Randy Santel is the anti-Jared. When he worked at Subway as a teenager, he would regularly eat three double-meat foot-longs during a six-hour shift to pack on weight as a football lineman.
Santel is a competitive eater with 481 wins. He used to be heavy, but he slimmed down after college, getting so ripped he won a national body-transformation contest that earned him a guest spot on the TV show Spartacus. To celebrate, he and a friend downed a 28-inch, 11-pound pizza in under an hour, his first food challenge. “I wasn’t even that full afterward,” he says. “An hour or two later I had dinner with my family, then ice cream.”
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Such is the appetite of the men—and it is almost exclusively men—who wolf down grotesque amounts of restaurant food in hopes of getting it comped. They often also get prize money, a T-shirt, their picture taken, and traffic to the sites where they post videos of their exploits. Those who are serious about it train by stretching their stomachs with, say, 15 pounds of watermelon. Those who aren’t end up immortalized on the losers’ wall, or worse: Last year, a man in Portland, Oregon, choked to death trying to eat a half-pound glazed doughnut in 80 seconds or less.