There's an old suburban legend that goes like this: You must wait 30 minutes after eating to go for a swim. If you do not, you could get a stomach cramp and drown.
If your parents really weren't messing around, you may have even had to wait an hour.
The reasoning your Mom probably used was something to the effect of:
After eating, most of the blood in your body flows straight to your digestive system, so physical activity could result in a full body cramp that would render you incapable of staying afloat.
But is that even true?
Sure, drowning is a leading cause of unintentional injury death worldwide.
Almost 4,000 people die from drowning annually, says the Center for Disease Control, with the highest rates seen in children under 14 (20%), men (nearly 80%), and ethnic minorities. The biggest risks for children are lack of swimming ability, lack of barriers surrounding the pool, and lack of supervision, according to the CDC.
However, an instance of drowning caused by swimming on a full stomach has never been documented, The Washington Post reports.
"In my knowledge, there is no evidence or research that looks specifically at swimming that suggests that eating before swimming is dangerous," said Dr. Kelly Pritchett, spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and former collegiate swimmer at The University of Alabama.
Pritchett drew on her own experience as a competitive swimmer, saying that she frequently ate just before events because healthy snacks and carbohydrates helped give her fuel.
Yes, exercise does divert bloodflow from the digestive system.
There is a risk of stomach cramping associated with eating before vigorous swimming because blood and oxygen are redirected to the muscles from the digestive process. Pritchett advised that less-experienced swimmers be wary of eating "too close to going into the water" because cramping could develop if the swimmer were "working at a high intensity or working hard to stay afloat."