T Nation

Atomic Pup - The Transformation I


"I don't know shit."

That's the attitude I adopt when I switch into "mentor-mode" and write about what I've learned (which isn't much). It works wonders for my self-esteem, too. You should try it sometime.

Of course, I don't know shit about lots of things. It's all a matter of specifics, though.

I don't know shit about marriage. I don't know shit about the stock market. I don't know shit about working a high-powered, stressful job. And I don't know shit about what's going on in Hollywood or who's sleeping around, or who needs to have their kids taken away from them.

But I do know shit about gaining muscle. Why? Because I've been there and have experience with it - kind of like when I got the clap from two Siamese sisters in Bangkok after a Motely Crue reunion concert. But I won't bore you with that story.

While you may not give two shits about my "scrawny to brawny story, I'm going to tell it anyway because I think it may help a few people out. So, tough shit.

According to the book I recently read, Egonomics, it's OK to talk confidently about what you know. Good. That's consoling.

But I'm only going to touch on a few important points lest I get on a soapbox and start sounding like an arrogant 22-year old know-it-all prick. That's just bad for my online discourse.

So, this is the first of a few installments (I'm not sure how many) on how a transformation starts and progresses.

I'd like to invite anyone else who's undergone or is currently undergoing a transformation to speak up with any tips or helpful suggestions. I'll be discussing nutrition and training in later installments, so please make your posts topical to the discussion at hand.

The Problem

I "worked out" but as anyone here at T-Nation knows, when you're a newbie, you don't really train. I was just going through the motions like sex with the same girlfriend. I never really accomplished anything but it felt good to do something, I guess.

I think I weighed in around 145lbs. I didn't train my legs. I did endless amounts of crunches. I could have probably churned out 30+ pull-ups but opted instead for the lat pulldown machine.

I stayed away from anything that really resembled hard work. I was the guy who checked out his abs in the mirror. Yep. Go ahead and say it. Loser.

But apparently shitty photographers that have a fixation for dousing young guys in water thought I looked good (see the picture in the next post). So, at least I had that going for me, you know?

Anyway, around that time I found T-Nation and realized what I was missing. I found out that I was, in fact, a giant pussy when it came to the weight room.

So I decided to change it.

But before I could get to the training programs and nutrition plans, I had something else to change.

My mindset needed a complete adjustment. I needed to set goals. 175lbs was the number I set - the Holy Grail for me.

So, I learned how to integrate healthy eating and a sound exercise program into my daily routine, right? Then I reaped all the benefits and got the body of my dreams, right?

I'll get to that.

For the first year, though, I thought it constructive to completely obsess about my new "Lifestyle."

I religiously slept for ten hours per night
I made every single scheduled workout (and a lot more that weren't scheduled)
I ate as much as I possibly could every two hours
I avoided walking longer distances because I didn't want to be in a semi-catabolic state
I drank way too much water and had to piss every 30 minutes
I didn't drink ANY alcohol (I was 18-19 at the time)
I avoided hanging out with friends late at night (it'd screw up my sleep schedule)
I read a new training or nutrition related book every week

I printed out a good 1/3 of T-Nation archived articles and kept them in a binder. I even kept ones that were completely irrelevant to what I wanted to accomplish. Steroids? Hell yeah! Bring it on!

The obsession was a necessary step - although probably not to the extreme I took it - on my journey. It made everything second-nature. Now I don't have to think twice about eating a big meal or getting enough sleep - I just do it. It's routine.

But I've backed off a bit. I mean, I actually have a life now.

And my goal? Well, let's just say that I now sit at a bodyweight of around 185 with about 9% body fat.

Would I recommend my way? Maybe. But it depends on what kind of personality you have. I let the Lifestyle envelop me for a full year because I have an all or nothing attitude. I'm not sure if it's too healthy, but it's just the way I do things. And it seems to work.

So what kind of transformation have you undergone or want to start? Why? How did you approach it? What are your goals? And how has T-Nation helped?

I'm genuinely curious.


18 years old and covered in metro oil.



A little better. Last year.


Taken today, with shirt.

And that's it for me.

What about you? Let's hear about the beginning of your transformation!

We'll discuss training and nutrition strategies in the next installments.



I went the other way. I was big. 250 or around there. 25-30% BF or more. Started eating cleaner. Got dumped by girlfriend of two years, decided it was time to find a new hobby. Started lifting. Lost more weight. Found T-Nation. I just finally started figuring out how to really train this past summer; it's going to be an exciting next few years!

