Gabriel Muller isn’t convinced that competitive eaters count as athletes:
A good eater, according to [William “Wild Bill”] Myers, needs to be strategic about which bites to take, how often to chew, and when to maneuver between swallowing and eating more food. This is especially tricky with chicken wings, which are irregularly shaped and have bones. The winner is determined by weighing the bowl before and after the competition, in order to establish the total weight eaten.
With this kind of focus from participants, it might seem reasonable to place competitive eating among the ranks of other legitimate sports; a strong audience base, highly organized league structure, and meticulous training regimen add an element of validity, and Major League Eating considers competitive eating a demanding athletic undertaking. But what kind of well-founded sport, I wondered, calls attention to such brazen gluttony and the revolting digestive processes of the human body? Instead of zeroing in on an athlete’s physiological vigor and agility, competitive eating plays an antithetical role – a sort of sport in reverse.
But competitive eating surely demands discipline; in Errol Morris’ 2012 short documentary El Wingador, the titular chicken-eater described a training regimen that included eating 15 pounds of food and drinking three gallons of water each day.