself: 

Music is surprisingly helpful while eating; that or Netflix or basically whatever distracts you. I find I can’t get pumped up to lift or run without some good tunes and eating practice is the same way. It helps your brain to not think about it.

Don’t think about the amount of times you will go to the bathroom. It’s ridiculous, low-calorie foods such as vegetables are high in fiber and that gallon of water well… they really complement each other well for digestion. I'm just sayin'.

One last thing, at first I felt full all the time and didn’t really want to eat. Then as as the week went on, I started getting ridiculously hungry. As your stomach gets bigger your body will demand satisfaction.

I would kill the hungry feeling right before bed by drinking at least a liter of water to calm it down. But beware of those night hungers, you will be more tempted than ever to eat that pint of ice cream in your freezer. 

Prep and hunger pains set aside, I’m excited to try my first real eating challenge this week. If I win, I’ll get a t-shirt and…wait they don’t give me the burger for free? That’s a little crazy, but I guess I’ll just have to win it for that sweet free t-shirt and the pride.