• Welcome to the DeeperBlue.com Forums, the largest online community dedicated to Freediving, Scuba Diving and Spearfishing. To gain full access to the DeeperBlue.com Forums you must register for a free account. As a registered member you will be able to:

    • Join over 44,280+ fellow diving enthusiasts from around the world on this forum
    • Participate in and browse from over 516,210+ posts.
    • Communicate privately with other divers from around the world.
    • Post your own photos or view from 7,441+ user submitted images.
    • All this and much more...

    You can gain access to all this absolutely free when you register for an account, so sign up today!

Swimming makes you fat?

Thread Status: Hello , There was no answer in this thread for more than 60 days.
It can take a long time to get an up-to-date response or contact with relevant users.


New Member
Jun 22, 2002
I got this from some place on the internet (I did not save the source (gulp!):

"Swimming improves heart and lung efficiency, enhances muscle strength and endurance, improves flexibility, and reduces stress. It's easy on the joints, and uses more muscles than most other forms of exercise. Although swimming burns a great deal of calories, recreational swimmers tend to lose less weight than would be expected from other types of aerobic activity. Scientists say that cold water removes heat from the body, stimulating appetite to keep the body warm. Exposure to cold water may encourage the body to maintain fat stores for insulation. To lose weight by swimming, it’s necessary to cut down on the calories you eat, and to swim fast enough and long enough.

Swimming can burn more than 660 calories an hour when performed correctly and causes fewer injuries to joints and muscles than aerobics or jogging. It takes only three hours a week of strenuous swimming to improve flexibility, increase strength and build cardiovascular endurance. Swimming provides a good aerobic workout if 25% of the total laps are performed at maximum intensity. However, only 5% of those who swim do so at an aerobic pace.

Although few doubt the aerobic benefits of swimming, studies comparing swimming with jogging, results found that swimmers lost less body fat than joggers.

Apparently swimming causes an adjustment in how energy is burned, resulting in the burning of more carbohydrates than body fat. One reason might be that swimmers retain more body fat to insulate and maintain body heat. However, swimming works both the upper and lower body which jogging does not."

What do you think about this? Would swimming in 30 plus Celsius degree temperature abolish this effect, or is the divers reflex responsible for the fat accumulation too? What supplements can be taken to override this mechanism? Have you noted an increased difficulty in loosing fat after you started free diving training?

May be that your source answered your question...

While I'm not an expert swimmer by any means this would be my take on it.

First control your calorie intake. Don't eat to excess.

Second it states that only 5% of swimmers do so at an aerobic pace. And from the folks I see at the local pool, they hit that one dead on. In other words, pick up the pace. If your swimming at a pace that you can keep up for an hour, your getting good exercise, but it may be too slow. Do 50M sprints and 100M or 200M distances at a speed that has you fading fast by the end. Just like doing intervals on a bike.

I doubt any swimmer will ever have the (waife like) profile of a distance runner. But if you exercise seriously, I doubt you should be worried about whatever fat remains. In fact studies have shown that the seriously low body fat of some of those people can have problems of its own. Especially for the women.

My question though would be just what qualifies as an aerobic pace. I'm sure that once you reach a certain fitness level you'll be able to maintain that pace for much longer distances and probably for a full hour, given a good snack before hand.

For me, at my current (lack of) condition, a pace I could keep for an hour would have me sinking to the bottom unless I put my 3mm suit on. :eek: I really do need to swim more.
Weight loss

From what I've read (Total Immersion by Terry Laughlin and other training books), weight-loss through swimming is best accomplished by medium intensity aerobic swimming (60-75% max), not sprints. Sprints are mostly anaerobic.

Another thing: if you look at an experienced swimmer, they are very trim and muscular, but the do have a thin layer of fat coating all their muscles--I wouldn't call this 'fat' in the sense of the stuff that accumulates when you don't want it to. It probably is for insulation, also it could be an extra energy reserve for the body, but you're not going to get a pot-belly or love-handles from swimming.

So my advice for people who want to lose weight by swimming, learn proper technique and swim slow to moderate aerobic paces. And enjoy the low impact of the sport. (just be easy on your shoulders--if you swim right, they shouldn't hurt at all)

Probably an oversimplification, anyone else?

