Eating Before Swimming: Fact or Myth?

Eating Before SwimmingWe’ve all been told at some point in our life that we should wait half an hour before we go swimming. When we were children we bugged our parents incessantly to let us back in the pool and counted down the minutes, no the seconds until we were allowed to dive back in. Our moms were diligent as drill sergeants and were firm in their belief that it was absolutely imperative that we wait at least 30 minutes before going back in the water, lest it make us sick. This being among many old wives tales that we all heard growing up as children. But really, is there any merit to this theory? Is this advice based on fact or is it a myth? Were the adults just paranoid about us swimming with a full stomach? Doesn’t Science tell us that eating provides an abundance of energy to your body, and that your body needs energy for swimming?

Here’s the plain truth on the subject. Neither the American Academy of Pediatrics nor the American Red Cross makes any specific recommendations about waiting any amount of time after eating before taking a swim. Yes, there’s a remote possibility that you can get a cramp while swimming on a full stomach, but a person swimming in a pool or controlled swimming area could easily exit the water if this happens.

The statistical side of this fact or myth question gives us more of an understanding at what we want to know. And the answer (drumroll please) is that it’s a myth that swimming right after you’ve had something to eat will make you sick. That doesn’t mean we suggest going swimming right after a big meal. You should still probably take some precautions to be safe.

There is a logical explanation as to why people think it’s really bad to swim right after you’ve eaten. Science tells us that after you eat the digestion process starts and your heart pumps a large amount of blood to your stomach to help that process. With swimming being a strenuous exercise activity, the heart needs blood to flow through your muscles. With the lack of blood in one area or the other you can start to get stomach cramps. These cramps can cause a painful sensation in your body, making it very difficult to swim. Which is probably why Mom was so adamant to begin with.


So, should I make my kids wait half an hour after they’ve eaten before they go swimming?


Better to listen to Mom on this one. Especially if your little one isn’t a strong swimmer or has just finished a big meal. It’s always wise to wait until you’ve had a chance to digest before engaging in any physical activity where you’re going to exert yourself, especially swimming. 

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