July 5, 2013 at 10:06 AM ET
His appearance on TODAY Friday was a rare occasion when Joey Chestnut was not in the mood for a hot dog.
It was with good reason. On Thursday, the famous competitive eater continued what has become a Fourth of July tradition, winning the Nathan’s Famous International Hot Dog Eating Contest for the seventh straight year.
Chestnut, 29, nicknamed “Jaws,” piled down a world record 69 hot dogs and buns in 10 minutes in front of a Coney Island crowd of 40,000.
Friday on TODAY he was joined by the women’s champion, Sonya “The Black Widow” Thomas, who defended her title from the inaugural women’s contest last year by woofing down 36 ¾ hot dogs in 10 minutes to win by a mere ¾ of a hot dog. Chestnut and Thomas each had a pile of hot dogs in front of them equal to their winning total from the contest, but neither was eager to take a bite a day after giving their stomachs a workout.
“I’m not 100 percent,’’ Chestnut told Willie Geist and Kate Snow. “I didn’t expect to see 69 hot dogs again so soon. My body is recovering.”
As he plowed through his plate on Thursday, Chestnut knew he was getting close to beating his own previous record of 68 hot dogs set at last year’s contest. He blew out the second-place competitor, Matt “Megatoad” Stonie, who ate 51 hot dogs.
“I’ve done it so many times in practice, I know exactly where I’m at just by how I’m feeling,’’ Chestnut said. “I knew I was going to get close (to the record). It was a tough contest, and I had to push it at the end.”
Making matters trickier was the sweltering 90-degree temperature. The competitors use water to help get the hot dogs down quicker, but drinking too much water to compensate for the high heat can be an obstacle to getting down more hot dogs.
“We want to use the water, but we don’t want to take up our capacity,’’ Chestnut said. “It’s this crazy balance. We don’t want to fill up on water, but we have to use it to get (the hot dogs) in.”
Each hot dog is 290 calories with 17 grams of fat, according to the Nathan’s website. That means Chestnut ingested 19,720 calories in 10 minutes. A person on an average diet of 2,000 calories per day would take nearly 10 days to eat that much.
ESPN's Sport Science has measured Chestnut's bite, and it is stronger than that of a German shepherd. He also bounces up and down to use gravity to accelerate the process of getting the hot dogs down. Chestnut trains his stomach to expand by 400 percent of its normal size, from one liter to more than four liters, according to ESPN.
Chestnut is 6-foot-1 and 220 pounds, and Thomas is only 5-foot-5 and 100 pounds. Many competitive eaters are in relatively fit shape because too much body fat reduces the stomach's ability to expand, according to ESPN.