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Competitive Eater Matt Stonie on Food and Fitness

By Connie K. Ho, Contributor

Imagine downing 323 gyoza in one sitting. That’s the feat professional competitive eater Matt “Megatoad” Stonie accomplished recently at the Day-Lee Foods World Gyoza Eating Championship in Los Angeles’ Little Tokyo. Stonie, who is half-Japanese and a quarter Lithuanian and a quarter Czechoslovakian, was the first back-to-back winner to do so since 2009.

Champion eater Matt Stonie

Champion eater Matt Stonie

Stonie, who was born in San Francisco, moved to San Jose, Calif., with his family when he was five years of age and has lived there ever since. He holds several world records for his eating accomplishments, among them: consuming 25 McDonald’s Big Macs in 22 minutes, 241 Hooters Chicken Wings in 10 minutes, 182 slices of bacon in five minutes, 22 pounds of Smoke’s Poutinerie Poutines in 10 minutes and 71 Smithfield pork ribs in five minutes. In addition to having an extremely popular YouTube following, he’s traveled the world to compete in speed eating competitions, visiting big cities such as Toronto and Los Angeles to smaller towns in Massachusetts and New Hampshire. The 24-year-old professional competitive eater, who stands in at five foot eight inches and a trim 130 pounds, told the Pacific Citizen about his career highlights and what he’s looking forward to next.

The Pacific Citizen: What was your entry into competitive eating, and what prompted it?

Matt Stonie: The first contest I ever did was in 2010. I was 18. It was Maine lobster rolls — whoever ate the most in 10 minutes got $1,000. I was working a summer job at the time — I signed up for the contest and ended up winning it. I had a fun time doing it, and I just had a knack for it. From there, it just sort of snowballed. I’ve always been competitive, and I’ve just been pushing myself and working hard.

The Pacific Citizen: What exactly is competitive eating? Have you experienced any health risks because of it?

Stonie: We are professionals first — we work hard, there’s money involved, titles, etc. It’s a little different for me now since this is going into my fifth, sixth year with contests I go to. For the prep, it’ll depend on the contests I go to. For the Nathan’s (Famous International Hot Dog Eating) Contest, it’ll be about two months of preparation since it’s a big event. It really comes down to how I’m feeling about the contest. If I’m worried, I’ll practice more. If I feel like I’m in a good place, I’ll just practice a little bit to get ready.

Just like any sport at the competitive level — football, basketball, etc. — it’s hard on the body, and it’s just a matter of figuring out how to take care of yourself and how to maximize. The thing about competitive eating is that if you aren’t healthy, you won’t do well. If you’re out of shape cardio-wise and you go onstage, you won’t eat as much. It’s a sprint — you have to be in shape.

One of the biggest decisions I made three years ago was I decided that I wanted to make sure I was focused — getting to the gym, making sure I can eat in intervals, drinking plenty of water and taking care of myself. [I decided] I would take a break from school. So right now, competitive eating for me is full-time. That was the biggest thing: shifting the focus and really making sure that six days of the week I watch my diet, exercise properly, take care of myself, get enough sleep — all that stuff.

You have to figure out what works best for you. I took a few nutrition classes when I was still in school to figure out what eating 50 hot dogs would do to your body, do to your system, and figuring out multivitamins, how long to fast for, how long to not fast for. It’s one of those things I’m still working on because there are no books written on competitive eating. A lot of it is experimentation.