Is It Dangerous to Eat then Swim?

man in lake swimming after eating

Swimming after eating will cause cramping or stitching, and you’ll drown if you swim after eating, are all stories that you’ll hear when the summer is nearing. But how accurate are these statements? Is there scientific evidence to support the arguments?

Some people still believe that a person should wait for at least 30 minutes after eating before they can get into the water. The reason they always have is that swimming after eating is dangerous; the gate between the intestines and stomach will cramp and make the swimmer unable to stay above the water. No scientific evidence supports this belief.

What’s the origin of the belief?

The belief has been around for over ten decades now when it was written in a Boy Scout handbook. The handbook warned boys that if they did not stay for at least 90 minutes after eating, they might drown when swimming. It’s not known where the Boy Scout got the idea, but certainly, it was inaccurate.

Hashing Out the Belief that Eating then Swimming Will Kill You

– The concern about cramping:

People believe that during digestion, your blood is diverted away from your muscles and taken into your gut. As a result, your arms and limbs won’t get enough flow of blood because your stomach is diverting it. Another contradicting version of the belief is that swimming might inhibit blood flow into your stomach, causing cramps. What you should know is that your blood isn’t diverted to cause any problems. And more so, everyone has enough blood, and so no blood diversion will leave a specific part completely weak. In reality, cramping occurs when doing activities that require a lot more vigor, than just the basic swimming. When cramping occurs in professional swimmers, it’s more caused by overexertion than food.

– The concern about stitching:

Stitching might feel like cramping, but there is a difference between the two. Although medically described as an exercise-related abdominal pain, much about stitches is not known. Elite swimmers are prone to stitches, but there is a scientific theory that can explain the exercise-related stitches. This is it if you drink or eat anything will leave you bloated, you are more likely to get a stitch. So, you just have to be keen on what you eat.

– The concern about drowning:

Drowning is linked to cramping and stitching. As the belief goes that swimming just after eating can cause cramping and stitching, it is said that the pain might overwhelm you and you could end up drowning. Another version of the belief is that when you swim just after eating, your body might not be able to stay afloat of the water. There is no scientific basis for these arguments. Think about how many people spend days at the beach eating and then throwing some snorkel gear on and enjoying the coral? As a matter of fact, no one has been reported to die because they swam on a full stomach. Statistics only attribute drowning to drug and alcohol use, never to food.


There is no proven reason to avoid swimming immediately after eating. In fact, eating some hours before you swim can provide you the required energy levels that you’ll need when swimming to stay afloat. Have you even not heard of endurance swimmers who swim long distances consuming food during the race? With the scientifically available information, the belief that “eating after swimming is dangerous” can be dismissed as a myth. While there are no concerns about drinking, it’s essential that you should always stay hydrated when swimming.