This article originally appeared on Outside
On July 4, competitive eating champion Miki Sudo will face the Nathan's Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest for the ninth time. And even after placing first in the women's category eight times, Sudo is somehow still hungry for more success.
Sudo believes she was born ravenous, but she never intended on making a career out of it. In 2012, Sudo, then a college student, learned of a Las Vegas Chinatown bistro's $1,500 prize to anyone who could eat a 12-pound bowl of pho. Her friends tried and failed, laughing at the absurd amount of flat rice noodles left in their bowls, but Sudo slurped hers down in under an hour.
"It’s easy for people to show their support when you’re crushing the competition and doing well," Sudo says. "If you're consistently coming in last place then people might think this is just a really weird hobby to have."
It didn't take long for Sudo to digest that she liked doing this, and that she was good at it. She entered more local food competitions, gulping down copious amounts of ramen and ribs. In 2013, she signed with Major League Eating and her speed eating career took off.
Since then, Sudo has competed in over 50 food eating contests including the Ribfest Chicago’s RIBMANIA Eating Championship, the World Kimchi Eating Championship, the Buffalo Buffet Bowl, and the women's division of Nathan’s Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest 8 times. Along the way, she met her boyfriend, fellow competitive eater Nick Wehry. Fun fact – Wehry proposed to her immediately after he competed in the DraftKings Red Carpet Film Feast where he ate a world-record 50 hard-boiled eggs in three minutes and four seconds.
While most people tune into Sudo's life when she's wolfing down mountains of Twinkies, pumpkin pie, or hot dogs, her typical diet is balanced and, dare we say, normal. "I do love food obviously--wings, sushi, pizza--but I also love fresh produce and lean proteins," she says. "About 85 percent of what I eat on a day-to-day basis is the same, simple, fresh meals. My shopping list is usually under 10 items."
Overall, her daily diet isn't that different from any other athlete trying to keep their body in shape and maintain healthy digestion.
"Plain, nonfat Greek yogurt mixed with chia seeds, ground flax seeds, and Spirulina, spooned over fruit -- usually mango, peaches, berries, or whatever I have on hand. I have hot or iced coffee depending on my mood, and I take it black."
"Kale salad roughly chopped with broccoli, massaged with chicken drippings, lemon juice, and pepper, and topped with avocado, either chicken breast or canned tuna. Sometimes I add hot sauce and vinegar."
Sudo notes that Wehry used to be a competitive bodybuilder, so he's keen on keeping their fridge stocked with pre-cooked chicken at all times.
"String cheese, pickles, or fresh fruit - not all combined, of course."
"Charred vegetables - usually a mix of broccoli, celery, and cabbage - in spicy chicken broth topped with chicken breast, avocado, and fresh basil or sprouts from my garden."
Training for the Mustard Belt
Sudo says every food eating competition requires different preparation. For example, for the 2023 World Strawberry Shortcake Eating Championship, she practiced swallowing the super dense, syrup-soaked cake as fast as she could. But for something like the Hooters World Wing Eating Championship, Sudo had to nail down her movements.
"That's going to require a lot more technique," she says. "You’re gonna have to figure out how to most efficiently get the meat off the bone."
Hot dogs, Sudo says, are a different beast. Because it's her ninth year, her movements are all muscle memory now. However, a few days before the contest, she will do a few practice rounds.
How to Eat a Hot Dog Quickly, According to a Hot Dog Eating Champion:
Pick up one or two hot dogs (without the bun) in one hand. Use your front teeth to bite two notches in the hot dogs, then chomp down, tearing half of the dog off. "What's important for me is having pieces I can swallow easily with minimal chewing," Sudo says.
Don't swallow yet. Chew once, then bite two more times with your front teeth before making that third final bite. Swallow all at once. Take the bun, rip it in half, and dunk into your beverage of choice. "Mine is a Crystal Light Strawberry, Orange, Banana drink. It's funny because I don't drink it on a regular basis when I'm not competing," Sudo says. "I've tried lots of contest drinks, though: Sprite, raspberry iced tea, raspberry lemonade, lots of other Crystal Lite flavors. For some reason this one just works best for me."
Ball half of the bun up in your fist so it's small, pop it in the back of your mouth, and chew. Do the same with the other half. Repeat the process from start to finish.
"The hot dogs are harder for me to get down," Sudo says, "They're very flavorful, and the moment that meat casing breaks, the juices flow into your mouth and that can be really overwhelming further into the contest. It'll cause flavor fatigue about halfway through the contest and that's when I start eating one hot dog and not two."
After devouring 48.5 hot dogs in 10 minutes (her world record in 2020), Sudo isn't exactly thinking of what she's going to eat next. But she does drink copious amounts of water and Powerade Lite.
"When I finally feel okay and level out, I'll want to eat something small but refreshing," Sudo says. "You usually crave the opposite of what you were just eating, so after Nathan's, it might be frozen yogurt, fresh fruit, or a smoothie."
Because she'll be in New York and won't have access to her home kitchen, Sudo says this year she'll probably head to the Whole Foods salad bar for her first full post-contest meal.
In an interview after the 2022 Nathan's contest, Sudo said that she could reach 50 hot dogs in 2023. But does she still feel confident about this goal?
"I just need to believe that I have 50 in me," she says,. "It's going to be really hot, but I've been practicing in the Florida heat so I think I'll be prepared. I think it'll be close. We'll see."
How Does the Champ Take Her Hot Dog?
Surprisingly, Sudo isn't repulsed by hot dogs, even after eight years of competing. However, unlike during the contest, she prefers hers a bit more decadent.
"I definitely like bratwurst, but I also like the naturally-cased hot dogs with sauerkraut, finely chopped raw white onions, and spicy brown mustard," Sudo says. "I'm not even a bun snob, so I'll take any kind."
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