April 5, 2017 1 Comment Experience Working in Alberta's Oilfield

Fitness Diary of Past Year

The previous 12 months have been a noteworthy journey in the development of my fitness. The featured image is the pictorial record of my progress; numerically, my body weight has decreased from 164lb to 147lb, with body fat cut in approximately half. I look a lot better and strength increased substantially until Christmas.

Last April when I was still doing work for Cenovus, I worked a 2 weeks on, 2 weeks off schedule. On my weeks in camp, I aimed for an approx. 1lb/week bulk, and cut the same weight on my weeks off. I woke up at 2:30AM (2:30PM for night shift), and did my workout at 3-4AM (3-4AM for night shift), followed by a shower and brief time on my laptop until 5AM/5PM. I was leaving for work by 5:45AM/PM and back at camp at 6:45PM/AM, in bed by 7:30. This strategy worked as I was supplied camp food, and though camp food contained contaminants to an ideal clean diet, fat gains could be burned off on my days off. On days off diets focused primarily on 1-1.5g protein/lb, then rest was pretty loose. Sometimes I tried cutting carbohydrates to near zero (keto), but found the diet more of a fad than being unusually effective. The calories in, calories out rule remained king for weight loss. Sufficient protein and lifting of sufficient intensity limited muscle loss.

Unfortunately (but fortunately, as I hated working there) work for me there ended, so I worked in road construction after spending some brief time running vacuum truck for invert rigs north of Grande Prairie where income was higher throughout a whole month and my diet more controllable, being either home every night or staying in a company-funded hotel room. There my strategy was a strict but gradual cut of around 1-1.5lb/week.

After the end of the road construction season, I worked on my Second Year Electrician schooling. The course proved much more difficult than I thought, so I prioritized rapid completion over fat loss, and hence ate at a calorie surplus for a slight bulk.

The busy oilfield season and lack of amenities in work locations resulted in a rapid loss of strength and muscle, but I took it as an opportunity to lean out. Bodybuilding is mostly dependent on diet- with weightlifting being primarily a catalyst. As long as I consumed sufficient protein and maintained a calorie deficit, I lost fat and looked better. Vascularity was amplified significantly.

I also spent my odd days off experimenting with a new bulking method to replace some of my lost muscle- eating as little as possible during the day to retain sanity and hence work performance, and concentrating clean, excess calories late into the day. This worked well in my case, though I had to be very careful to not consume too little calories during the work day, as my work performance suffered in those scenarios. By the end of February, my body fat percentage was at a meaner 5.9%- down from 12%+ the previous spring.

In March my diet got sloppy as depression got to me. Many nights were characterized by binge meals of pizza, chips, and burgers. To limit fat gains I ate little during the days, but body fat percentage rose from 5.9% to 8.x%, and I lost a couple pounds of muscle. By around the third week, I realized a sense of urgency to fix my errors and resumed a strict abiding to the 5×5 Stronglifts workout I used in the past, and a strong cutting diet.

5×5 has allowed me to gain back some of my strength. A couple weeks ago even squatting 225lb was difficult; now I can do 315lb comfortably, though it is still a long way from my original 405. Continuing the same dieting strategy of low calorie intake during the day and high, clean calorie intake in late-day, today I weigh around 147lbs. and hold around 6.9% body fat. My goal now is to continue this trend- strength increase, muscle gain, and fat loss.

I also throughout my recent journey, learned some noteworthy facts:

  • Squats require extreme mental concentration to property coordinate the entire body to lift the weight at a proper pace, continuously- with the utilization of all body muscles. Focusing is the most difficult rather than gathering enough strength. Looking at the floor ahead of you throughout the lift helps. Proper form is critical to strength development as it allows efficient use of the muscles of the entire body.
  • Salmon is one of the best sources of healthy fats and protein. Often it is preferable over pure protein powder because it helps hit the required amount of fats for bodily functions. With only protein powder, I would have to purposely seek other sources of fat. Fish also tastes better.
  • During periods of time of cutting, protein is the ideal source of calories as it weights more than carbohydrates and provides a feeling of fullness.
  • Music through the personal phone and headphones is usually a distraction, as I waste time looking for songs to change. Plus you don’t socialize as much when familiar faces walk by.