We've all heard the old wive's tale: Wait 30 minutes after eating to go swimming, or you'll get terrible cramps. I've even heard some versions that you'll drown or throw up. But what's the truth to this rule of thumb that keeps people out of the water? The only way to know is to boldly go where none have gone before— straight from the dinner table into the pool. Here's what happened when I swam less than 30 minutes after I ate.

The Meal

tortilla chips, chicken, salsa, nachos, chips, guacamole
Elizabeth Vana

For this experiment, I went all out. I wasn't about to eat a piece of fruit, go swimming, and call it a day—no way José. All you readers at home deserve better than that. Plus, this was a scientific experiment, and science never holds anything back.

My friends and I went to a Mexican restaurant for lunch before our dip in the pool, and you better believe I gorged myself. It helped that I was pretty hungry, so stuffing my face wasn't too difficult. I ate a ridiculous amount of the complimentary chips and salsa, in addition to an appetizer of queso and my entreé. 

You see the chips and salsa in the photo above? That was the third chips and salsa the waiter brought to our table. No skimping on calories for me! Sink or swim, I was ready.

The Swim

Talia Schaer

After lunch, I felt stuffed. All I wanted to do was climb into bed and curl up into a food coma. My swimsuit was digging into my sides, and nothing sounded worse than physical activity. But I'm no quitter. We'd all worn our bathing suits to lunch, so once the bill was paid we jumped in the car and headed to the pool.

In total, it was about 10 minutes from my last bite of food until I stood at the water's edge. I dipped my foot in. It was cold. My stomach felt like it was about to burst. "Is this the end?" I thought to myself. "Am I going to cramp up and drown in this pool?"

As it turns out, no. The worst thing about my post-meal swim was the freezing cold water. In fact, swimming actually helped with the over-stuffed, bloated feelings of nausea I had after eating too much. I treaded water in the 12-foot deep end, I raced my friend doing freestyle strokes, and I even did a flip off the diving board. Nothing made me cramp up the slightest bit.

So Much For Advice From Old Wives

acai, berry, Summer, pool, sipping smoothies, smoothie, water, beer
Julia Gilman

The urban myth that swimming too soon after eating causes cramping has been floating around for a long time. Snopes traces one of the earliest instances of this to a magazine in 1908, which said that "bathing" less than an hour and a half after eating would lead to cramping that could causing drowning. This was supposedly because digestion diverts blood away from your muscles, and the blood-deprived muscles then cramp up. Ridiculous, right?

What gets more ridiculous is that this "theory" is based off fact, but it blows it completely out of the water (in a misguided attempt to get you out of the water). Doctors acknowledge that the body uses extra blood to aid digestion, but it's not enough to have a crippling effect on your arm and leg muscles. And it's not enough to cause cramping so severe that you drown. 

beaches, sea, Ocean, holiday, vacation, Summer, Beach, Sunset, water
Denise Uy

It's hard to tell why this old wives' tale has been popular for so long. Maybe parents wanted a break after lunch, so they told their kids to chill for 30 minutes, and it spread from there. Or maybe people pushed themselves too hard and blamed food when they seized up. In truth, cramping can happen anytime you exercise, though it's much more likely to be caused by dehydration or overexertion than a full stomach. 

And to finally put this urban myth to bed: Not one drowning has ever been caused by swimming too soon after eating. Like, none. Plus when I swam less than 30 minutes after I ate, I was fine. Bottom line: Don't be afraid to chow down on a popsicle and then strap on your swim suit. Science says its perfectly safe, so don't listen to those crazy old wives.