I'm still not lean by any means, but I got tired of starving myself. 200ish lbs. 12-13% BF now (dropped to my lowest at 187 in June or July). I don't have abs. I can't squat my body weight for reps; I suck at bench press. I'm okay at deadlifting. Like I said, it's going to be an exciting rest of the year.

I like articles like this: articles about real people. Articles that show that normal people--not just T-Nation authors and trainers and athletes--can make improvements in their health and appearance. Looking forward to the rest of them!


I was the fat kid growing up, and it pretty much haunted me for the first 16 years of my life. In my prime I weighed in at a very very soft 210 lbs standing at 5'7" tall. I hated myself and I decided to cut out all sodas from my diet and drink orange juice instead. That alone cut 20 lbs off of me. Then I started taking lacrosse seriously because I made varsity and lost 10 more lbs that way.

Senior year of high school I started lifting weights, but with much likeness the newbie style you described. When I got to college orientation in New Orleans, Katrina hit 3 days later and we had to evacuate. Long story short I spent my freshman fall semester at Fairfield University with the greatest cafeteria in the country eating ice cream and hamburgers until I went numb. Regardless of still lifting every day, I gained a lot of weight back and decided to devote myself to getting in shape when I got back down to New Orleans for the spring.

It was at this time that I made one of the top 3 greatest purchases of my life: Burn the Fat, Feed the Muscle by Tom Venuto. This book changed my life and I would recommend it to anybody and everybody regardless of training experience. From then on it was all about eating right and lifting right. Regardless of how relentlessly my friends and family mocked me for it, I did it anyway because it makes me happy.

I found T-Nation last winter from the RealSolutions/iSatori forum. A few guys were doing the GSD, and I took a peek over here. At first it was pretty intense for me, especially with all the guys going, "EAT LIFT SLEEP! RAHHH!!!!" I soon warmed up to it though, and I can not put a price on how much it has helped my training and subsequently, my life. I now feel as if this place is my home and you all are my brothers and sisters.

I don't have any good "before" pictures from when I was really fat on my computer, but when I scan some old ones I'll post a before & after.

And btw, great post Nate. I enjoyed reading about your transformation and I'm looking forward to seeing everyone's stories.



Nate, I was impressed and proud of you when you showed your last set of pics in the gym after getting a good ribbing from the photoshoot pics. You definitely made great progress and I think your story should serve as a model for teens that get into training.


For the last 2 years I have been floating in the 180-190lbs area; nothing really changing. I did get pretty strong at the end of last year. I went from a 450lb deadlift to a 525lb lift. That is my peak if you look back over the past two years.

This summer (June) I decided to gain weight the right way; slowly. So I started on the carb cycling diet and have been doing that since then.

I've gone from 185 to 188. BUT I've leaned out a bunch. My workouts haven't been where I'd like them; mainly because in July I injured my back deadlifting.

My transformation isn't even close to done; I'm keeping the diet for another 6months to year. My goal is 195lbs at a reasonable %.

Sorry, no pictures of me dripping wet in baby oil; yet.


"Model Of Inconsistency"

Oh lord, where to begin? I might ramble on this one, so bear with me.

In my adolescence, I was the typical video game kid, sitting around the house doing nothing and eating way too much of the wrong food. I'd play basketball every once in awhile, but it wasn't nearly enough activity to overcome my bad habits. I was very upset of how poorly I looked, and how some other kids would treat me, and I wanted to change. My first mini-transformation happened when I was about 17. What was my method? It was the typical Teenager Starvation Diet- 1-2 meals per day and tons of cardio. The results were ok, I went from 5'7" and 195lbs of goo to a svelte, skinny-fat 170 @ 5'10".

After graduation I got a gym membership at a place that rhymes with Mally's. I had no clue what to do so I just did machine stuff all the time, never setting foot in the free weight area. This, along with doing manual labor everyday took me to a slightly stronger but still flabby 190 @ 6'1". Things were going well until the arrival of the desk job at age 22.

I got the kind of job I craved as a youngin', one where I made good money and didn't have to do anything. I could sit and play on the internet all day and get $20+/hr for it. I stopped going to the gym as frequently, still eating like crap, and soon my body reflected this. I ballooned up to 225 with a 36"+ waist. I was going from being skinny fat to just plain fat. Add on to this a non-life threatening but very annoying medical problem that made it impossible to train, and you've got someone who went completely off track.

