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  • Rasa Nutrition

As I watch the unfolding news of war in Ukraine and the human struggle for freedom, life, and safety; as an immigrant, I am reminded of my own memories. Although it was a time of vulnerability, I want to be clear that I did not leave my country of Lithuania because of war, nor did I leave because my house was bombarded, nor was I trying to find a safe place for my kids, family or loved ones.

I left because I wanted to have more opportunities for education and sports. It was my choice. My family sacrificed a lot for me to be in the USA today; and many good people, in addition to my family, supported me: coaches, teammates, teachers, friends, and people I never met.


As I landed at the Minneapolis - St. Paul airport, I was excited to be here but not prepared for the challenges I faced.


I arrived with two suitcases and only a few dollars on a card that my parents gave me. The challenges were many: not knowing the culture, not speaking English well, not having my friends, not having people who spoke Lithuanian, not having enough money to call my family and friends, not knowing how to type or use a computer, nor having money to buy necessities like toiletries & school supplies, just to list a few.


It doesn’t take much to feel overwhelmed amidst big challenges. Often people wonder what we can do to help. That's why I wanted to share a little bit of my own experience as a new immigrant so that you can hear about the very basic challenges that a refugee may be facing. I wanted to share some resources if you wanted to help or reach out. These resources focus on challenges related to food, my professional arena, with the hope that this may help at least one human to adapt to a new culture as a refugee or an immigrant.

You never know what a difference you can make in someone’s life.


Even the most basic things can really become unexpected hurdles. These are a few things that I struggled with and tried to overcome:

  • Unfamiliar foods

  • Abundance of foods in the dorm cafeteria

  • Overwhelming selection of unfamiliar foods in the grocery stores

  • Not being able to order food in the restaurant

  • Lack of money to buy groceries

  • Not knowing nutrition labels and orienting my purchases based on pictures on the food packaging

  • Not knowing where I can find help and support

  • Shame for asking to be helped. I supposed to figure out by myself, I am strong athlete, and I can’t show my vulnerability


I struggled a lot without asking for help and support.


I ran well in my first cross country season, won some major races, and became All-American in cross country; but underneath I had severe depression, anxiety, an eating disorder, suicidal thoughts, and even attempted to take my life. Such tremendous life changes bring with them very mixed emotions.


I did not want to suffer, but I also did not want help. So many had sacrificed so much for me to be in the US and I was in a much better place than my family and friends. There is shame involved in not being able to adjust with ease. I was supposed to be happy but the challenges were overwhelming, even with the eventual support of my coaches and teammates.


Generosity and Empathy


Over time, in my own immigrant story, I pursued an education, sports, started a family and am now a business owner.


Many refugees are forced to leave their homes and may not have any support systems when they are resettled. They might struggle when adapting to their new country or city, long for some familiar culture, faced with income inequality issues and food insecurity. In fact, refugees have some of the highest rates of nutrition inadequacy in the US. Individuals alone cannot solve the problem of food insecurity, yet if we come together and do what we can, we will see real change around us.


How can we help those in need?


Here is a short list of things that one can do to help refugees and immigrants:

  • Be kind to everyone

  • Volunteer your time to organizations that provide support

  • Organize a food drive

  • Donate goods to your local foodbank or shelters

  • Donate money to credible organizations


Here are some websites to learn more about helping immigrants and refugees:

In the Twin Cities


In the US

  • Rasa Nutrition

Contributed by Hannah Stoker


Environmental factors such as wind speeds, ambient temperature, humidity, precipitation, and altitude play an important role in the athlete’s ability to perform at an optimal level. In this blog we will discuss supporting athletic performance, hypoxic training, and nutritional considerations when faced with environmental obstacles.


Reduced Oxygen & Your Body


During exertion physiological responses are elevated at altitude. Even low to moderate altitudes of 2000-3000 meters above sea level create a hypoxic environment* in which heart rate, respiratory rate, and perceived exertion increase during exercise.

At rest and during physical exertion, the body begins to exhibit an elevated sympathetic tone**. This is a cascade of biochemical events, beginning with a release of epinephrine and cortisol hormones, and resulting in an increased reliance on carbohydrates as a fuel source. In addition, the athletes resting metabolic rate and oxidative demands both increase at altitude. This increases overall energy demands during training. Well-balanced nutrition that is rich in antioxidants is important for your high-altitude training.


Extended Hypoxia


Endurance athletes and coaches may seek out extended hypoxic living and/or training to produce desired training adaptations, the most notable of which is erythropoiesis, or the increase in red blood cell count, elevating aerobic capacity.


To assist the athlete in maintaining performance output while in hypoxic environments, Rasa Nutrition recommends adequate nutrition. We focus on a few main nutritional considerations for athletes at altitude: adequate iron stores before initiation of altitude training; adequate overall energy and carbohydrate intake throughout training; sufficient consumption of antioxidant-rich foods to combat the oxidative stress placed on the body; and balance hydration.


Nutrition & Success


Consuming iron-rich foods before beginning altitude training and throughout the training duration is a great way to maintain adequate iron stores. Rasa Nutrition suggests meals and snacks that include nutrient-dense sources of carbohydrate to meet the body’s increased reliance on carbohydrate as fuel. Fruits and vegetables are great sources of antioxidants and should be included often.


Fluid requirements also increase in hypoxic environments as athletes tend to lose more water volume via sweat and the lungs with increased respiratory rates. Losses in water volume can impair performance as blood volume is reduced, making it more challenging for oxygen-rich blood to be delivered to the muscles and to the skin to offload heat. Reduced blood volume also increases the cardiac output required to maintain any given level of performance and increases perceived exertion of exercise.


You can be strong and train well in high altitude environments by maintaining focus on iron-rich foods, antioxidant-rich foods, adequate carbohydrate intake for energy, and proper fluid consumption. This simple nutrition guidance will put you in the best position to succeed in your high-altitude training or high-altitude competition. YOU CAN do it!



References

1. Burke L, Deakin V, eds. Clinical Sports Nutrition. 4. ed. McGraw-Hill Education Medical; 2010.


*hypoxic environment – a reduced oxygen environment

**sympathetic tone - The condition of a muscle when the tone is maintained predominantly by impulses from the sympathetic nervous system (A Dictionary of Biology » Subjects: Medicine and Health — Clinical Medicine).