Hot dog eating is a competition to see who can can eat the greatest number of hot dogs, in a predefined period of time.
Typically the hot dogs are allowed to cool slightly after grilling to avoid burning before the contest begins. The winner is the participant who swallows (and keeps down!) the most hot dogs and buns (HDB) in ten minutes.
It helps to have both a big stomach and a big mouth: hot dogs still in the mouth when the final buzzer rings still count if the contestant goes on to swallow them!
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Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest
Since 1916, the International Hot Dog Eating Contest has been held every year on America’s Independence Day (July 4) at Nathan’s Famous, a traditional hot dog business in Coney Island, New York.
The winner is the person who can eat the most hot dogs within ten minutes – up to twelve minutes in 2007. The event is organized by the International Federation of Competitive Eating, (IOFCE).
- Where: Nathan’s Famous, Coney Island, New York, USA
- When: July 4 each year (Independence Day)
- What: Eat as many hot dogs as you can in 10 minutes
- Why: Hot dogs are delicious.
The winner of the men's contest receives the coveted international mustard yellow jewelery belt. According to IFOCE co-founder George Shea, the belt is "age and value unknown" and remains on the owner's land.
The Big Names in Hot Dog Eating
The contest has grown in popularity over in recent years thanks to the celebrity status of various contestants, including Takeru “The Tsunami” Kobayashi and Joey “Jaws” Chestnut.
Joey “Jaws” Chestnut
Joey Chestnut, from Vallejo, California, has won Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest more than ten times, and achieved several world records along the way. As of 2021 he is the defending men’s champion, having consumed 76 hot dogs (a world record) in the 2021 competition.
Chestnut prepares his stomach for competition by fasting and expanding it with milk, water, and protein supplements. He also claims to prepare for hot dog eating events by making hot dogs at home and then eating them in a competition-style manner. He begins with 40 hot dogs and gradually increases until he is in game shape.
For other sportsmen, he compared it to running or lifting weights. 
In 2012, he claimed victory in his sixth straight hot dog eating challenge by devouring 68 hot dogs “I’m not going to stop until I’m 70 years old. It isn’t about eating in this sport. It’s all about perseverance and commitment, and at the end of the day, eating hot dogs tests both my body and mind.”
Takeru “Tsunami” Kobayashi
Takeru Kobayashi, commonly referred to as “the godfather of competitive eating”, won the Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest six times in a row from 2001 to 2006.
Since 2009 Kobayashi has not competed in the competition, due to his refusal to accept an exclusive contract with Major League Eating (the contest’s current sanctioning body).
In 2010 he was arrested by authorities in after attempting to interrupt the contest by jumping on the stage after it had ended. According to some witnesses, Kobayashi was attempting to congratulate Chestnut, the winner 🙂
In 2011 Nathan’s removed Kobayashi’s picture from their “Wall of Fame”, despite having won the event six times in a row. Again Kobayashi refused to compete, opting instead to put on his own hot dog eating show
The Health Concerns
According to a new study by health and nutrition researchers at the University of Michigan, a single hot dog can shave 36 minutes off your life owing to the negative consequences of highly processed meals. In contrast, certain other, healthier foods were found to “add time” to the eaters life-span thanks to their nutrional benefits.
“Interesting, I might need to eat more nuts to go back in time”, tweeted 13-time Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest champion Joey “Jaws Chestnut in response to the study’s calculations that he has lost one year and 15 minutes of his life for eating 19,200 hot dogs over 16 years.