Do You Have to wait to swim after you eat?

Have you been told that you shouldn’t swim right after you eat? It’s been passed down from generation to generation, yet nobody seems to know if it’s true or not. Today we answer the question: do you really need to wait 30 minutes after eating to swim?Do you have to wait to swim before eating text over two hamburgers

Myth or Fact: Do you really need to wait 30 minutes after eating to swim?

This statement is a… myth. You don’t need to wait to swim after you eat. 

The thought process behind this statement was that your body needed to digest the food a bit before you could swim. And that if you swim right after eating you’re stealing the blood your stomach needs to do this. The alternative thought is that your stomach is taking away the blood flow from the extremities which you would need to keep you above water.

Your body contains about 1.2-1.5 gallons of blood — approximately 10% of an adult’s body weight is blood. That said, the body has plenty of blood to go around. There is enough blood to digest and swim at the same time

Now, just because this myth is disproved, doesn’t mean you should go out and gorge yourself and then expect to swim competitively. 

You can experience some abdominal cramping from swimming too hard after eating a large meal, just like you would if you decided to eat a lot of food and go for a run. 

What happens with blood flow when eating

Blood flow does increase in the gastrointestinal system during meal times. There are 2 phases: the anticipation/ingestion phase and the digestion/absorption phase. 

During the anticipation phase, your body is preparing itself to eat. It has been triggered to know that food is on the way and begins to start pumping more blood. Your heart begins to pump more quickly, and your cardiac output increases. During this phase, not much happens in the GI system, but this increase allows for the digestion phase to have the blood it needs to digest your food. 

Once you ingest food, the blood then goes to the digestive system to help break it down. Within minutes, blood flow increases in the left gastric, celiac, and superior mesenteric arteries. 

Here is a breakdown of how long it takes after ingestion for each area to experience increased blood flow:

  • Left gastric artery — 10-15 minutes
  • Celiac artery — 10-15 minutes
  • Superior mesenteric artery — several hours
  • Jejunum — within 30 minutes
  • Ileum — by 90 minutes

Knowing these times helps us to understand the original myth. Timing ranged anywhere from 30 minutes to 2 hours for most kids anxiously waiting to dive into their local pool. Mom wasn’t too far off by saying they needed to wait because their stomach had an increased need for blood flow. 

But, knowing that the heart is told to increase cardiac output by different triggers AND that your body has plenty of blood to go around, we can safely jump in the pool even if we have just eaten. 

What you actually need to worry about when swimming

Now, just because you don’t need to worry about eating and jumping into the water, doesn’t mean there aren’t things that can negatively impact your GI health when it comes to swimming. 

Swimming pools can be ridden with germs even if chlorine is used to kill them off. Proper pool hygiene is often not followed – who is honestly showering before and after getting into the pool? And who is going to shower after using the bathroom before jumping back in? 

Most people don’t do this. But, this can introduce blood, feces, and skin to the pool. Along with them, you’re being exposed to millions of bacteria, protozoa, fungi, and other microorganisms — ew. 

Now, add in the fact that chlorine can kill off the healthy bacteria in your skin and gut microbiomes and you’ve got a recipe for disaster. Even if you are very careful about not swallowing the chlorinated water, your skin does absorb it which means it can affect your entire body. 

The depletion of your healthy microbes plus the introduction of pathogenic microorganisms means you can easily get sick. Those who have sensitive immune systems are especially vulnerable. Respiratory issues, skin irritation, and dementia have all been associated with chlorine use.

Read more about How Public Swimming Pools Affect Your Gut here.

Best foods to eat before swimming

Just because it is a myth that you shouldn’t eat before swimming, doesn’t mean there aren’t preferred foods for you to eat while swimming. While most places you go have hotdogs on the rollers and convenient bags of chips and candy, that doesn’t mean that’s what you and your family have to settle for. 

Fruit and vegetables are going to be a staple for your snack bag. They are light and not overly filling to make you feel sluggish and heavy after eating them. Also, they contain essential polyphenols that can help be a natural sunblock

Some great ways to bring more fruits and vegetables that are still snacky and not too sticky include:

  • Hummus
  • Salsa
  • Guacamole
  • Water with fruit in it
  • Agua fresca
  • Homemade popsicles (if you can figure out a way to keep them from melting or are at your house)

Healthy proteins and fats can help keep you full and keep your muscles healthy while you are swimming all day. Some great options are:

  • Grass-fed beef sticks
  • Chicken breast or hard-boiled eggs (if you have a cooler to keep them good in)
  • Nuts
  • Seeds

And if you’re a grown-up, the added protection from Atrantil is a great way to keep your gut safe while you’re out this summer. It contains healthy polyphenols to fight off unwanted pathogens while gently nourishing the healthy ones — keeping you healthier all summer long.

Check out some of our other posts to get ready for summer!

9 Foods to Boost Your Polyphenol Intake this Summer

8 Tips for Improving Your Gut for a Healthy Summer

Sunblock or Polyphenols: What’s the Safest Way to Protect Your Skin this Summer?

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