With summer approaching (at least in the Northern hemisphere), many will attempt to beat the heat by taking a dip. But what about the rule that states one should wait half an hour after eating? Is that true, or is it just an old wives’ tale meant to keep kids from eating too many FlufferNutter sandwiches by the pool?
According to numerous online sources, there is no indication that eating before swimming increases the risk of drowning. A 2005 piece from the New York Times explained that “while swimming strenuously on a full stomach could conceivably lead to cramps, for most recreational swimmers the chances are small.”
A blog from DukeHealth.org echoes the sentiment: “The common belief that the blood going to your digestive tract after eating steals the blood needed to keep your arms and legs pumping during swimming is unfounded.”
True, the body does supply extra blood to help with digestion, but “not enough blood to keep your arm and leg muscles from properly functioning,” DukeHealth.org explains.
How did this fearmongering begin? Nobody knows for sure, but the urban legend experts at Snopes.com write that it may have begun with a 1908 book, “Scouting for Boys.”
According to Snopes, the book warned: “First, there is the danger of cramp. If you bathe within an hour and a half of taking a meal, that is, before your food is digested, you are very likely to get a cramp. Cramp doubles you up in extreme pain so that you cannot move your arms or legs — and down you go. You may drown — and it will be your own fault.”
In other words, the book seems to be saying, not only will you drown if you eat before swimming, nobody will come to your funeral because you’ll be seen as an irresponsible twit.
Nowadays, experts agree that swimming-plus-food fears are unwarranted. However, alcohol is a different story. Booze and swimming don’t mix; the combination is dangerous and should always be avoided.
Thanks for reading,
If you enjoyed this post, make sure you subscribe to my RSS feed!