More than just fuel, carbohydrates are an important part of an everyday diet providing energy, fiber, and micronutrients that are used by our bodies to fuel our lives. They also play a critical role in providing energy for our bodies and are essential to improving exercise performance.


And carbs are delicious!



Athletic Performance, Carbs and Glycogen Storage


Carbohydrates are the most efficient energy source for the body and should be consumed before, during and after exercise for improved performance.


Consumed before athletics, carbs are broken down quickly to sustain energy during long training sessions and when sufficiently consumed boost performance when training at a high intensity. In fact, it is carbohydrates that help maintain the body’s glucose storage, called glycogen, which play a significant role in decreasing muscle fatigue during exercise.


During performance, the glycogen stores of the muscles used are utilized to provide energy. For example, the action of squatting uses glycogen stored in the legs. When the body doesn’t have enough carbohydrates for energy, performance suffers. Adequate carb consumption prevents this from happening.


Consumed after exercise, carbs aid in muscle repair and refill depleted glycogen stores. Eating carbs both before, during and after athletics completes the circle.



Okay, carbs are delicious but what should I eat?


We are surrounded by an abundance of carbohydrate rich foods. When there are so many choices, it’s helpful to remember that there are no good or bad foods. You are not good or bad for choosing to eat a certain food at a certain time. The best food is the one you choose to eat, that will serve your needs and lifestyle.


Choose foods that leave you satisfied, taste good and remember to feed your body.


All carbs are great. Some are complex carbs, some are nutrient dense, and some are a great source of fiber. We suggest mixing it up and eating a variety in a balanced diet.


  • Grains (oats, quinoa, pasta, rice, bulgur, farro, cereals)

  • Breads (bagels, biscuits, tortillas, muffins, pancakes, waffles)

  • Starchy vegetables (potatoes, corn, winter squash, sweet potato)

  • Snacks (crackers, granola, popcorn, pretzels, chips)

  • Beans and Lentils (lentils, beans like black, garbanzo, kidney, pinto, lima)

  • Fruit and fruit juice

  • Dairy products

  • Desserts and sweets



A Quick Overview of Carbs


Carbohydrates are one of the three macronutrients found in food.


Molecules, Glucose and ATP Carbs are made of sugar molecules and are classified by how many sugar molecules are chained together. One single sugar, like glucose and fructose, is called a monosaccharide. Two sugars together, like sucrose or white sugar and lactose, are called disaccharides. Together, mono- and disaccharides are sometimes called simple sugars.


Any carbohydrates with more than 2 sugar molecules are called a polysaccharide, and these are sometimes referred to as complex carbs. When digested, they are broken down into glucose, absorbed into the bloodstream, and transported all over the body to be taken into cells. Inside our cells, glucose is converted to ATP and used as energy to fuel many biological processes.


Energy - Carbs are the preferred energy source for the body. In fact, glucose from carbohydrates is the primary energy source for the brain. Carbs also help maintain the body’s glucose storage for release between meals and snacks. The stored form, called glycogen, is found in muscle and the liver. It is released when blood glucose falls below normal range to help maintain a typical level.


Fiber - Some complex carbs are known as fiber. Dietary fiber is not broken down in digestion. Its role is to travel through the digestive system to keep things “moving” in a regular way. It also helps to reduce cholesterol levels and has been linked to a decrease in hearth disease. There are two types of fiber: soluble and insoluble. Soluble fiber brings water to the intestine and makes bowel movements easier. Insoluble fiber adds bulk to stool and helps it move through the digestive track quickly.


Eat your carbs today!


References

Hearris, M. A., Hammond, K. M., Fell, J. M., & Morton, J. P. (2018). Regulation of muscle glycogen metabolism during exercise: Implications for endurance performance and training adaptations. Nutrients, 10(3), 298.

Kanter, M. (2018). High-quality carbohydrates and physical performance. Nutr Today, 53(1), 35-39.

Slavin, J., & Carlson, J. (2014). Carbohydrates. Adv Nutr., 5(6), 760-761.

Soliman, G. A. (2019). Dietary fiber, atherosclerosis, and cardiovascular disease. Nutrients, 11(5), 115.

  • Rasa Nutrition

Updated: Apr 7


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

There are many articles about our shared history of eating, whether it’s sharing food together or eating alone, and the many emotions it brings up. At its core, there is a humbleness in sharing food and fueling your body. You consciously put time aside to eat, which means that you consciously put aside your obligations, the work of the day, to take care of your body.


Taking the time to fuel your body is an opportunity for psychological well-being. Eating is a collective experience that is one of the most common experiences of life. Every single one of us has memories around food. Some of them are joyful, invoking memories of love and fun. Perhaps they are expressions of kindness and care while gathered around food with family or friends, laughter in the kitchen while cooking meals together, a child’s joy when parents are making a favorite meal, or feelings of togetherness and belonging.

And you may also have uncomfortable memories. They can range from hunger, when there may not have been enough money or resources to cook a meal that satisfied your body, hearing or thinking shame infused comments about what or how much we ate, or the discomfort of eating disorder thoughts as we are eating our challenge meal.


It is normal to have a variety of emotional experiences around food and eating. In this, you are part of a shared human experience. In a way, it is empowering and very human to begin to understand that your experiences and patterns with food can affect how to care for your body over time.


Our experiences of joy, togetherness, uniqueness and belonging may lead us towards our inner wisdom and intuition to fuel our bodies with care, love, kindness, and compassion. Just as other experiences of hunger, shame, discomfort, struggle, and loss may lead us to distrust our internal wisdom and intuition.


By embracing your memories and experiences, you will learn to change your psychological patterns and nutrition behaviors. When you are ready to heal and explore your relationships with fueling your body, we are here to help you empower your healing by helping to improve your relationship with nourishment. Knowing that you are not alone in struggling with nutrition can be empowering.


Nourishing your body is not a perfect path but a road of knowledge, courage, and kindness. We are here to support you when you are ready to explore, or need help with, nutrition.