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

For most people, five kilos of food means extra food for the coming days. 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 made a career out of 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 takes the same level of dedication and practice to be successful.

“You have to practice pretty 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 just five feet, two inches tall.

“I enjoy being a little person,” she said. “It makes it pretty fun if I go in unannounced and play dumb and see the shock and awe of being able to eat all that food.”

While a smaller stature can make it more challenging to handle large meals without exaggerating, DeJarnett said she doesn’t spend all day in the gym or deprive herself before a race.

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

He started competitive eating after training as a bodybuilder

DeJarnett discovered his unique ability to eat massive amounts of food while preparing for a very different competition.

He started bodybuilding in his early 20s, when he was a self-described nerdy teenager, initially losing weight in a local fitness challenge. DeJarnett loved the process so much that he not only continued bodybuilding, but also became a certified personal trainer and earned a degree in kinesiology.

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

After the competition, he decided to start his next bulking cycle by giving himself a food challenge, but instead of pushing the limits, eating felt easy and left him wanting more. Literally: he went out for dessert after that. But also figuratively, because he started looking for other competitive dining options.

Katina DeJarnett with a giant bowl of ramen and a "Battle of the mortals" T-shirt.

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

Courtesy of Katina DeJarnett

Planning ahead helps him minimize side effects and overcome food challenges

DeJarnett says she loves food and genuinely enjoys many challenges. But it’s not all glamour.

According to DeJarnett, eating more than six pounds can be “very uncomfortable,” especially if there’s a time limit.

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

And each food type has unique strategies. A lot of salty food can cause bloating and spicy food can lead to days of heartburn or indigestion. DeJarnett especially loves sweet challenges where speed is key.

“You need to stop as quickly as possible before your body realizes how much sugar you’ve eaten,” she said.

And in the aftermath, it can take a while to recover from the discomfort, think post-holiday dinner, but more extreme and it’s tricky to stay hydrated on a full stomach.

DeJarnett said an added challenge is that she travels often and works with her boyfriend, Randy Santel, who also eats competitively and has an easier time burning calories at 6’5″.

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

Katina and her partner Randy Santel (also a competitive eater) vacationing in Thailand.

Courtesy of Katina DeJarnett

One strategy, she said, is to organize her races to avoid eating too many giant meals each week.

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

Although DeJarnett said her weight fluctuates somewhat, she is mostly able to stay the same by using a simple strategy of averaging her calories over the course of the week.

“If I looked at it daily, 7,000 would freak me out,” he said.

Planning throughout the week and aiming for an average of 2,100 calories per day will help her ensure that all the calories generated by the food challenges will help fill her for 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, I’m not overweight,” DeJarnett said. “My eating schedule is just different than most people.”

Between competition days, he often eats one big meal a day. To get plenty of nutrients, it’s typically a huge salad with some kind of protein like chicken, followed by a lot of soda (to help expand your stomach). A large amount of food keeps his body ready to handle large portions, while providing the right amount of nutrition.

DeJarnett said she also doesn’t skip breakfast or skimp on food in the hours leading up to challenges (most of which are in the evening).

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

He said walking and bodybuilding exercises help him stay healthy

DeJarnett said managing her weight is mostly about nutrition, not crazy day-long gym sessions. However, he still remains active and aims for around 10,000 steps a day. On the road, his steps count closer to 20,000 on average from exploring new places.

Katina DeJarnett in athletic clothes and a bib at a trail marathon.

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

Courtesy of Katina DeJarnett

DeJarnett also loves lifting weights with classic bodybuilding routines that include exercises like deadlifts and bench presses. He said 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 muscle mass can help burn a little more calories, DeJarnett 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 mindset, I see it as a reward, I ate all this food and now I get to go to the gym and use that energy.”

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