Naperville Competitive Eater Sarah Rodriguez Gets Second Place in Nathan's Hot Dog Contest

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Sarah Rodriguez, a competitive eater from Naperville, placed second and set a personal record in the women's competition at Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest on Sunday.

Nathan's congratulated Rodriguez in a tweet after the competition, shouting out her accomplishment of downing 24 hot dogs.

Michelle Lesco took home the win with 30 3/4 hot dogs, according to Nathan's.

Rodriguez and her husband, Juan, talked to NBC Chicago last week about how they prepare to eat competitively on the national stage.

"The stereotype of eaters, you know, you see us in these contests and people are like, well, 'You clearly eat like that every day, all the time obviously,'" Sarah Rodriguez said. "But that's really not the case. Like, we take very good care of ourselves the rest of the time."

But preparing to eat more hot dogs in a matter of minutes than many people consume in an entire year is no easy task and it actually takes strategy, the Naperville couple told NBC 5 as they train for the popular Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest this Fourth of July.

While the health and fitness duo, who are also competitive eaters, will be competing together this weekend, they don't share the same strategies.

"Anytime you're doing a contest, there are two pieces to it," Sarah Rodriguez said. "One you need to have technique, and two, you need to have gas. So the technique is, do I understand how to eat a hot dog? Which I know sounds bananas and everyone's like,'Yeah, you put it in your mouth, that's how you're eating,' but to do it quickly and safely, you have to figure out the technique. So yes, you do have to practice occasionally doing real runs, but the big bulk is also understanding that your stomach needs to have the space to put those hot dogs down."

How do you create that space exactly?

For Sarah Rodriguez, the process involves consuming high volume, low calorie foods with plenty of water on top.

"A giant salad, big bowls of cauliflower and then I put water or diet soda on it, to actually press them against the wall of my stomach, pressing a little bit more, and I weigh it. I weigh it, and every time you're trying to get a few more grams, a few more ounces to press and push your stomach out so you put more in there," she said.

But for Juan Rodriguez, the strategy is different.

"I prefer to drink as much water as possible in, you know, in this case the 10-minute period, to simulate the contest," he said. "It's called water training. Many of us do it."

But water isn't his only strategy. There's also... gum?

"I'll chew on packs of gum at a time," he said. "That helps and continue to work my jaw strength. Some of us like to chew ice. Everyone has their little thing."

Outside of that, the couple said they try to stay rested and eat light in the days before the competition.

"Sarah likes to fast the night before," Juan Rodriguez said. "I mean, I try not to because if you fast too long, then your body is like, your stomach just contracts really fast the moment you eat one hot dog. So you've got to find that sweet spot."

And ready to represent.

The Rodriguezes say they are prepared to represent Chicago and Illinois on the national stage, but for Sarah Rodriguez, the competition holds even more significance.

"I always just try and be a presence for the women," she said. "Women are super underrepresented in the contest, we're super underrepresented as a whole."

Sarah Rodriguez said the disparity in coverage of the women's and men's contests is just one example.

"We're on the same stage 30 minutes prior, they literally clean it off and they don't show us [on the same channel]," she said. "We train just the same."

"I try and make the presence for the women. I want it to be normalized," she added. "Like, you can eat, you can enjoy... food is fuel and it's one day. And, you know, I bet there's a ton of good eaters out there that are women that would crush it, they're just, you know, we're not seeing them. You don't even see us on the contest, so if I can get women faces out there and encourage them to like show up and try."

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