The Food and Nutrition Conference & Expo (FNCE) 2013

Hello my friends! As you guys know, I just spent a whirlwind couples days out in Houston, TX for the Food and Nutrition Conference and Expo (FNCE) put on by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. It’s a huge annual conference that Registered Dietitians like myself from all over the country attend to learn from and network with their peers.

Above, from left, I’m with dietitian blogger friends Lindsay & Kristina and my grad school BFF Elle, who  was my roomie while out in Houston. We all attended a cocktail party “tweet up” at The Grove courtesy of the Food & Nutrition Magazine (<— LOVE their mag) on Sunday night, and grabbed dinner together afterward (along with Kylie, who I loved meeting – her blog is hilarious). I didn’t snag any photos of dinner, but The Grove is delicious if you’re ever in Houston and looking for somewhere to eat! It was also right by the convention center, which was perfect for us.

I didn’t get to explore Houston much since we were in the convention center the whole time, but there was a pretty green space right in front of it that we enjoyed during breaks. Loved this colorful random outdoor wall! The weather was so beautiful on Sunday, too.

(My orange dress is from Spiegel.)

There was so much to do and see while at FNCE. Presentations were going on all day long from fellow RDs on everything from the latest nutrition research and science to growing your business to food photography to public health efforts and more. To help make everything easier to navigate, you could search sessions/presentations either by time/day or by educational track, e.g. “research” or “food and culinary” or “consumer trends and counseling”, etc. I spent a few hours going through it all before arriving so I’d be ready to maximize my time there.

The most interesting session I attended while at FNCE was entitled: “Do Energy Drinks Live Up to Their Hype? A Look at Cognitive and Physical Effects.” The session was led by speakers Christine Rosenbloom, PhD, RD, CSSD, and J. Mark Davis, PhD., FACSM, and they talked a lot about how dangerous caffeine in high quantities can be, for example, when someone drinks multiple energy drinks at a time. Most of the energy drinks on the market are categorized as “drinks” now vs. “supplements,” because that means they don’t have to report adverse effects. The American Beverage Association currently has voluntary guidelines for members on marketing and labeling of energy drinks. In addition, caffeine is not a nutrient so it often doesn’t show up on labels.

Here are some more highlights from my notes and the speaker handouts:

      • 12-25 year olds consume half of the energy drinks, so marketing is heavily targeted towards them. Yikes. 
      • Caffeine is limited in cola-type beverages to 0.02% or 71 mg/12 ounces; however over >130 energy drink products exceed that limit, some having as much as 500 mg/serving.

  • The “energy” in energy drinks is coming only from caffeine and other caffeine-like substances (e.g., ephredra, ma-huang, guarana,
    synephrine, yerba mate, tyramine, yohimbine, bitter orange, green tea extract), NOT from added vitamins. Those large quantities of B vitamins in 5 hour energy drinks, for example, are doing nothing to help with increased energy unless you’re deficient in B vitamins.
  • Caffeine and other caffeine-like ingredients work as central nervous system
    (CNS) stimulants; they increase mental energy (e.g., feelings of being energized, mental focus, alertness, motivation, and positive mood). The peripheral “metabolic” effects of caffeine are for the most part trivial.
  • Caffeine can reduce mental and physical fatigue, and enhance anaerobic and endurance exercise performance. BUT there are big differences between individuals in the safe and effective doses. Generally, 150 to 300 or 400 mg caffeine (depending on tolerance, etc.) provides exercise benefits, but you don’t want to go much over 400 or 500 mg in a day.
  • There is growing concern about energy drinks’ contents, lax labeling requirements, and risks of high doses of caffeine and/or other stimulants, particularly in individuals with pre-existing cardiovascular, metabolic, liver, renal, and neurologic diseases, and in children and adolescents.
  • The most dangerous situations occur when individuals consume large amounts of energy drinks that contain mixtures of caffeine and other caffeine-like stimulants.


Interesting stuff, huh? Besides the educational sessions, there was also a huge exhibition hall full of food and nutrition companies that were giving out samples, information, etc. I had a lot of fun wandering around, trying new products, and saying hello to some of my favorite brands.

The other highlight of the conference, related to my last post on staying healthy while traveling, was a Monday morning boot camp workout.

The workout was led by fitness maven Julz Arney, who was there on behalf of Gatorade. It was dark out when our alarms went off for the workout at 5:30 a.m., but Elle and I knew we’d feel good once we were out there, so we dragged ourselves out of bed and over to the green space in front of the convention center.

Turns out we were in for an awesome workout! Julz was an great motivator and fun instructor, and she set us up in groups to do a circuit workout with four stations. Station 1 was a speed skater workout move for the first round and then changed to frog hops for another round, and a sprint around the grass for the final round. Station 2 had us doing pushups on the things you see in the picture above, then standing and lifting them over our heads. Station 3 was lunges and squats with a weighted ball, and Station 4 was buddy sit ups where you passed a weighted ball between the two of you. Blurry action shot!

It was a great (and sweaty) way to start the day. I love HIIT workouts like this – quick and effective! In 30 minutes we got an awesome workout. Here’s the whole crew who made it out of bed for the early sweat session, with Julz in the middle in the black jacket.

I’ll be back with one more travel recap post – all about my adventures in NYC with Brooks and my fellow Run Happy Ambassadors. Stay tuned, and happy Friday!

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