I Ate Hot Dogs Every Day for a Week—Here’s What Happened
Inspired by the annual July 4th hot dog eating contest, I decided to connect with my inner Joey Chestnut and eat hot dogs every day. Experts comment with what you should know before you go all out on this summertime staple.
Some of my favorite articles on The Healthy @Reader’s Digest answer the question of what happens to your body when you eat any one food for a week. And while I respect the grind of consuming something healthier, like mushroom coffee, pea milk or tinned fish, I knew it was going to take something more fun to get me to commit to the bit.
Ahead of America’s single greatest sporting event of the year, the Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest, I spread out my binge over the course of a week. My wife was out of town for work for a few days, and she joked this challenge may have been an improvement over what I normally eat when she’s not home (a lot of chain pizza and fast food). She may have a point.
We started by making a large batch of one of her childhood favorites: Scrambled eggs with sliced hot dogs. With two eggs for every hot dog, this was a filling, protein-packed meal that lasted a couple of days in the fridge.
We don’t have a grill at home, but I still made a package worth of hot dogs and buns and ate them the classic way, pairing those franks with some store-bought macaroni salad that inspired a full-on summer picnic feel. To finish off the week, I treated myself to hot dogs and a large order of fries from Shake Shack.
This diet provoked some thoughts from two of our medical contributors and a board-certified nutritionist who commented on what my week-long hot dog diet did to my body. Here’s what we learned from Dr. Paricia Varacallo, DO, who trained in internal medicine, our medical review board member Latoya Julce, RN, BSN, a registered nurse who moonlights as a certified fitness trainer, and nutrition expert Katie Bressack, INHC, AADP.
To start, nurse and trainer Julce cautioned that hot dogs “have the worst saturated fat.” In fact, “I wouldn’t recommend anyone to eat them on a daily basis,” she said, noting that processed meat—such as weiners, sausages, bacon and cold cuts—is linked to a greater risk of colorectal cancer, and also linked with diabetes. Research from 2022 also found that processed foods were associated with premature death.
Dr. Varacallo strongly echoed this concern. “The World Health Organization has classified processed meats as Group 1 carcinogens,” she says, “meaning there is sufficient evidence that they can cause cancer.”
I was thirstier than usual when I ate hot dogs every day for a week
Hot dogs make a great carnival, concert or ballpark food because they go so well with a cold soda or beer. Part of that is thanks to their salt.
But that high sodium content meant that I was constantly refilling my water bottle all week. I’m usually pretty good about keeping myself hydrated during the Texas summer, but this week, my body just kept telling me to drink more water.
Dr. Varacallo explains: “Sodium plays a role in balancing fluids in the body, and excessive intake can disrupt this balance, causing the body to signal for more water intake. This is a protective mechanism to help dilute the excess sodium.”
She continues: “It is important to keep sodium intake within recommended levels (less than 2,300 milligrams per day for most adults according to the American Heart Association) to avoid increasing the risk of hypertension and cardiovascular diseases.”
I felt fuller than I expected
Processed meat and scrambled eggs are a protein bomb, so it shouldn’t be a surprise that it felt different to digest that compared with a salad or a sub sandwich.
I definitely have a habit of snacking in the afternoon or late night, but that urge was curbed after a hot dog-heavy meal. (One was never enough.) I felt like I had consumed a full meal at a restaurant, and hours would pass before I had the urge to nibble on anything else.
“Hot dogs are high in fats and proteins, both of which are known for their satiating effect,” Dr. Varacallo says. “Fats in particular slow digestion, thus prolonging the feeling of fullness.”
“However,” she caveats, “the type of fats found in hot dogs is primarily saturated fats, which are associated with increased levels of LDL (‘bad’) cholesterol and a higher risk of cardiovascular diseases.”
My digestive system was working overtime
Let’s just say my trips to the bathroom increased, and it wasn’t because I was drinking more water. I’m not always the most regular, but the week I ate hot dogs, my digestive system didn’t have any problems.
“GI symptoms can occur,” Julce says, “especially if the body is used to a healthy diet. The body may promote fast waste [removal] to keep its equilibrium.”
Dr. Varacallo offered another way to think about this notion: “High sodium intake may alter the fluid balance in the intestines, contributing to these symptoms,” she says.
Dr. Varacallo proposed a few other possible scenarios. “First, the high fat content in hot dogs can sometimes cause diarrhea or loose stools in some individuals,” she says. “Additionally, hot dogs … often contain additives and preservatives that might irritate the gastrointestinal tract.”
Hot dogs definitely aren’t ruffage, but I found they were a little rough on my digestion.
Eating hot dogs every day made me feel more sluggish than usual
This might not have been from the hot dogs themselves, but feeling so consistently full gave me a general sense of sleepiness throughout the day. I sometimes found it hard to concentrate and I didn’t feel as mentally sharp as usual. The weather probably wasn’t helping here, either. Did I mention Texas is hot in the summer?
Julce says from her nursing and training perspective, it’s no surprise I felt fatigued. “The body is working 10 times harder to digest compared to foods that are water-based (whole foods),” she explains.
Nutritionist Bressack adds that the processed nature of hot dogs “can often make us feel more tired, like all processed foods can.”
Even as a quick weeknight meal in the microwave, a hot dog or two is a nice treat that evokes memories of summers past. The first bite of a premium hot dog, cooked just right, is downright delightful. But after a few days of this experiment, I started to feel like a competitive eater staring down a third plate of a dozen hot dogs: This was turning into a chore.
I love a variety of new flavors too much to recommend eating hot dogs every day for a week. Over July 4th weekend, I’ll leave that kind of challenge to the pros.