Myth Busting: Don’t Eat Before Swimming

Myth Busting: Don’t Eat Before Swimming
Don’t eat before swimming! At least, that’s how the old saying goes. For anyone who grew up around the water, it was a common refrain from parents and camp counselors alike. The worry is always that you’ll get a cramp and drown. You’ve probably heard that it is safer to wait 30 minutes after eating before hopping into the water.

Now, when it comes to water safety, we take any and all advice seriously. But is it truly dangerous to eat before swimming? In today’s blog post, we’ll get to the bottom of this old saying.

Fact or Myth? Don’t Eat Before Swimming

Right up front, let’s get this out of the way: it’s probably not too dangerous to eat before swimming. This well-worn scrap of information dates back quite a number of years. Like many often repeated adages, people just started repeating it until it was eventually taken as fact.

The first appearance of this advice comes from an old Boy Scouts guidebook. Written in the early 1900s, it was a warning for the children not to eat before swimming… or they could be at risk for drowning. Instead, they were advised to wait at least 30 minutes before entering the water.

The general idea behind this advice was that digestion requires extra blood to be diverted to your digestive tract. According to the “wait before swimming” theory, the amount of blood that is being used for digestion can leave you vulnerable in the water. The thought is that you may not have enough blood in your arms and legs to swim properly. As the story goes, this puts the recently fed swimmer in danger of drowning. To remedy this, the myth advises kids to wait half an hour to allow digestion to complete.

Cramping is More Likely

Okay, let’s set that myth aside for now and take a look at the current school of thought around the idea of swimming after eating. As you can probably guess, all of that talk about blood and digestion is wild conjecture. When you eat before swimming, you are not going to be in great danger of losing control of your arms and legs. What is possible is a mild stomach cramp.

Fortunately, there’s a fix for this. If you’re worried about getting a cramp while swimming, then be sure to drink plenty of fluids. Swimming is a terrific way to exercise, but it can cause sweating and exertion. By staying hydrated, you’ll prevent the possibility of a cramp occurring in the first place. Just remember to stick to water and non-alcoholic beverages. When it comes to danger, consuming alcoholic drinks and swimming can be seriously hazardous to your health.

Good News from The American Red Cross

So now that you know how to tackle the dreaded cramp, let’s talk about whether you can get into actual danger if you ignore this adage. Is there a risk of drowning if you eat before swimming? Well, according to a 2011 scientific advisory review from the American Red Cross, it doesn’t seem so. The review assessed the link between eating and drowning events based on a selection of respected health sources. These sources included respected medical journals, Mayo Clinic and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In the end, the review didn’t find any reported cases of drowning or near-drowning after eating. Ultimately, it concluded that “eating before swimming is not a contributing risk for drowning and can be dismissed as a myth.”

So that’s the final word. It’s safe to eat before swimming. Now you won’t need to skip lunch before the pool!