By Madison McVan
Here’s what 19-year-old Juan Neave has eaten for lunch for most of the past 90 days: 500 grams of lettuce, half of a pack of ground turkey, three eggs, a yogurt, a pack of oatmeal, a blender full of banana protein smoothie, a bowl of cereal and half a watermelon.
It’s the only meal he eats every day, and it’s designed to expand the capacity of his stomach and train his body to digest massive amounts of calories. It’s how he’s preparing his body for the biggest eating competition in the world — Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest, which will take place in Coney Island on July 4.
Neave had only participated in a few eating competitions when he decided to take part in Liberty Hill’s first hot dog eating competition at last year’s Independence Day Spectacular. The South Austin resident found out about the competition from EatFeats, a website that displays food competitions near a selected location.
He downed 14 hot dogs in five minutes, taking home the first-place trophy.
“The other guys were staring at me the whole time,” Neave said. “I mean, I didn’t mind. I knew people were going to end up staring.”
The Liberty Hill competition was Neave’s first hot dog eating contest. Before then, he had only done a few competitions, eating cow tongue, donuts and corn dogs.
Less than a year after competing in Liberty Hill, Neave won a Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest Qualifier in San Antonio.
“Back then, I didn’t have much of a strategy,” Neave said. “I had watched a couple of videos, just to get me into the mentality of it, but I didn’t practice at all.”
Neave used a strategy that one of his favorite competitive eaters uses. He separates the bun from the hot dog, soaks the bun in water while he eats the hot dog, then squeezes the bun into a ball with his hands and swallows it after chewing it only once or twice. This method got him the victory in Liberty Hill and in the San Antonio Qualifier.
His victory in San Antonio not only qualified him for the biggest eating competition in the world, but earned him a three-year contract with Major League Eating. By beating out competitive eaters that were ranked 23rd and 26th in the world, Neave became the 23rd best competitive eater in the world without competing in a single national competition.
“I wanted to stop eating with people who just wanted free food, and eat with people who were there to actually compete,” Neave said.
In addition to training and competing, Neave uploads food-related videos to his YouTube channel, Hungry Saiyan.
“Aside from the competitions themselves, I do eating challenges on YouTube, mainly just to entertain people and sort of get their minds off things,” Neave said. “Even if it’s for like three minutes. I’ve always thought that putting a smile on someone’s face means so much and it does so much in the long run.”
Neave can’t compete in non-Major League Eating competitions due to his contract, but Liberty Hill’s hot dog eating competition will go on without him at the Independence Day Spectacular at City Park on July 1.
To enter, find the entry form at Facebook.com/LibertyHillFireworks, or send email to katie@LHIndependent.com.