Feature Article: Custom built

Carolyn Magner | February 01, 2010

Custom built

Truck show competition and bodybuilding draw on similar characteristicscover-story-main

Competing in a bodybuilding contest is a lot like competing in a truck beauty show. It requires extreme planning, discipline and attitude. For East Coast Large Cars owner Richie Acosta, applying a custom approach to building both his truck and his body has paid off not just in trophies but in a lifetime of successful ventures that includes the launch of a n ew  annual truck beauty show.

Owner-operator Acosta, 41, from New Ferry, N.J., drives a prize-winn  ing 2005 custom Peterbilt 379 extended hood. The married father of twin si x-year-old girls has been trucking for 20 years and has competed in body-building competitions for much of that time. He knows firsthand how difficult it can be to combine trucking with good health and fitness but believes it’s a matter of attitude that makes the difference. Bodybuilding is his hobby, but Acosta says trucking is his passion, and he applies his personal philosophy of excellence to both.

Health and fitness

“It’s not easy to eat healthy on the road. It’s a real challenge to figure out what to order and how to make good nutrition decisions,” Acosta says. “Add unpredictable sleep patterns, limited food choices and long, sedentary hours to the day, and it’s not hard to see why truckers struggle with health and fitness.

“I know what it’s like out there and I’ve walked in those same shoes. When a trucker asks me how I manage to keep myself in good enough physical condition to compete in bodybuilding shows, I tell them I don’t do anything that they couldn’t start doing if they had the right information.”

He believes one of his missions is to get that information to them. His healthy habits include a disciplined diet and focus on daily exercise routines adjusted to accommodate his driving schedule.

“Being fit behind the wheel will make you feel better but most importantly will ­tremendously increase energy and focus levels for drivers. I have been trucking and training for many years and have found many ways to make them work together,” he says.

Diet

While there are as many diets out there as custom paint colors, Acosta sticks with a low-sugar, low-carbohydrate, low-calorie diet to keep his weight at its optimum level. He advises truckers to begin by eliminating sugar-loaded desserts and sodas and replacing them with healthy snacks and either water or diet drinks. “Truckers tend to drive all day and then load up on a huge meal at the truckstop buffet. It’s much better to eat five small meals a day to keep hunger at bay and your blood sugar levels constant,” he says. He plans ahead by packing protein shakes, veggies and snacks such as low-sodium nuts in his truck for long trips. He uses a cooler to keep the shakes cold and will include healthy lean meats like turkey or chicken and boiled eggs for protein.

When it comes to ordering from a fast-food or truckstop menu, Acosta has done his homework.

“You can order grilled chicken without the bun, salads without high-calorie dressings and steamed vegetables in most truckstop restaurants. Every fast-food chain has complete food information available online or on request,” he says.

Planning ahead is the most efficient way to eat healthy, and Acosta maps out his meals like he does the miles he’s driving. When he’s not able to train because of his schedule, he cuts back his calories. “I don’t expect truckers battling their weight to become bodybuilders. But I do believe that they can take steps in the right direction. Even something as simple as reading food labels can contribute to better food choices,” he says.

Before he’ll advise a fellow trucker to start a fitness plan, Acosta insists they get a thorough medical checkup. “Once you get checked out by your doc, you can begin adding short walks and light weight-lifting to your daily routine,” he says.

As a competitive bodybuilder, Acosta’s training includes a full two-hour workout seven days a week. When he’s on the road he’ll incorporate a maintenance routine that includes 5 sets of 50 push-ups and 5 sets of 50 sit-ups along with weight-lifting and brisk walking. But for beginners, he urges they start small by walking around the truck and parking farther away from the truckstop. Later, add sit-ups, push-ups and travel with light 5- or 10-lb. weights.

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