Any athlete knows the importance of a good stretch. For competitive eaters, their sport is no exception — except the stretch in this scenario is for the stomach.

“You just have to keep up and keep testing your limits,” says Matt Stonie, defending champion of the men’s hot-dog eating contest at Nathan’s Famous.

“I dunk the hot dog buns in the water to help get them down and chase it with some drinks,” the 24-year-old from San Jose, California, explains.

Meanwhile, Joey Chestnut does things a little differently. The man who’s looking to regain the title he’s won eight times drinks a mix of water and milk in the morning — almost a gallon of each.

“That will give me a good stretch,” he explains. “The milk will give me some calories, but also keeps the water in my stomach for a long time.”

Also a native of San Jose, Chestnut kept a fasting routine three days before last’s year’s contest, “but this year I’ve been able to maintain a little bit less fast, to one and a half days,” he said.

And that’s not all — the 32-year-old has shed nearly 25 pounds since January and has had blood work done to keep his health in check. Similarly, Stonie has been studying nutrition, to help understand his body better.

On July 4, tens of thousands of fans are expected to head to Coney Island for the Nathan’s Famous contest.

Before Chestnut and Stonie battle it out in the men’s competition, NYC native Miki Sudo will be looking to defend her title in the women’s category, against former champion Sonya Thomas.

Hot dogs aren’t the only source of energy the contestants feed off — the fans bring encouragement and excitement, too.

“The crowd is amazing. And it really helps me to push myself,” Stonie said. “I really try to keep it up for them.”

Chestnut agrees. “Knowing that what I do is competitive eating makes people smile all over the country,” he said. “What I’m doing may be crazy, but at least it’s appreciated.”