After a year and a half of getting fixed up medically, I made it back to the gym. This time I wasn't just going to screw around. I was going to lift with a program! What program? Why, only one of the latest and greatest from FLEX baby!

Oh my god, if I had video of me poorly squatting, struggling with 65lbs on my back, I wouldn't know whether to laugh or cry. At the time I had zero ab strength and less than zero hip mobility and glute strength, but I didn't know any better. My 20 rep leg extensions were the only warmup I needed! Weider said so!

I got a little stronger, but would eventually plateau because I was STILL eating like crap. For the longest time I had myself convinced that nutrition didn't matter. I began to think I just wasn't meant for lifting. So I stopped again, and I gained fat, again. This cycle went on until around Feb '06.

This time around I knew things would change. Why? Because I was working with a CERTIFIED personal trainer! He set me up on a machine circuit and had marks for how long my sets should be in seconds, and had me doing HIIT before lifting! Absolutely brilliant! Were there assessments of my movement patterns or checking whether or not certain muscles were tight or not turned on? Pfft! Who needs to know that?

Apparently I did, because I started getting some wicked headaches, which scared me so bad I left the gym and went straight to the ER. A CAT scan and spinal tap showed nothing wrong. This had me almost convinced that I wasn't cut out for lifting.

Wound up going to a chiropractor who helped me out a little bit. My headaches were gone, but he also told me my right shoulder was real loose and could become a problem. He didn't help me, so I realized I had to help myself, using the only resource I had not taken advantage of....

I always let out a little sigh when experienced lifters who started out the right way criticize the people looking for strength/fitness info on the internet. I know where they're coming from, but they have to understand a lot of us didn't/don't know any better. We didn't have the proper environment growing up that cultivates the proper attitude and practice. I had to go to T-Nation to figure this stuff out.

Ok, back on topic. The first article I read here was from Cressey about fixing shoulder issues. The article wasn't as much informative as it was an awakening. I looked back on my entire training history, and mentally stamping it with a giant "DUMBASS!" Reading the articles here soon took up the bulk of my work day. Hey, might as well put this free time to good use. One can only play online billiards for so long.

This happened a little over a year ago. In the past year it's been a series of trails and errors. Well, mostly errors. I've definitely gained some muscle and gotten stronger, but I always fell into the trap of thinking I was more advanced than I really was. This has resulted in spinning my wheels and not making as much progress as I should have. It's cool though because right now, 10/09/07 @ 10:20am, I know exactly where I stand and what I need to do to get better. And to me that's one of the best feelings ever.


Your story reminded me of my beginning in the weightlifting experience. I to went through a period of writing down the macro nutrient breakdown of every meal eaten. I would take my calculator and notebook and tally everything up before going to bed and if I fell short on calories, protein, or carbs, eat something before hitting the sack. I never missed a workout and lived for the gym at that time.

I also bought all of the muscle mags at that time and read them from cover to cover. I no longer do all of that, but it definitely laid the groundwork for how I live now.



When I got to college my freshman year I weighed 220 pounds. We had mandatory workouts and it taught me what it meant to train. I also learned what eating a lot really meant. I weighed 275 pounds at the end of that spring, had put 50 pounds on my bench, and 120 pounds on my squat. Prior to college I thought that I couldn't grow. I realize now that I just wasn't eating enough. When I kept a food log my freshman year I was taking in around 10,000 C daily.


10000 cal a day? holy shit!


It was my senior year of high school. Most of my close friends were all on the football team, and as such, lifted weights both in- and off-season. I, on the other hand, ran cross-country to stay in shape for basketball. I was 6-2 and probably weighed 140-150 pounds. I was in shape, but a stick. This didn't help when it came to the ladies, as I was never taken seriously b/c I just honestly wasn't an attractive guy at the time. My nose was too big for face, my ears stuck out and my clothes hung off me.

So, after basketball season ended (and after much pestering from my friends), I decided to get a gym membership. It was very humbling at first as my friends were throwing 225 up on the bench press for reps, while I struggled to handle 95 pounds. Legs were an even sadder state of affairs. But, something inside of me clicked and realized that if I just continued to put the work in, I'd see some changes. And, I did. After a few months I was able to handle 135 pounds on the bench press, and from that point on, I was hooked.

