A competitive eater shares her diet and workout routine to stay healthy while tackling 10,000-calorie meal challenges

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

Dejarnett, known online as Katina Eats Kilos, is a competitive eater who has made a career out of tackling mounds of pizza, steak, burgers, cookies and more on her YouTube channel.

He told Business Insider that although competitive eating isn’t necessarily a sport, it requires the same level of dedication and training to be successful.

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

And it’s a tall task to get all the food into one person, especially when Dejarnett is only five feet, two inches tall.

“I enjoy being a little person,” he said. “It’s so much fun if I go in unannounced and play dumb and then get that feeling of wonder and awe when I get to eat all that food.”

While short stature can make it more challenging to handle heavy meals without overdoing it, DeJarnette said she doesn’t spend all day in the gym or deprive herself before a competition.

Instead, big, nutrient-packed salads, plenty of walks and lifting weights are surprisingly simple routines that help her stay healthy, balanced and happy even after a serious feast.

After training as a bodybuilder he started competitive eating

While preparing for a very different kind of competition, DeJarnette discovered her unique talent for eating large amounts of food.

She first got into bodybuilding in her early 20s after being a self-proclaimed nerd and initially lost weight in a local fitness transformation challenge. Dejarnet liked the process so much that she not only continued bodybuilding, but also became certified as a personal trainer and earned a degree in kinesiology.

It wasn’t until 2019 that DeJarnette realized he, too, had the hunger to be a champion. On a strict diet to prepare for a bodybuilding competition, she was living her life through food videos on YouTube, watching other people eat while cutting calories.

After the competition, she decided to start her next bulking cycle by challenging herself to food, but instead of pushing past her limits, the extravagant way of eating felt easier, and left her wanting more. Literally: She went out to eat dessert afterwards. But also metaphorically, since he started looking for other competing opportunities to eat.

Katina Dejarnet with huge bowls of ramen and a "mortal combat" T-shirt.

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

Courtesy of Katina Dejarnet

Planning in advance helps him win food challenges as well as minimize side effects.

Dejarnett says she loves food and really enjoys challenges. But it’s not all glamorous.

According to DeJarnette, eating anything over six pounds can be “very inconvenient,” especially if there is a deadline.

“Thirty minutes into a challenge, you’re hurting, and even if it’s your favorite food, it doesn’t taste good anymore,” she said.

And each type of food has its own unique strategies. Too much salty food can cause bloating and spicy food can cause heartburn or indigestion. Dejarnet especially likes sweet challenges, where speed is important.

“You have to eliminate it as quickly as possible before your body realizes how much sugar you’ve consumed,” he said.

And after that, the discomfort after a holiday dinner may take a little time to recover from, but it’s more serious and it’s harder to stay hydrated with a full stomach.

DeJarnette said an additional challenge is that she often travels and works out with her boyfriend, Randy Santell, who is also a competitive eater, making it easier for the 6’5” to burn calories.

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

Katina and her partner, Randy Santell (also a competitive eater) are vacationing in Thailand.

Courtesy of Katina Dejarnet

He said one strategy is to space out his competitions to avoid eating too much each week.

To balance her nutrition, she focuses on weekly calories rather than daily limits.

While DeJarnette said her weight fluctuates somewhat, she is able to maintain it by using a simple strategy of averaging her calories throughout the week.

“If I looked at it on a daily basis, 7,000 would make me cringe,” he said.

But planning a week-long goal of averaging 2,100 calories per day helps her ensure that all the calories she gets from her food challenges are helping fuel the rest of her life.

Dejarnett said, “I get frustrated when people claim it’s a waste of food. But I’m eating it all, it’s not going in the trash, no extra weight is being gained.” “My eating schedule is completely different from most people.”

Between competition days, she often eats one large meal a day. To get plenty of nutrients, this is usually a big salad with some type of protein like chicken, followed by a lot of soda (to help bulk up his stomach). High-volume food keeps his body ready to handle larger portions while providing the right amount of nutrition.

DeJarnette said that in the hours leading up to the challenge (most of which are in the evening) she does not skip breakfast or skimp on food.

“I also eat a big breakfast or snack beforehand. If I’m too hungry, it upsets my stomach and makes me irritable,” she said.

He said that walking and bodybuilding workouts help him stay healthy

Dejarnett said managing her weight is mostly about nutrition, not day-long gym sessions. However, she still remains active, and aims to walk around 10,000 steps a day. On the road, his step count while exploring new places averages around 20,000.

Katina DeJarnett in athletic clothes and race bib at Trail Marathon.

Katina Dejarnet enjoys walking 10,000 steps or more a day while bodybuilding, trail running, and exploring.

Courtesy of Katina Dejarnet

Dejarnett also loves lifting weights with classic bodybuilding workouts that include exercises like deadlifts and bench presses. She said she follows a classic “Bro” workout split that targets different muscle groups, working out five days a week, 90 minutes a day, and resting on the weekends.

While adding some muscle may help burn a little more calories, DeJarnette said his training isn’t really about eating more. Instead, it’s a chance for him to relax and have fun.

“I just love lifting,” she said. “It’s not a punishment mentality, I look at it as a reward, I ate all this food and now I get a chance to go to the gym and use that energy.”

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