Skinny Guy Builds 55 Pounds of Muscle

Every person who's built a lot of muscle or lost a lot of fat talks about the "spark." It's that event that slaps you awake and ignites a new passion. For T Nation member Justin Negrete, the spark was simply a photo. This one:

Justin Negrete Before Photo

"I saw a picture of myself and was mortified by how thin I was. I'd been oblivious to it. That was the spark I needed," Justin said.

"All my life I've been a smaller guy. I was never terribly athletic growing up. I did play hockey and really enjoyed that. I lifted weights in high school but had zero guidance. I've always liked being physical, so I eventually started doing distance running. And I obsessed over it. I ran and ran and ran, thinking it would lead to physique prowess. I wasn't eating nearly the calories I should've been, bordering on having a disorder.

"After I saw the photo, I knew I needed an outlet where I could obsess about something and not turn into a skeleton. I started with a Google search. I think I typed in 'articles on gaining muscle' and popped up."

Here's Justin today:

Justin Negrete After Photo
Photo Credit: Jeremy Blumel

Justin is a senior designer at Raven Software, one of the guys responsible for hits like Call of Duty: Ghosts. But Justin dropped that computer geek label pretty quickly when he gained 55 pounds of muscle.

"Browsing T Nation articles on nutrition and training, I quickly realized a good place to start was to begin eating more protein, lifting weights 3-4 times a week, and surprisingly, limiting running. I started with a number of Chad Waterbury routines, then discovered Charles Staley. I was blown away with what he had to say. It went against everything I thought I knew about training. That's when I started taking everything seriously and began to work with Coach Staley.

"He taught me the fundamentals of sound lifting. I appreciated the simplicity and strength of it. I learned that it was okay to eat a crap-ton of food because it made me stronger. Charles encouraged me to compete in a local powerlifting meet. All my training paid off and I PR'ed all lifts. I competed a few more times, each time totaling more. My best is a 1003 pound total in the 165 class. I still hold the Natural Athlete Strength Association deadlift record for the class, a 441 pull that took every fiber of my being to lift."

From there, Justin discovered Jim Wendler's 5/3/1. "I ran that routine for around 12 months while I was trying to decide what I wanted to do next," Justin said. "I have a ton of respect for Jim and love his articles and approach. 5/3/1 ingrained a certain maturity into my lifting. If I ever find myself in a lifting funk, spending some time with 5/3/1 is like therapy."

Justin Negrete

Eventually, heavy lifting began to take its toll on Justin, so he shifted gears and got into more of a bodybuilder-style of training. Then something cool happened. T Nation invited him to the Indigo-3G Boot Camp with Christian Thibaudeau.

"That was the next big push for my training," he said. "I was reinvigorated. Thibaudeau really encourages you to find out what works best for your body. I've taken a lot of his training principles to heart. His high frequency training style proved to be stellar.

"I just crave the process and reward of striving toward something. My gut told me a physique show felt like the next step. I ended up placing second in my first show."

For the past year, Justin has adopted the training principles of John Meadows. "John's an incredible guy, a wealth of knowledge," he said. "I train 4 days a week: chest/shoulders, legs, back, and arms. I don't run anymore. If I do any cardio it's Lonnie Lowery style incline walking before breakfast. This is a great tool for ectomorphic types because it's low enough in intensity to keep muscle while burning fat. My other conditioning is Prowler pushing and pulling."

Justin Negrete
Photo Credit: Jeremy Blumel

"I got a chance to try Indigo-3G® when it first came out," Justin said. "I still have my yellow Pelican case in my car trunk! Besides its nutrient repartitioning benefits, I feel that Indigo-3G® makes workout nutrition work even better.

Here's the protocol that works best and allows me to train as hard as I want in the gym.

Workout Supplement Protocol
Pre-Workout Finibar
1 bar
6 capsules
1/2 dose (37.5 g)
30 min. prior to workout
30 min. prior to workout
15 min. prior to workout
Workout Plazma™
1/2 dose (37.5 g)
1 - 2 doses (65 g each)
Finish the second half of the first dose.
Drink throughout the workout.
Post-Workout Mag-10® 1 pulse (35 g) Immediately post-workout
Other Supplements
Brain Candy® Brain Candy® is another staple. It's amazingly powerful. What works best for me is mixing the original and caffeine-free versions together. I'll drink half of that concoction in the morning and the other half around 3:00 PM.
Rhodiola Rhodiola is a great supplement that I like cycling into my routine. I usually run a bottle, 1 capsule in the morning and 1 capsule before training. When I run out, I'll wait about a month, then start again. I feel it works best like this.
Metabolic Drive® I always keep Metabolic Drive® Protein on hand. I'll mix two scoops, half a cup of dry oats, and a tablespoon of raw almond butter for a really great easy meal.
Superfood Superfood is perfect for adding to a shake. I challenge you to find a better mix!
Flameout® I get my daily fish-oil intake from Flameout.™ Since fish oil has a blood-thinning effect, and my blood platelet count is low, I take just 2 grams a day.
Elitepro™ Minerals I take Elitepro™ Minerals every night. It's also my go-to supplement for a good night's sleep.

At his lightest, Justin weighed 120 pounds. After his physique show he was sitting at 175 and is in the mid-180's when not prepping for a show, but he's always striving for more muscle.

"I always keep protein high, about 2 grams per pound of body weight. I've had to go up to 700 grams of carbs a day at times to coax by body into growth. It's hard, but it's possible. There's an occasional pizza here and there, but I avoid gluten. I'm mainly a sushi guy.

"Skinny guys should get involved with a pro to tune their diets and training. Skinny guys tend to not eat as much as they think, and they train harder and longer than they should. Following a respected coach's plan takes the guesswork out."

"My philosophy is to surround yourself with the best, train and be around people who are stronger, leaner, and bigger than you, and the results will follow. Just like Dave Tate says.

"I've learned that growth is not linear. It comes and goes, so patience and consistency is the key. The most important thing is to be consistent and know that nothing comes easy and it's a long process. There are no shortcuts, so enjoy the ride."

"I want to continue helping others," Justin said, "I have a few certifications but I'd like to start helping people with their goals a lot more. There's so much confusion out there about how to get lean and fit. It's time to clear the waters a bit and I'd like to do my part.

"I also really love competing. I think it gives a sense of purpose to your training and diet. Once you sign that form everything changes. Getting out of your comfort zone is what it's all about, and you happen to discover a lot about yourself in these moments, be it a powerlifting meet or competing on the stage."

We have no doubt that Justin is just getting started.

Justin Negrete
Photo Credit: Jeremy Blumel