Man vs Food vs Stomach Capacity: How (and for how long) should I "train" my stomach to hold six pounds of food? What can the stomach handle? How does food differ from liquid in the stomach? Additional tips for beating restaurant eating challenges? Lots of questions, and an account of my experience preparing so far, after the break.
So my wife and I watch a lot of Man v. Food, and oddly enough I have found it a bit inspiring lately... increasing my interest in competing in some kind of eating challenge. Well, the ideal opportunity to do just that has presented itself. A popular local dive has created a new challenge: a five-pound burger (2.5lbs meat + 2.5lbs bun/condiments), plus a pound of fries and a one hour time limit.
I have a small frame, weighing around 125 pounds, but I have always been able to eat lots of food if I wanted to. When I was 12, I easily ate a 36oz steak along with all the sides and a full beverage. Nowadays though, I eat much more conservatively, so I'm curious how I might prepare for this challenge. Granted, eating six pounds of food in under an hour isn't necessarily healthy to begin with, but I digress. I realize I'd be doing this at my own risk, of course, but I welcome your tips and suggestions along with answers to several questions I have (in bold below).
Naturally, I am curious about the stomach and how much content it can handle. I know the stomach can expand (I've read up to a gallon) but when it comes to drinking too much water, it can be deadly due to water intoxication/hyponatremia, though some have reported that they chug up to a gallon of water once per day to help stretch their stomach without such ill health effects. How long does it take for water to exit the stomach though?
Meanwhile, a pound of water may not necessarily take up the same space as a pound of food... I'm guessing food is an entirely different animal than liquid, but other than its density why and how does food differ from liquid when in the stomach?
If the stomach can only handle a gallon of content, a lot of the purported amounts of food that some of these competitive eaters take in on various contests seem impossible!
I also noticed that a lot of competitive eaters just cram food down, hardly chewing it. How does the stomach handle that limited amounts of chewing?
I presume one effect would be longer digestion time. In any case, is there a concern regarding how quickly you fill your stomach with six pounds of food?
It sounds like speed may ultimately be the best strategy, eating fast enough to fill your stomach before your brain/body realize it's full, so maybe chewing as little as possible would work best in that respect, despite how unhealthy it might be. However, wouldn't chewing more thoroughly compact the food more in the stomach or would it cause the food to spread out more in the stomach?
So what kinds of things can I do to prepare for this challenge? Here are some ideas I've found and tried so far, including a thread on here
but so far I've gotten mixed results:
* Eat lettuce and boiled cabbage, but how much?
Lettuce is low-cal and has a lot of water content, while boiled cabbage is said to give off a lot of gas in the stomach, helping stretch it.
* Some competitive eaters claim to chug up to a gallon of water (and sometimes milk) in one sitting without reporting ill health effects (then limiting their water intake afterwards to prevent water intoxication/hyponatremia)
* Eat whole grapes. Takeru Kobayashi purportedly does this to stretch his stomach.
* Frequent trips to the buffet, or one large meal per day
* Any additional preparation or "training" tips?
Now, as far as results, for the past week I have been doing some of these techniques, including a daily 2-3 liter water chug (once per day, increasing slightly each day), and I had 2 pounds of boiled cabbage before bed last night (and nothing this morning) in preparation for a trip to the Chinese buffet for lunch today. Granted, cabbage doesn't exactly have the same density as meat/fries, so I don't think eating six pounds of cabbage equates to six pounds of meat/bread/starch.Also, it's hard to chew big chunks of cabbage. Would smaller cuts of cabbage give off less gas?
I know you still have to chew it regardless of the size of each peice, effectively cutting it further, so this point may be moot after all (unless they just swallow it whole, in which case, ouch!).
So on my buffet trip at lunch today, I weighed all my food on a digital scale to gauge exactly how much I would be able to eat, especially after having done this week long series of stomach stretching techniques. The results were pretty conclusive: I ate 2.75 pounds (44 ounces) of meat, at which point I hit the wall, so I finished up with another half pound (8 ounces) of ice cream. It was that ice cream however that brought me to my bursting point (whether due to the amount consumed or simply the shock of cold to my otherwise warm stomach). In any case, that brought my total consumption to 3.25 pounds (52 ounces). Hardly six pounds! Thankfully I was able to keep it all down, but I certainly suffered the agony of my distended stomach for a few hours afterwards! The stomach certainly didn't feel like it wanted to stretch much to accomodate the excess of food.
So, the big question is, should I give up on the big 6 pound challenge, or is there more room for my stomach to stretch?
How much more work does it need to continue expanding?
Where might I go from here to continue expanding my stomach?
Is there more I can do, or is patience with my existing stomach stretching techniques the key to eventually expanding my stomach to fit all 6 pounds?
Naturally, I was under the assumption that stomach stretching would take effect within a week, if not sooner, but from the sounds of it, a stretched stomach should certainly stretch to hold more than 3 pounds!
Meanwhile, in addition to preparation, are there additional strategies I might use during the challenge to help me succeed, or is stomach stretching the only route to eventually craming all six pounds in successfully?
Again, here are some ideas I've already pondered:
* Eat the burger, bun and fries in a strategic order. Any ideas on what order to eat the burger, bun and fries in? How fast can the stomach digest bread, meat and potatoes, respectively?
* Don't rush but keep a steady pace so the body and brain don't have time to think.
* Ignore taste, chew just enough to get it down smoothly.
* Quickly dunk food in water and/or take sips of liquid. Is soda not advisable for sipping on during such a challenge?
* Wiggle hips or jump up and down to compact food. Hard to do while sitting, but I digress.
* Take extra acid (vinegar) and/or digestive enzymes to help aid/speed up digestion. How effective might this technique be, considering the 1-hour time limit? Would the enzymes or extra acid be effective enough to clear out some of the stomach's contents within the challenge's hour?
* BYOC. Bring a variety of my own condiments to help change the flavors up after my taste buds get bored.
* Any additional tips to implement during the actual challenge?
Thanks for enduring the lengthy details and for offering your answers and feedback!