  • Like
Reactions: subaquaticus
I have got into swimming fairly seriously this year, for a few reasons. The main reason is that I have damaged my lower back too many times over the last 13 years, and running puts me on anti-inflammatories for 2 weeks every time I try to get back on the horse :(
In doing that, I have become a much better swimmer and get an all-over workout that is gentle but effective. Plus, I like being in the water, so why not spend as much time as possible there?
The only drawback is that I can't seem to lose that last 4lbs of weight that would get me below 10% body fat. I think there are a couple of reasons. First is the "insulating response", I'll call it. This tends to produce "brown fat", which is common in peoples from colder climates. The ama divers of Japan had lots of brown fat I presume, before the wetsuit was invented. They certainly did have amazing tolerance to cold, which was researched and documented.
The second reason is that after an hour in the pool, I'm FRIGGIN' STARVING! It's a good idea to not eat for a few hours after aerobics if you want to burn fat. It's not difficult to refrain after a 5 to 10 km run, but it's hard to starve myself after a good swim.
Another factor is perception of the "athletes" from a viewers perspective. As EdHand said, take a look at a lot of the folks at the local pool. Chances are that some of them are very large, with lots of natural flotation (Bioprene ;)). Now watch the local running tracks to see what they participants look like.....a big difference. Swimming is easy for fat people....they float, and can paddle all day up and down the lanes, convincing themselves that they're exercising. Which can be good, but may not help them remove their natural flotation, yes?
Erik Y.
Last edited:
Sleep apnea

I complained to my doctor about sleep apnea. During our chat he mentioned that it was a finding of researchers that people suffering from sleep apnea frequently get fat tummies, but only below the belly button. He couldn't say why and i wasnt that interested in the answer at that time anyhow. ?

i think i can see how sleep apnea might cause an accumulation of fat, but in just a certain area, i have no idea on how that might happen
ok, for fat to be burned, the level of insulin in the blood needs to be low, but...after eating the level of insulin rises because we need insulin to let the cells take up glucose (sugar, the energy from carbs.) one of the major times where we have a lower insulin levels is when we sleep (atleast, thats what the textbook said:duh ), if you go into apnea while sleeping, your body would not have the necessary O2 to metabolize the fat and still have enough oxygen to your brain, therefore, fat that would normally/should be burned while you sleep doesnt get burned causing an accumulation

this is just a theory from a 15 year old kid :D and im probably way off, so discuss and criticize

on to the other subject...
if you're worried about body fat, dont use swimming as your only way to get in shape/train, combine your swimming with either running or cycling, both of which are excellent exercises, and cycling being low impact, and with these exercises i wouldnt be worried about gaining fat

just have fun while training, its the key to success
Long term effect

I think the fat & swimming issue is much deeper than at first glance. I heard that there is a long term effect. Apparently if you swim daily for years, then stop at an older age, the fat deposit effect continues, despite your new lack of exercise. The result is you get fat once you stop! In my case I'm not worried, because I'm not planning on getting out of the water in this life....

I also heard that swimming in cold water intensifies the effect...

Eric Fattah
BC, Canada

I dont know abot swimming making you fat but I can say this, from practicing dry statics for a month, ive lost 7kgs amazing.

impressive data

The data you guys have been mentioning is quite impressive. We have for example an observation that swimmers have an unusually high (for an athlete) level of subcutaneous fat (laminar contribution) well distributed around the body (like a dolphin?). Another one that points out the possibility that swimming imposes a limit on how much fat you can loose (4lb or less than 10% body fat) no matter what you do, a higher incidence of brown fat (highly innervated fat cells) and terrible hunger pangs (Erik’s contribution). Yet another one that hints at the possibility that apnea causes body fat accumulation below the belly button (Skin-diver’s contribution). A very interesting theory is offered by thin_air on an alternative mechanism for the phenomenon reported by Skin-diver (I certainly hope he is right). The horrifying prospectus of eternal body fat accumulation was pointed out by Eric Fattah. Finally Ivan raises the hopeful possibility that static apnea is a good weight loss method! (Possibly due to massive production of norepinephrine?).

Now my question is: what suggestions do you all have on what to do to prevent the possible unwanted effects of swimming? (I.e. difficulty in loosing weight). My suggestion is to use the infamous ECA stack (caffeine, ephedrine and aspirin) to improve greatly the production of epinephrine and therefore augment body fat loss.


Has anyone tried substituting french-fries with broccoli?

Think about your motives

I would recommend against the use of any kind of 'thermogenic' supplement which is designed to lose weight and/or accelerate metabolism. Not to mention that while under the effect of such a supplement your apnea ability will be almost nil.

In the end, if you plan on diving forever, you have nothing to worry about. Fat is much more effective than neoprene in insulating because it doesn't change buoyancy. Just let the adaptation happen!

Eric Fattah
BC, Canada
The blessed french fry has kept me in the water longer, broccoli has not. With the 46F temps we had here in central california last month, being skinny was not an advantage. Of course this is just a rationalization for my poor eating habits. I have never met a serious swimmer who was overweight. I have met alot of serious swimmers who make me look really bad. My brother Angus was headed toward being a world class swimmer in his late teens/early twenties and he still looks good from the waist down...

Of course, now in his late fourties, Angus can keep his privates dry in tropical monsoon (Mucho Bioprene) :blackeye I am partly to blame as I have not been able to vacation and get him to lube his suit with alum and dive in cold water. However, balance this with the other vacation activities::friday (never before or during dives) and we get no headway on our weight. Good thing we don't care about our physiques the way we did fifteen years ago.
weight loss

while on the subject. Has anyone heard of any connection with weight loss and shallow water black out?
About two years ago I had the opportunity to listen in when Jay Riffe was talking story. He made a statement about losing 'another diver that had just shed a lot of weight'. This triggered a memory for me but not enough to recall details and I didn't get a chance to ask Jay what he meant.

