Learned a Lot, Ate Some Bugs
Conference season ended with a bang.
After The Fitness Summit in May and Perform Better in early June, I wasn’t sure what to expect at the International Society of Sports Nutrition conference in Las Vegas last weekend. I knew I’d get to hang out with the smartest people I know — you can’t spit at ISSN without hitting a Ph.D, M.D., or doctoral candidate — but I wasn’t sure how much I’d get out of it. In previous years some of the presentations have been way over this bald head of mine.
Lucky for me that I got to eat some bugs.
Daniella Martin, host of a show called Girl Meets Bug, gave a presentation on the case for eating more insects. Some of them are seriously high in protein and calcium, and in some parts of the world people derived much of their daily nutrition from bugs. Daniella focused on Tenochtitlan, capital of the Aztec empire, which was built on an island in the middle of Lake Texcoco. In a couple hours a guy could catch enough bugs to feed not only his family, but his neighbors as well.
The lecture was followed by a quick cooking demo, which was followed by a bug buffet. I got to try some toasted insect larvae spinkled over strawberry yogurt and sauteed cricket with salsa on a corn chip. Both were tasty (as you can guess from the photo), which was no surprise; just about anything tastes good when you cook it with garlic, olive oil, and a sprinkling of salt.
The familiar taste was a feature, not a bug. (Give me a break on the pun. It’s Monday morning, and I’m still recovering from a Saturday night redeye from Vegas.)
If all I’d gotten out of the conference was a few minutes as a bug-eatin’ moron, I’d probably have enjoyed it. Fortunately for me, the conference was a 48-hour educational experience. Just about every waking hour, I was either listening to a lecture or chatting with people I typically only speak with when I’m interviewing them for an article.
After the final lecture of the conference, late on Saturday afternoon, I found myself in the back of the lecture hall in a wide-ranging conversation with Lonnie Lowery, Jayson Hunter, and Mike Nelson. Lonnie is a combination nutrition professor-bodybuilder and host of the Iron Radio podcast. Jayson is research and development direction for Prograde Nutrition. Mike is a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Minnesota who’s also a personal trainer with a background in engineering.
We sat back there for an hour, shooting the shit about everything from obesity to epigenetics to alcohol and diabetes. I had to stop them every now and then to get help on an acronym (IRB = Internal Review Board, the group that approves a university-sponsored study involving human subjects), but otherwise it was a rare experience for a journalist. Usually people like me call people like them to ask specific, closed-ended question. This was a chance to hear what people who study nutrition talk about when no one sets the agenda.
The oddity of it only occurred to me when I sat down this morning to go through my notes. It was Saturday evening, the end of a two-day conference jam-packed with scientific and practical presentations. More to the point, it was Saturday night in Las Vegas. And there we were, sitting in an empty lecture hall, eating protein bars and talking about how many millions of Americans have Syndrome X, the clusterfuck of mostly self-induced metabolic deviations that lead to type 2 diabetes.
Sometimes, for the good of all of us, what happens in Vegas really shouldn’t stay in Vegas.