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When we were kids, we were made to sit out of the water for half an hour before we were allowed to go back and swim. Even till date, if you make plans to go swim right after a meal, your parents might still tell you how dangerous it is.
The logic behind this was, after a meal, more blood is directed to the gut for digestion, reducing blood flow in the arms and legs. This means you would get tired and fatigued easily, increasing your chances of drowning.
Also, you could get a stitch or a cramp if you went swimming on a full stomach which could also increase your chances of drowning.
So is it really true?
Let's first understand what happens when you go swimming after a large meal-
1. Increased Blood Flow
3. Stitches or ETAP
1. Increased Blood Flow:
It is definitely true that a little more blood is redirected to the stomach for digestion. But our body is such a wonder that there's enough blood in our system to perform all the functions simultaneously.
It doesn't mean that there's not enough blood to keep your muscles active for the swim after you have had a meal. If you've consumed a large meal and you go out for a vigorous swimming session, one thing that could happen is your food can be left half-digested causing you to feel nauseous.
Cramps are completely understood and can occur because of a lot of reasons. All swimmers regularly experience cramps in the calves, thighs and hands. Since a little more blood is directed to the gut, the amount of oxygen that reaches the muscles is less, which causes the muscles to cramp. Cramps are more likely to occur due to overexertion.
3. Stitches Or ETAP:
Exercise-related transient abdominal pain in sports etymology is a sharp pain observed just below the ribcage. Stitches are caused by cramping of the diaphragm when there's restricted blood flow due to pressure from the lungs and abdomen.
Exercising after a large meal has always been debatable. Some believe that there's nothing wrong with it and some go to extremes and completely boycott it. And swimming should be considered like any other physical activity.
If you speak to an elite swimmer, he/she will tell you that cramps and stitches occur regardless of having consumed a large meal or not.
Having examined a lot of records of cases of death due to drowning, none have been due to large meal consumptions before swimming. Many of them have been due to the height of the pool being more than the person itself. But most have been due to swimming after alcohol consumption or after doing drugs.
Alcohol and drugs impair your physical ability and your judgement, making it very difficult for you to make decisions while you swim.
Swimming on a full stomach is definitely uncomfortable, but it's not fatal and will definitely not lead to death due to drowning. You could feel nauseated due to partially digested food, but it's nothing to be worried about.
If you're still worried about swimming right after a meal because of the discomfort, then it's best to stay out before you decide to go back into the water. Take a short walk, let your food digest before you go back to swim.
Another measure you could take is eat in moderation. This will save you the pain of the discomfort and nausea that comes with a large meal. Eat simple carbohydrates and not the complex ones. This will save your digestion system a lot of time and give you a shorter wait time.
Thus, we can say without a doubt that we don't need to wait outside the water for 30 minutes after a meal before we go back swimming. Moderation is the key to this myth. Keep your meals light and your alcohol far away when going for a swim.