31 May 2023
Food takes about four hours to be digested and during this period, both oxygen and energy are directed towards digestion, taking them away from other uses such as fuelling energy or removing the lactic acid that builds up in muscles during exercise. Ideally wait for 30 to 60 minutes, says holistic health expert Dr Mickey Mehta
While we all know that eating before any kind of sport, including swimming, is important, it helps fuel the body and give the necessary energy, it is important to understand the facts. There’s a general belief that the pylorus or the gate between the stomach and intestines will cramp up and render the swimmer unable to stay above water. It is ideal to wait for at least 30 to 60 minutes after a meal before you go for a swim.
Swimming is not advisable immediately after eating for the simple reason that when there is food in the stomach, there is a call for blood in the stomach and intestines, for its digestion. After a meal, when one suddenly hits upon the extremities for exercise, that is the time the blood is drawn towards the extremities like muscles, and the digestive system gets in a state of flux. Food takes about four hours to be digested and during this period, both oxygen and energy are directed towards digestion, taking them away from other uses such as fuelling energy or removing the lactic acid that builds up in muscles during exercise.A large meal before swimming can cause a feeling of heaviness and may cause indigestion and discomfort.
This can increase the risk of digestive issues such as cramps or bloating, which can interfere with the ability to swim comfortably and safely.One needs to pay a lot of attention before engaging in vigorous water activities. A minimum of three hours break is to be given post-meal so that the food gets broken down, digested, the stomach gets relaxed and there is no additional stress. Otherwise, the pylorus gate won’t open up and we can avoid symptoms of cramping, spasms, nausea, acidity, burping and acid reflux.
Any kind of acid reflux and hiccups can lead to water going inside the nose while swimming. There have been reported cases where people have vomitted as well, especially children, because they could not handle their bio feedback. Putting your face under water can also result in accidental ingestion of water.On the other hand, there are studies that state dehydration and electrolyte imbalance as the possible factors and causes of cramping, resulting from a possible fatigue.
It is important to be hydrated while engaging in activities involving water so that you can avoid exhaustion. Before you swim, drink enough water to preserve your body’s best functions.Swimming requires endurance and stamina and so, proper nutrition hours before swimming is important as it provides the necessary fuel to sustain energy. Consuming the right nutrients help reduce the risks of cramps. If you have to eat close to swimming time or early morning before hitting the pool, choose to eat light and easily digestible food. Fruits like apples, banana, salad, soups and coconut water can digest faster and give you enough energy to swim.
Avoid eating foods that can cause gastrointestinal distress. Fried, spicy, fibrous foods, high sugar carbonated drinks and caffeine-based drinks can all cause bloating and discomfort. Avoid grains and refined foods for the same reason. Most competitive swimmers keep a gap but eat enough to give them the necessary energy to perform.Scientists have investigated multiple studies in the past to see the relation between eating before swimming and drowning or “paralysing cramps.” There is no direct link found between food intake and drowning.However, the above stated factors should be taken into consideration for a fun and safe experience. Enjoy that splash.
Published in Indian Express