February 26, 2009

You Ask, I Answer: Swimming & Digestion

Since I know you like to tackle myths, I have one I'm curious about.

Should you really wait an hour after eating a meal before you go swimming to prevent cramps?

-- Heidi Conprisi
New York, NY

Ah, one of those old wives' tales that will not go away.

Every Summer I still come across news articles warning beachgoers and pool enthusiasts to avoid the water for at least an hour after enjoying their lunch.

Let's lay this one to rest with some Human Physiology 101.

After a meal, blood is mainly "dispatched" to the digestive area to aid in nutrient absorption.

The "don't swim within an hour after eating a meal" assumes that getting in the water while this is happening leads to cramping.

Not quite. If you are simply immersing yourself in the ocean or engaging in some light swimming in the pool, your body can most certainly handle digestion all while providing blood to the muscles.

Unless you are planning on starting a 10 mile swim as you swallow your last morsel of lunch, there is absolutely no need for concern.

The only thing you may experience if you push yourself too hard -- as with any vigorous physical activity performed minutes after eating -- is an unpleasant queasy feeling.

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