Eat fat to lose fat

Hello group:
You've touched on a good subject of fat loss. This winter I could not get below 12% body fat no matter how much I ran, etc. Until I started eating a little fat with every meal, snack. I put some form of nuts, seeds in almost everthing. I'm talking only grams. By adjusting everything I take in to around 15 or 20% calories from fat (not saturated), the body gets what it needs for many body functions, neurological, etc. Othewise the body actually stores fat for when it needs it. I've since shed another couple of percent and 10 pounds. It's hard to trust eating more fat, but it must be every few hours with everything you eat, and the right kind of fat. I was hoping to cut down on the lead weight needed this summer, but much to my surprise, I lost the need for the weight belt altogether (except for the new suit I just got). This method really works, but it takes a couple of months for your body to trust the signals you are feeding it what it needs every few hours.
Real good thread guys,
hi guys

I practice dry statics sometimes and I dont know if this is from that but I used to weigh 70kg now 63kg and going down anyone know anything about this.


ps I heard taller people have bigger lung capacity is this true
Re: May be that your source answered your question...

EdHand said:
Second it states that only 5% of swimmers do so at an aerobic pace. And from the folks I see at the local pool, they hit that one dead on.

very interesting data... I also think that swimming is quieter as a sport compared with running...

If you run you are forcedly at an aerobic pace... whereas most "recreational" swimmers swim in a very lazy way and with a bad technique...
Re: Weight loss

laminar said:
Total Immersion by Terry Laughlin
an amazing book which helped me a lot improve my technique...

laminar said:
but you're not going to get a pot-belly or love-handles from swimming

thank you for improving my vocabulary in English !

pot-belly = brioche (in French)
love-handles = poignées d'amour (the same image)

laminar said:
learn proper technique
you are right ! swimming is a highly technical sport (more than finswimming for example)...

if you have an improper technique, you waste a lot of energy, you are quickly exhausted, you don't enjoy your swimming and thus you cannot envisage any kind of "aerobic space"

laminar said:
enjoy the low impact of the sport
this is the main characteristic of swimming ! I did some "high impact" sports like running, skiing, judo,... and I turned to swimming out of medical reasons... swimming is good for the knees and the back...

with running it is easy to "force" your heart (that is doing too violent efforts) or to catch tendinitis... swimming does not have all these disavantages...
My theory on apnea without movement, is it is cannibalic to muscle tissue. I don’t have any real evidence, just myself noticing my own body. I think the acidity from CO2 buildup might have something to do with it. Although I have notice that apnea also tends to increase strength as in the amount of weight I can lift an all out one-lift effort.

It would be interesting to know if your 7 kg loss was fat or muscle.
Last edited:
donmoore said:
Although I have notice that apnea also tends to increase strength as in the amount of weight I can lift an all out one-lift effort.
Is that while doing apnea? after doing apnea or the consequences of doing apnea?
Both the consequences and right after. I have noticed the largest effect 10 – 15 minutes after apnea. Some times when no one is at the community center where I work out, I will walk around the basketball court holding my breath, between weight lifting sets. That doesn’t happen often (when no one is there), but when it does I am usually able to lift more on the next set. (I don’t do it when people are there because of embarrassment and people running up to me asking if something is wrong!).

I think it kind of parallels the high you get after a recovery of mild breathholding. At least it does with me. When using a pulse/oximeter in dry statics I notice that when the SaO2 starts to recover, the rise is fast and the reading hits 100% within seconds of when it started to rise, even if I started the breathhold with less than a 100% reading. It's like the body over compensates with O2 for a short period of time in its effort to recover from the low O2 and to expel the CO2. But this over compensation doesn’t usually make higher O2 levels in subsequent breathholds. The CO2 tolerance gets better, but there seems to be some tissues/organs that need longer periods of time to reoxygenate. If I remember correctly, Eric Fattah had some good thoughts on that when we were discussing the pros and cons of single breathholds verses multiple breatholds.

But this short term O2 over compensation seems to result in an energy high that is beneficial for short bursts of high resistance, such as in weight lifting.

PS We haven’t heard from that 400-meter sprinter who used to visit the board in a while. Maybe someday we will see sprinters holding their breaths 15 minutes before the start of their races.
Last edited:
DeeperBlue.com - The Worlds Largest Community Dedicated To Freediving, Scuba Diving and Spearfishing


ISSN 1469-865X | Copyright © 1996 - 2024 deeperblue.net limited.

DeeperBlue.com is the World's Largest Community dedicated to Freediving, Scuba Diving, Ocean Advocacy and Diving Travel.

We've been dedicated to bringing you the freshest news, features and discussions from around the underwater world since 1996.