Ben Sledge 23rd May 2018
Do you absolutely devour your Nan’s famous roast every Sunday? Are you the one in your friendship group that orders their Nando’s Extra Hot? If so, you might have what it takes to be a pretty good competitive eater.
The Overtake sat down with one of the UK’s fastest eaters Adam Moran, better known to YouTube and the eating world as BeardMeatsFood, to see what it takes to be a competitive eater.
“I’ve always been into health and fitness, and I did this really long diet years ago, just to see if I could get under 10% body fat. When I was finished with that, my girlfriend said to me one day that I should go try this burger eating challenge she’d seen, as kind of a treat. I did it, and it just kind of went from there.
“I did a few more of these ‘man vs food’ style things at restaurants across the country as a hobby. Then started my YouTube channel, and years later it’s my full-time job, I’m competing in pro contests in America and stuff like that.”
When not eating horrifically large amounts of food, Moran is actually very careful about what he puts into his body.
“I’m crazy meticulous about what, and how much, I’m eating on ‘off days’. Usually I’m eating in a severe caloric deficit, probably around the 800-1000 calorie mark (my caloric maintenance is about 3,000 calories a day to maintain my current weight).
I’d rather eat a tuna salad than fast food any day of the week
“And I’m trying to get as much nutrient dense food in as possible. So it’s usually salad, vegetables, a little fruit, lean protein, seafood, yogurt, cottage cheese. Stuff that people usually hate to eat, but to be frank I’d rather eat a tuna salad than fast food any day of the week.”
While counting calories for six days and then binging on 100 KFC hot wings once a week isn’t particularly healthy, as of yet, Moran hasn’t suffered too many health problems as a result of his eating practices.
“I’m cautious about it. I get regular blood tests to make sure everything is A-OK, but I understand a great deal about nutrition and how what you eat impacts the body. People often think I eat like this all the time but in actual fact it’s usually 30 minutes of an entire week.”
Surely even eating one challenge a week must take its toll? Moran doesn’t think so — not so far, anyway. That’s partly because he has his plate full by keeping a close eye on his food.
“I take a huge interest in nutrition. In fact, I’m a qualified personal trainer, believe it or not, which was something I thought about doing earlier in my life.
You really want to make sure that, for health purposes, you’re taking in a good amount of nutrient-dense food
“In simple terms, I’d recommend everyone follows some kind of exercise program and monitors their caloric intake. Of course, calories aren’t the only consideration. You really want to make sure that, for health purposes, you’re taking in a good amount of nutrient-dense food. Vegetables, fruit, lean meat, oily fish, fibre etc.
“If your primary concern is not becoming obese though, calories really are key. It astounds me that teaching children about tracking calories, and monitoring energy input and expenditure (through exercise etc.) still isn’t part of a mandatory school curriculum.”
Healthy eating obviously weighs heavily on Moran’s mind. It’s slightly odd, in that case, that so many of his challenges revolve around fast food and that, on a few of his videos, fans have complained there are too many vegetables on his pizzas. His healthy eating mindset does not translate to his challenge videos, and therefore by extension his quarter of a million subscribers, but his calorie counts (which often exceed 10,000 calories per meal) do.
As he mentioned earlier, Moran’s job entails competing in eating competitions as well as running a YouTube channel, on which he attempts stunts such as eating every pizza on Papa John’s menu, or eating 10 McDonalds quarter pounders in as many minutes. But it’s the official competitions that provide the real challenges for competitive eaters to sink their teeth into.
“In terms of actual pro contests, I only usually get to a handful. Just as many as I can really. It’s tough because the only contests worth entering for me are international since we don’t really have ‘competitive eating’ here, in a professional sense anyway.
“Eating challenges at restaurants, I’m normally doing once a week, but I get commissioned to do other stuff for TV and brand promos and things like that. I wouldn’t overeat more than twice every ten days or so usually.
The hardest I’ve actually finished was probably a 4ft hot dog
“The hardest I’ve actually finished was probably a 4ft hot dog covered in chilli and cheese which weighed something like 12lb. It took me a few attempts, but I finally managed to beat it. Funnily enough, I was being filmed for a documentary on Channel 4 at the very same time, which was a fortunate coincidence.”
Harder than it looks
Being paid to eat may seem like a dream job, and a diner once insured Moran’s stomach and tastebuds for £1m, but he insists that it’s harder than it looks.
I don’t think many people realise the hard work that goes into it
“It’s fun of course, and I love seeing how people react when they see what I do, or when I tell them what my occupation is.
“But I don’t think many people realise the hard work that goes into it, too. Not just the eating. I mean the eating is almost circumstantial. The hard part is providing the entertainment, filming, editing, planning, etc. Of course the ‘trick’ is that I’m eating these superhuman amounts of food, and that’s why people watch, but it’s the package of a fun video that people are really invested in.”
Is YouTube really that profitable, though? Can you make a living out of eating on the internet? The stats would say yes, as nearly 300,000 people are subscribed to watch Moran charge his way through things like a mountain of kebab meat and chips as his alter ego, BeardMeatsFood.
“I have a number of different revenue streams. Of course there’s YouTube ad revenue, which is where advertisers pay you based on the fact that they’re placing advertisements at the start of your video. Think of it as having your own TV channel, on which advertisers want to sell their products or services.
I earn on average about three times as much than I did when I worked as a manager in a large stockbroking firm
“In addition, I do some social media and marketing work with restaurants, do some food photography and videography, and of course I get booked by restaurants, brands, TV shows too. I’ve done work with Papa John’s, NFL, pretty much every TV channel in England, National Geographic, and some Japanese TV too.
“I couldn’t tell you precisely how much money I make, since it depends on a number of factors, but what I will say is that I earn on average about three times as much doing what I do now than I did when I worked as a manager in a large stockbroking firm. And I worked for that company for the best part of ten years.”
It is obvious that Moran is good at what he does, but can anyone do it? He’s not so sure.
“Honestly, it really depends on the level you’re at. If you want to just impress your friends and take down a couple of restaurant eating challenges, maybe win a free meal and a t-shirt, I believe anyone with a natural good appetite can do some very casual ‘training’ in order to work up to beating a 5lb or 6lb eating challenge.
“If like me, you’re trying to compete against the best in the world, who really approach this thing like a sport, then it’s very difficult. You’ve got to practice regularly, look to make improvements in your technique, and deal with how physically taxing the whole thing is.
There’s a reason the best in the world are all slender and in good physical condition
“A lot of people look at competitive eating as just unhealthy people, competing at eating unhealthy food, when in reality that’s really not the case. There’s a reason the best in the world are all slender and in good physical condition.
“When it comes to contests especially, which are normally 10 minutes in the states, it takes it out of you physically speaking, eating at full tilt for 10 minutes. I’d rather do 10 sets of heavy squats in the gym than a contest sometimes, so it’s not something most people would have the fortitude to excel at. And for good reason. It’s mad.”
And yet he still does it, and says he enjoys it. While his arguments that a diet including such large amounts of fatty, fried, and fast foods can still be healthy when combined with calorie-counting and some lean meat aren’t clear-cut, Moran seems to be eating up the physical and metaphorical challenges with glee.
And, for any of those wondering, BeardMeatsFood offers a last morsel of advice for tackling a big ‘ole Sunday Roast.
“Eat the veggies and the meat first, go easy on the gravy, and hope there aren’t too many roast potatoes to finish off at the end.”
Ben Sledge 23rd May 2018