A competitive eater shares her diet and exercise routine to stay healthy while taking on 10,000-calorie eating challenges

  • Katina DeJarnett is a professional competitive eater, eating thousands of calories for work.
  • She says the key to staying healthy is balancing her routine with nutritious meals like salad.
  • He is also a former bodybuilder who likes to lift weights, but doesn’t spend long hours in the gym.

For most people, five pounds of food means leftovers for days to come. But for 32-year-old Katina DeJarnett, it’s a delicious way to spend an hour or less.

DeJarnett, better known online as Katina Eats Kilos, is a competitive eater who has built a career for herself tackling mountains of pizza, steak, burgers, cookies and more on her YouTube channel.

She told Business Insider that while her competitive eating isn’t necessarily a sport, it requires a similar level of dedication and training to succeed.

“You have to practice hard to be good at it,” he said.

And it’s a tall order to fit all that food into one person, especially since DeJarnett stands at five feet, two inches tall.

“I enjoy being a little guy,” he said. “It would be fun to come in unannounced and play dumb and see the shock and awe when I eat all that food.”

Although a smaller stature can make it more difficult to handle large meals without overwhelming them, DeJarnett says she doesn’t spend all day in the gym or deprive herself before a competition.

Instead, a surprisingly simple routine of big, healthy salads, lots of walking, and lifting weights helps her stay healthy, balanced, and happy even after a serious feast.

He started competitive eating after training as a bodybuilder

DeJarnett found her unique talent of eating a lot of food while preparing for a different kind of competition.

He first got into bodybuilding in his early 20s after being a self-described nerdy teen, and initially lost weight through a local fitness transformation challenge. DeJarnett loved the process so much that she not only kept up the bodybuilding, but also became certified as a personal trainer and earned her degree in kinesiology.

It wasn’t until 2019 that DeJarnett realized he also had the appetite of a champion. On a strict diet to prepare for a bodybuilding competition, he lives through food videos on YouTube, watching other people eat while he cuts calories.

After the contest, she decided to start her next bulking cycle by treating herself to an eating challenge but instead of pushing her limits, the eating extravaganza came easy, leaving her wanting more. Literally: he went out for dessert afterwards. But also figuratively, as he began to pursue other competitive food opportunities.

Katina DeJarnett with a giant bowl of ramen and a "mortal combat" t-shirt.

Before competitive eating and bodybuilding, Katina DeJarnett said she was “kind of a nerd.”

Courtesy of Katina DeJarnett

Planning ahead helps her minimize side effects while winning food challenges

DeJarnett said she loves food, and really enjoys many of the challenges. But it’s not all glamorous.

Eating anything over six pounds can be “very uncomfortable,” especially if there’s a time limit, according to DeJarnett.

“Thirty minutes into a challenge, you’re in pain, and even your favorite food is no longer delicious,” she said.

And each type of food has a unique approach. Too much salty food can cause bleeding and spicy food can lead to days of heartburn or indigestion. DeJarnett especially loves sweet challenges, where speed is key.

“You need to finish as quickly as possible before your body realizes how much sugar you’re eating,” she says.

And as a result, it can take a while to recover from the discomfort you feel after a holiday dinner, but it’s more intense and tricky to stay hydrated with a full stomach.

DeJarnett said an added challenge is her frequent travel and working with her boyfriend, Randy Santel, also a competitive eater, who at 6’5″ can burn calories more easily.

Katina and her boyfriend are standing in front of a beautiful palace in Thailand.

Katina and her partner Randy Santel (also a competitive eater) are on vacation in Thailand.

Courtesy of Katina DeJarnett

He says one strategy is to space out his competitions to avoid having too many massive meals each week.

To balance her nutrition, she focuses on weekly calories instead of daily limits

Although DeJarnett says her weight fluctuates quite a bit, she’s usually able to maintain it by using a simple strategy of averaging her calories during the week.

“If I looked at it every day, 7,000 would drive me nuts,” he said.

But planning throughout the week to aim for an average of 2,100 calories a day helps her ensure that all the calories from her food challenges help fuel the rest of her life.

“It frustrates me when people say it’s a waste of food. But I eat it all, it doesn’t go in the trash, there’s no extra weight gain,” DeJarnett said. “I just have a different eating schedule than most people.”

Between competition days, he often eats one large meal a day. To get a lot of nutrients, it’s usually a big salad with some kind of protein like chicken, followed by a lot of soda (to help her belly grow). The high volume of food keeps his body ready to handle large portions, while providing the right amount of nutrition.

DeJarnett says she also doesn’t skip breakfast or skimp on food in the hours leading up to a challenge (mostly at night).

“I even eat a big breakfast or snack before. If I get too hungry, my stomach hurts and I also become grumpy,” she said.

He says that walking and bodybuilding exercises help him stay fit

DeJarnett says managing her weight is largely about nutrition, not from crazy days of gym sessions. However, he still stays active, and aims for around 10,000 steps a day. On the road, his step counts average closer to 20,000 from exploring new areas.

Katina DeJarnett wearing athletic clothes and a race bib during a trail marathon.

Katina DeJarnett loves bodybuilding, trail running, and clocking 10,000 steps or more a day while exploring.

Courtesy of Katina DeJarnett

DeJarnett also loves lifting weights with classic bodybuilding workouts involving exercises like deadlifts and bench presses. He says he follows a classic “bro” workout split that targets different muscle groups five days a week, 90 minutes a day, and rests on the weekends.

While gaining some muscle mass can help burn a few more calories, DeJarnett says his training isn’t really about eating more. Instead, it’s a chance for him to relax and have fun.

“I just love lifting,” he said. “It’s not a punishment thought, I see it as a reward, I ate all this food and now I’m going to go to the gym and use that energy.”

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