So, according to science, just how many hot dogs can a person eat?

Joey “Jaws” Chestnut and Matt Stonie compete in the 2019 Nathans Famous Fourth of July International Hot Dog Eating Contest at Coney Island on July 4, 2019 in New York City.
Joey “Jaws” Chestnut and Matt Stonie compete in the 2019 Nathans Famous Fourth of July International Hot Dog Eating Contest at Coney Island on July 4, 2019 in New York City.
Photo: Bobby Bank (Getty Images)
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Since the dawn of civilization people have looked at the apparent limits of the physical world and thought, we can do more. We have pioneered new forms of transportation, delved into the building blocks of our very reality, and sought answers at the bottom of the ocean and amongst the stars. But, despite our patient, exacting exploration of the physical world, one question has eluded us: just how many hot dogs can one person eat?

Now, we have an answer. In an opinion piece published by Scientific American, James M. Smoliga, a sports scientist whose research has examined how aging affects marathon performance in elite and average individuals, writes, “As I read all of the literature attempting to predict the biological limits of human running speed, it dawned on me that the pattern of the world record progress in athletics also seemed applicable to the Nathan’s Famous Coney Island Hot Dog Eating Competition.”

Smoliga writes that, as is common with sports-related world records, the incentives and benefits of winning, combined with improvements in training regimens, invariably leads to the demolishment of old records. Apparently this also applies in the world of competitive eating, where, in his words, “My analysis, published in the journal Biology Letters, revealed the somewhat shocking finding that world records in hot-dog eating are arguably more impressive than those in any other sport.”


The analysis, which is thoughtfully laid out and compelling in its argument, deserves to be read in full, and describes how competitive eating phenom Joey Chestnut might (depending on how you look at it) be one of the most impressive athletes in recent history. But, on the off chance you’re just here to find out what science says is the ceiling for hot dog consumption, Smoglia also has this to say:

“Ultimately, the mathematical modeling I performed suggests that Joey Chestnut’s record-setting 75 hot dogs in 10 minutes is not the pinnacle of what is biological possible. The historical data suggest that the record may eventually be able to rise as high as 83–84 hot dogs. My guess is that it will be decades before anybody approaches this, and it will take an individual taller and leaner than Chestnut to achieve this.”

Only one quote, from the mouth of philosopher Hans Gruber, springs to mind in response: “And when Alexander saw the breadth of his domain, he wept, for there were no more worlds to conquer.”

Jacob Dean is a food and travel writer and psychologist based in New York. He likes beer, less traveled airports, and is allergic to grasshoppers (the insect, not the mixed drink.)

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I will admit to having been able to eat 6 very tasty, nicely grilled dogs in what I will call one sitting. There was beer too which either explains this feat or makes it worse. Maybe both.