All-you-can-eat restaurants undoubtedly have a certain allure, the greasy promise of unlimited grub a tempting proposition… or challenge. So how much could you really eat at these joints? Besides risking being thrown out of the buffet, what would happen physically? What kind of effect does consuming huge amounts of food in one sitting have on the body? We asked nutritionists, gastroenterologists and competitive eating champions to find out. 



Dr Ayesha Akbar

consultant gastroenterologist and member of the British Society of Gastroenterology

Ghrelin is the hormone produced which helps control appetite. It is a chemical produced is the gastro intestinal tract when the stomach is empty; when the stomach is stretched and full, it stops being secreted. It acts on brain cells to increase hunger and stomach acid production in order to prepare for food.

The stomach is a bag made up of muscles that contract and expand during digestion. Some people who train for competitive food challenges can eat up to 60 hot dogs in 10 minutes! The stomach can expand in response to eating large meals over a period of a few weeks.

In order to allow the stomach more space for food, the individual could chose not to drink too much water or fluids during the buffet in order to allow more space for food, or even go “hungry” to the buffet and not have eaten for several hours in order to be able to eat large volumes. Fruit and vegetables are easier to digest by the body, so people can consume larger volumes of these food groups than meat.

Above all, remember that no individual is the same and one person may manage the 60 hot dogs in one sitting whilst another will never manage nearly as much no matter how hard they try…


The human stomach is very hard to burst because you get to a certain point around a gallon you will, as a reflex, just throw up... Most people vomit if they eat more than their stomach's can handle. But there have been cases where an individual was able to ignore their gag reflex and eat so much that their stomach actually ruptured.

Source "Gulp" author Mary Roach, Business Insider


$7bn US buffet restaurant revenue
in 2014

5,100 – number of buffets

141,638 – number of staff employed in all-you-can-eat restaurants

-3.2% - annual growth 2009-2014



Don “Moses” Lerman

Former competitive eating champion

I only eat what I feel tastes delicious. I will eat till there is no more room in my stomach area or, as I refer to it, my stomach cavity – that will be close to 12lbs, give or take a pound or two.

In a contest I will push myself even further, and have eaten even more. I never threw up at a contest or at a buffet. I’ve always been a powerful big eater and know my limitations. For contest purposes I have developed the water method (drinking a gallon of water in under three minutes). This stretches the stomach for more capacity.

An experiment at an all-you-can-eat pizza restaurant concluded that diners who were given a half-off coupon consumed around one slice of pizza less on average. Customers who paid full price left twice as much food waste on their plates.



Christine Esters

Digestion and detox specialist, author of The 10 Day Better Body Cleanse

How much a human being can healthily eat in one meal is easy. Get your two palms together: that is the size of the portion. Why? Because it’s the size if your stomach. That means we all eat a different portion, because we all have different size hands and so stomach. Enjoy!

In 2003, researchers at Okayama University in Japan reported the sudden death of a 49 year old man in a public bathroom. According to the report, his stomach had ruptured from over-extension of the stomach wall caused by excessive over-eating.

Source: Takaki Ishikawa, Research Gate



IchiUmi6, E 32nd St, New York, NY 10016

We've never had to kick anyone out. You can keep refilling. There is a last call half an hour before the kitchen closes.

People have eaten a lot, I mean A LOT. I've seen 4-5 refills of a plate, but you can keep going.

— In 2012, two diners were banned from an all-you-can eat joint in Brighton, England, as the owner was worried they were eating him out of business. He said: "Basically they just come in and pig out. We have put up with them for two years but I’ve had enough.



ILLUSTRATION:  Hopes & Fears