Medical Misconception: Waiting After Eating to Swim

Each month, we weigh in on a health and wellness myth and explain the real cause behind the malady.

This month’s misconception: Waiting 30 minutes after eating before swimming

If you’ve ever been told to wait 30 minutes after eating before swimming, you are not alone. Many have been given this advice, but is it valid?

The advice is based on the idea that swimming on a full stomach can lead to cramping and drowning because your blood flow is redirected from your arms and legs (needed to swim) to your stomach to help you digest food.

However, you’d be hard pressed to find a case in which a person drowned because he or she swam on a full stomach. In fact, this has never been documented.

Our bodies have enough blood to keep all of our body parts functioning after a big meal. Eating certain foods, such as complex carbohydrates and protein (e.g., whole wheat toast, yogurt and/or fruit) can boost a person’s energy and help him or her sustain that energy. Some competitive swimmers, for example, eat something immediately before a big meet to give them the energy they need to perform well.

In addition, while exercising, our bodies produce adrenaline that helps deliver oxygen to the muscles and increases blood circulation and performance.

Engaging in strenuous activity of any kind can lead to cramping, but cramps can be due to a multitude of factors, such as overusing a muscle, dehydration, muscle strain or simply holding a position for a prolonged period.

Rest assured that while swimming on a full stomach (as with any exercise) can be uncomfortable, there is no medical proof that it limits a person’s ability to swim or could cause a person to drown.


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One thought to “Medical Misconception: Waiting After Eating to Swim”

  1. I was always told it was to prevent cramping which THEN would lead to you not being able to swim, and, hence drown (even if it was in the 10-inch deep kiddie pool). Mothers are funny sometimes….

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