Fit for the Road

Heart of a Champion

Prime driver wins swimming championships, looks to help others

Caroline Taylor

Despite the demands of being on the road full-time, Prime driver Siphiwe Baleka still finds time to stay in shape, and it’s paying off big time — in the form of a national championship.

Baleka recently finished first at the U.S. Masters Swimming Spring Nationals in Mesa, Ariz. Baleka was a collegiate swimmer at Yale University, where he graduated with a degree in philosophy, and staying in competitive form is important to him. But his fitness goals don’t stop there; he wants to help others reach their goals, too. He started a consulting company called Fitness Trucking, designed to increase profitably in the trucking industry by reducing risk factors that stem from obesity, driver fatigue and accidents.

“We are revolutionizing the world of long-haul truck driving by reversing the trend of poor health among commercial truck drivers and creating a culture of fitness within the industry,” Baleka says on his website,

Baleka says his interest in Fitness Trucking began about three weeks after his student training program with Prime. He says that he’s never been overweight before, but after driving with his instructor, he began to pick up on his eating habits and gained around 20 pounds.

“When he ate, I ate,” Baleka says. “Where he ate, I ate.”

If he didn’t do something to change his new habits, he says, he would soon be fat and out of shape.

After doing some research, Baleka found that the truck driving industry has its own form of obesity that is a result of the long and irregular hours of work combined with the stress of the job. This mixture causes sleep deprivation, which promotes a decrease in the hormone serum leptin and an increase in the hormone serum ghrelin and affects the body’s ability to regulate hunger.

“The result is that you feel hungry,” he says. “So you pull over and get some fast food and load up on snacks.”

He says the bigger someone gets, the more fatigued they’ll feel. This leads to a drop in energy and motivation to exercise. As someone loses muscle and gains fat, their metabolism slows down, and the body burns fewer calories. “All of this — increased hunger leading to an increase in calorie intake and increase of fatigue leading to reduced energy expenditure — leads to what is called ‘Trucker’s Gut,’” Baleka says.

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So Baleka collaborated with Prime to create Fitness Trucking, which will work with individual drivers and company fleets to show them how, where and when to make simple changes in their lifestyle. He says the basic alterations in diet will reduce calorie consumption by 250 calories and changes in fitness will increase caloric burn by 250 calories a day. By following this process, a driver can lose 1 pound a week — 52 pounds in a year.

Fitness Trucking provides services in two categories: a transformation division and a competition division. The transformation division is designed for drivers who are overweight and are willing to commit to a 13-week exercise and nutrition program. The competition division is for people who are in physically fit and want to take advantage of the mobility in trucking to train and compete in athletic events across the nation.

“Trucking is all about taking advantage of being mobile. There are so many things to do in America — places to see and explore.” Baleka says. “Being a truck driver takes me to those places.”


Visit for information on fitness and nutrition orientation training programs, DVDs, training equipment, competitions and financial incentive structuring.

To Bypass or Not to Bypass

Know the risks and benefits before you choose to have weight-loss surgery

Misty Bell


Gastric bypass surgery may seem like a quick, easy answer to a lot of your health problems, but this major surgery is not something that should be entered into lightly.

The surgery, whether done through open surgery or laparoscopy, makes your stomach smaller by creating a bypass from the top portion of your stomach to your small intestine. The leftover top portion of the stomach, where the food you eat will now go, holds about 1 oz.

The National Institutes of Health website points out that weight-loss surgery is not a “quick fix” for obesity. Even after the surgery, commitment to dieting and exercise is a must; otherwise complications can crop up.

Some potential risks from the surgery include blood clots, infection, blood loss and heart attack or stroke during the surgery; injury to stomach, intestines or other organs during the surgery; leaking through the staples in the stomach after surgery; and depression.

Over time, the following risks may occur: breakdown of the pouch, which would require another surgery; narrowing of the opening between the stomach pouch and small intestine, which would require another surgery; anemia from low iron or vitamin B12 levels; low calcium levels; gallstones and gallbladder attacks; gastritis, heartburn or stomach ulcers; poor nutrition; vomiting from eating more than your stomach can hold; dumping syndrome, where the contents in your stomach move through the small intestine too quickly; incisional hernia; kidney stones. Risk for these problems is greater if you are physically unable to walk short distances prior to surgery or if you are over 60-65 years old.

Despite all the risks, gastric bypass surgery can be a good option, especially for those who are at least 100 pounds over their recommended weight or who have a serious medical condition that might be improved with weight loss (including sleep apnea, type 2 diabetes and heart disease).

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