Food

Everything to know about Nathan's Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest on July 4th

Some people celebrate the Fourth of July with fireworks. Others celebrate by shopping the best sales.

Then there are those who celebrate Independence Day by devouring mountains of hot dogs in one sitting at Nathan's Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest on Coney Island, New York.

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Watch a hot-dog eating contest on the TODAY plaza!

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Watch a hot-dog eating contest on the TODAY plaza!

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Nathan's Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest has become an American tradition and this year's contestants include famed competitive eaters Joey Chestnut, Michelle Lesco and Miki Sudo. According to Nathan's Famous, the contest has happened every year since 1972 and was derived from an old patriotic legend.

Once upon an Independence Day in 1916, four immigrants allegedly gathered at the first Nathan's Famous hot dog stand on Coney Island. According to legend, they wanted to determine who was the most devoted U.S. citizen and did so with a hot dog eating contest.

Since 1972, Nathan's Famous has hosted the contest on Coney Island every year on July 4, which also falls within National Hot Dog Month. In anticipation of the big contest in 2018, here are a few more interesting facts about Nathan's Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest, courtesy of the famous brand behind it all.

BRENDAN MCDERMID / Reuters
Hot dogs are stacked up before the start of Nathan's annual hot dog eating contest in Coney Island.

Who is the reigning champ?

Joey Chestnut is the all-time hot dog eating champion and claimed the world record for most hot dogs eaten in 2013, when he ate 73 dogs in 10 minutes. That's more than 12,000 calories. Miki Sudo is the four-time female champion with a record of 41 dogs.

Yes, this is humanly possible.

Many competitive eaters practice for the big contest by stretching out their stomachs. Popular training methods include quickly drinking gallons of milk or water, and then eating large portions of high-fiber foods, like watermelon or oatmeal — all within minutes.

Why all that wiggling?

Nathan's competitors, such as 2015 champ Matt Stonie, often jump and wiggle their bodies as they eat. The movement actually helps the food slide down the esophagus and compact in the stomach.

How many hot dogs have been eaten?

Since the first contest in 1972, participants have eaten a total of 1,509 Nathan's Famous beef hot dogs. If all of those hot dogs were placed end-to-end, they would stretch around a baseball diamond 2.175 times.

Do they always eat like that?

In a word, no. Most major league eaters exercise often, weight train and follow healthy, low-calorie diets post-competitions because their stomachs become so stretched out that their bodies don't know whether they're actually full.

How do I watch this year's contest?

The 2018 Nathan's Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest will take place Wednesday, July 4 at 10:50 a.m. for the women's competition and noon for men's round. Both contests will air live on ESPN and the ESPN app.

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