Don’t Eat Before Swimming – Fact or Fiction?


Is swimming within an hour after a meal dangerous? Will it divert blood flow from your stomach to your muscles and cause cramps?

The answer is no! This has been a popular myth quite related to and as popular as the “don’t exercise after eating” myth. These are notorious not because many people believe them but because they are based on false, unproven science.

This myth started in Cuba, where parents tell their kids not to swim right after eating because swimming with a full stomach can lead to cramping. But medical experts have weighed in on this issue, and most of them have nothing to say about it. Yes, they say it’s not dangerous.

What made this myth popular?

According to its proponents, when you eat, much of blood circulation is diverted to your digestive system, particularly your stomach and small intestine. So supposedly your gut is busy receiving more blood after eating, and you should not do anything that demands blood flow during this period.

Exercise, like swimming, is a demanding activity that prompts your muscles to demand more blood flow. So when you exercise after eating, you divert blood flow from your stomach, and this allegedly creates a sort of an imbalance between the blood received by your stomach and your muscles. According to the myth mongerers, cramps ensue because the muscles receive less blood than necessary. This could even lead to drowning.

However, when you look at the data of people swimming after a major meal, you wouldn’t find documentation of drowning due to a full stomach. There is no significant difference between cases of cramping among swimmers who didn’t eat before swimming and those who did.

It seems as though the people who promoted the myth were misled by cases of swimmers who suffered from cramps after eating, whereas ignoring others who headed to the waters hungry and still suffered from cramps. This is called confirmation bias. It’s when you choose evidence that goes well along with your preexisting bias.

Fact is that there is no scientific evidence that links cramps and drowning with swimming when the stomach is full. But many people don’t know this. In fact, ask anyone about it and they would tell you the prevailing myth. It’s hard to dispel myths. When someone just ate lunch and heads to the water to swim and then feels the cramps, they would most likely blame the meal beforehand. Then there goes the relaying of the myth to friends.

So should people swim after eating?

This is more of a personal question. If you like swimming after helping yourself to bagel, and bagel doesn’t make you uncomfortably full, then by all means go ahead. A lot of people just don’t head to the waters while their stomachs are full because they feel full and heavy. Health wise, there’s really nothing to worry about. Don’t even worry about your blood flow getting diverted from your stomach to your muscles. Your circulatory system is quite good at evenly distributing blood throughout your body no matter what you’re doing.

All About Interval Training

High intensity interval training is one of the most talked about fitness methods for fat loss. It’s actually a very simple type of exercise, one that involves moderate exercise alternated by short burst of intense activity. One type of interval training involves a minute of jogging broken by 20 seconds of sprinting.

You may be wondering why alternate between high intensity and moderate intensity workout when you can just go straight for high intensity? Question is, can you? The most fit people, the most experienced sprinters, for instance, can only sustain an incredible intensity on exercises for 10 minutes. For the average person, 20 or 30 seconds of an intense burst of activity will overwhelm them. For people who just started getting fit, 10 seconds may be too much.

Nonetheless, the intense burst of activity taxes the body and activates so many processes, including heightened metabolism and fat incineration. But this rapidly depletes the body of its resources, primarily fuel and oxygen. This is why interval training is coupled with low-moderate exercise in between the intense bursts. The low-moderate phase lets your body recover.

Most fitness experts agree that HIIT or high intensity interval training is much better for weight loss, especially fat loss, than conventional, steady state cardio. The cardiovascular benefits that come with HIIT are much greater than those that come with regular cardio workout. It doesn’t only train the heart and lungs to be more efficient. It also trains the muscles to handle greater physical demand. In addition, the intense burst taxes the muscles so much that it creates micro-tears in the muscle fibers, which account for greater after-burn. Meaning, you keep burning calories after your workout.

For beginners, interval training is an extreme challenge, but it is very efficient. When done properly, 15 minutes of HIIT burns more calories than 45 minutes of steady state cardio.

So how do you go about your first interval training? Here’s the thing. There is no specific set of exercises for interval workout. If you’re a runner, you can alternate between jogging and sprinting. For instance, you can jog for 1 minute and sprint for 30 seconds. You can also do bodyweight circuits. For example, you can alternate push-ups with intense mountain climbers or alternate between burpees and air squats. I like to do my HIIT workout on the elliptical following these tips, but it is up to you.

There is no specific time frame for high intensity phase and low-moderate intensity phase. Depending on your fitness level, you can spend anywhere from 10 seconds to two minutes for each phase. Beginners may have to start with short high intensity bursts (10-20 seconds) and long low intensity phases (30 seconds-1 minute).

Your safety remains extremely important. One mistake beginners do is do much more than their body has adapted for. If sprinting is too much, then don’t sprint. Instead, alternate between walking and jogging or between brisk walking and moderate running, depending on your fitness level. Start at your fitness level. Allow your muscles, joints, and tendons to gradually adapt to increasing demands.

Never sacrifice proper form! Cranking out as many push-ups as many you can in a minute is great for fitness until you sacrifice your form in the last few reps and risk rotator cuff injury.