Do I Really Have to Wait to Swim After I Eat?

Now that summer has unofficially kicked off, you’re most likely going to spend your weekends lounging by a pool all day long. Like most summer days, you rarely go inside to even cool down—that’s what your pool is for! Unless of course, you just enjoyed a bite to eat—now you have to wait for at least 30 minutes before you can jump back in.

Actually, you don’t.

There is a misconceived fear that the blood used to keep your arms and legs pumping is stolen away to digest the food you’ve just consumed. However, this common warning to wait a minimum of 30 minutes before getting back into the water does not enable your swimming mobility. According to Dr. Mark Messick, a family medicine doctor at Duke Primary Care Timberlyne, the body does supply extra blood to aid in digestion, but not enough blood to keep your arm and leg muscles from properly functioning.

Your biggest concern related to eating before swimming, as it is with any exercise, is the feeling of nausea or the small chance of a cramp. Dr. Roshini Rajapaksa, a gastroenterologist at the New York University School of Medicine, said that at least one study that looked at drownings in the United States found that fewer than one percent occurred after the victim ate a meal. In fact, according to a article, when endurance swimmers undertake very long distances they even consume food during the race. If they do experience a cramp, it’s more a result of overexertion; it doesn’t seem to be related to food.

The US Centers for Disease Control lists the main risks of the inability to swim as the lack of fencing around pools and the lack of supervision. However, if your meal is going to include an alcoholic beverage your risk of drowning drastically increases nearly to 41 percent.

Be smart and stay safe this summer and of course, enjoy your pool!