Being the best in the world at anything before your 24th birthday is a feat commonly bestowed on Olympic athletes, child prodigies and thoroughbred horses.
But Matt “The Megatoad” Stonie, Major League Eating’s (MLE) number one ranked competitive eater, doesn’t think that prestige should stop at one’s ability to devour 62 hot dogs. And he’s not wrong.
Hey, We’re Athletes Too
“The training that we do as competitive eaters is no different than swimmers or runners or tennis players,” says Stonie, the newest champion of Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest. “We train our muscles. We train our throats and stomachs."
Surprisingly, the MLE strongly discourages competitors from discussing their training habits as it could give others a competitive edge.
Now is probably the opportune time to point out that you should probably consult with a physician before considering competitive eating.
We can tell you training typically involves a heaping spoonful of mental prep, and Stonie admits the physical aspect doesn’t last much longer than 10 minutes on competition day.
The 50-60 events MLE presents each year typically pose 8, 10, and 12-minute time limits for competitors to shovel everything from gyoza dumplings to hot wings into their mouths.
That might sound like an approachable sport, but The Megatoad put down 241 hot wings in 10 minutes at this year’s Hooter’s Worldwide Wing Championships. That’s about four wings every 10 seconds. You might be able to put away a couple dozen wings (along with six beers) during halftime, but that doesn’t mean you’re ready for the big leagues.
Competitive Eaters Care About Their Health
Being in the big leagues don’t necessarily mean having a big waist. At 5-foot-8, Stonie only weighs about 130 pounds. In fact, the vast majority of MLE’s top-seeded competitors appear to be surprisingly healthy.
"It’s hard … people think it’s just going up there and eating dinner,” explains Stonie. “You have to be in shape to compete well. Even at the end of six or eight minutes, you’re tired, sweating, you’re winded. You can’t have extra mass.”
To be fair, larger competitors still bring the heat, but they tend to risk more health complications than their trimmer colleagues.
Eaters Not Haters
Stonie dethroned eight-time Nathan’s champion Joey Chestnut this July 4th, but there’s no bad blood between the two. Both are native to the San Jose, CA area and hang out fairly often during lulls in the contest circuit.
Location plays a substantial role in the camaraderie, and the friendship reads night and day to the combative relationship of Chestnut and Stonie’s predecessor, Takeru Kobayashi. Despite making some of his closest friends through MLE, Stonie is well-aware of how some competitors feel about him.
“A few of people who’ve been doing this for a long time are definitely more bitter towards me,” Stonie says, regarding reaction from other competitors about his age. “They would avoid me at events, even back when I wasn’t winning.”
Clean Your Plate … One Day It Could Pay Six Figures.
According to Forbes, he’ll rake in six figures this year in prize money, appearances and other fees … and he doesn’t seem to be sweating the haters.
“We get really competitive. There’s money and titles on the line,” says Stonie. “I love it. As long as it’s working for me, I’ll keep doing it.”