There has been a long standing rule about how long you should wait to swim after you’ve eaten. However, the time allotment in this rule shifts. Should you wait an hour? A half hour? Fifteen minutes? The lack of consistency in this rule has made many children feel rather dubious about it, and these children have grown up and answered the question. After lunch at the lake – are cramps really something to worry about? Discover whether or not you need to wait 60, 30, or 15 minutes before you’re allowed to swim again after eating.
The Thought Behind the Warning
The concept of cramps came about because of the common belief that the blood flowing to the digestive tract after eating steals the blood that is needed to keep your arms and legs pumping while swimming. The lack of blood in your arms and legs would then cause a cramp from which you would not move.
Another school of thought was that the pressure from your lungs and the pressure from a full stomach would work against each other and create debilitating cramps.
These body seizing cramps always came with the warning that you would freeze up in the water and would then have no other alternative but to drown. Children are especially considered susceptible to these cramps—perhaps because they may not have the knowledge or experience required to know how to float while in pain.
Eating + Immediately Swimming= Cramps is a Myth
The common belief that if you were to eat and then swim would result in cramps is a myth. The theory is unsupported by facts and is therefore unfounded. In fact, there is no recorded episode of drowning caused by a full stomach. The body does supply extra blood to aid in digestion—however you will still have enough blood to keep your arm and leg muscles functioning properly. At worst, you might get a minor cramp—but not because you ate.
Muscle cramps in the feet, calves, and hands while swimming do happen. However, they are most likely due to exertion, not a full stomach. Furthermore, these cramps or charley horses are not life threatening if the swimmer does not panic. All a swimmer must do is tense and then relax the afflicted muscle and the cramp should release. If it does not, a swimmer must simply float until help arrives.
The Full Stomach and the Swimmer
A swimmer is likely to feel uncomfortable if they decide to swim on a full stomach. Then again, sit ups right after eating aren’t a great choice either. So take some time for comfort if you like.
Furthermore, there is a relationship between exercise and eating. When and what you eat can have an impact on how many calories you burn and how effective your workout is. It is recommended that you eat for energy—that is a combination of healthy carbohydrates and protein—2 to 3 hours before exercise. This is true even if you like to exercise first thing in the morning. Your performance will improve if you provide it with energy.