I also have to credit my dad in my transformation. He's always been big into lifting weights and when I was younger he bought me a home weight set that I used sporadically, but eventually left to collect dust. Once he saw I was serious about exercise, he helps teach me the ways of nutrition, supplementation and exercise selection.

I'm now between 185-190 pounds with 10% bodyfat. I've filled out and my features, which were once a source of ridicule and embarassment, now serve as a proud marking of my heritage and family history.

As for the future, my immediate goals are that I will be competing my first submission grappling tournament in November. It will be my first type of competition since my final basketball game. Looks like I'm coming full-circle.


I am the classic FFB...

I was fat fat fat when I graduated college at 20. 5'9, 211lbs, bf around 30% (i think, never had it tested back then). I spent 1 full year losing weight via clean eating and lots of cardio. I lifted during that time but it was "newbie" style.

I then met a trainer at my gym who was a powerlifter/strength sports guy and he got me onto HIIT, he tried to convince me to start doing compound lifts etc, but i ignored him (pretty smart eh? hahaha) and mainly I focused on lots of cardio. I dropped to 143lbs at 23 years old and looked like a skeleton. It was bad, but of course I thought it was cool. I was eating maybe 1800cals a day and weak in the gym. Then I finally listened to my trainer, and started to "train".

In all honestly, I wanted to see how low I could get, just to say I did it. About half way through my weight loss I decided I'd see how low I could get (again, so smart) then I'd start to try and put on some muscle from the base weight.

My trainer moved and I did too. What a lost opportunity on my part, he had so much knowledge I never got to tap into about oly lifts, nutrition, compound lifts etc. He's now doing an Master's in physiotherapy.

Then I found T-Nation via bb.com.

And me, well, I'm at 163lbs (24yr old) @ 11.5-12%. I want to hit 185lbs at %10 within 2-2.5 years. I'm eating lots of clean calories, busting my ass with the compounds and getting lots of rest...and loving every minute of it!


I graduated high school at 6'0", 160 lbs. I lettered in wrestling my senior year, but only because I was a senior. I wrestled one varsity match that year and got whipped easily by a sophomore.

After wrestling season, I found a Y between my house and my job, the only Y I've ever seen like it: it was just a weight lifting gym. No child care, BBall courts, racquet courts, nothing. Weights, cardio and a bathroom.

It was only $20/month, so I started lifting on my way home from work. Right after graduation, I blew the engine in my car, and had to bike it to work. 45 min to work, work 4-6 hours, 30 ride to the Y, 20 min home. Riding home in the dark after leg days was sure interesting...

Joined the Navy, and was still only 165. Continued to 'work out' for the next 2.5 yrs, gradually gaining slabs of muscle until I was....175. And looking the same.

Jan 97 rolled around, and I went on leave for a month, flying home from Guam. I went to visit my GFR at the time at WVU, broke up with her when I realized I had no feelings for her(actually just stopped writing her back, until she stopped writing me--heckuva guy, ain't I?). Got back to Guam in Feb, and suddenly got serious about training and nutrition. It had taken me about 4 years to realize that I wasn't growing without eating right, and that running to the gym did not constitute a leg workout.

I got religious about eating breakfast(living on a ship, all you have to do is get dressed and go up to the messdeck), and added in a protein/carb snack mid-morning and mid-afternoon. Weapon of choice: tuna and Powerbars. You want gas? Weirdest smelling gas I ever had. Finally learned to choke down protein shakes(back then, supplements were called vanilla if they were white, and chocolate if they were browm...these names had nothing to do with the taste), and that proved to be just as cheap/cheaper than the tuna and powerbars.

Long story short, I put on 20 pounds of mostly muscle in 4 months. Stopped gaining weight right before I met my wife, and she never believed me when I told her I used to be skinny...till my mom showed her high school pics. At some point I stopped drinking sodas all the time, but replaced it with Gatorade. FYI, if you drink Gatorade all the friggin time, you will get a little bloated. How much is a little? When I transferred back stateside in 2000, we stopped drinking Gatorade all day and at every meal, and I dropped 10 pounds.

Along with the increase in muscle came loads of self-confidence, which I was lacking before that. Once I had the muscle, I actually talked my way out of a fight by making the other guy back down.

Him: (giving me shit about something or other) blah, blah, blah

Me: whatever dude

Him: (now mad and threatening me)

Me: (staring him directly in the eyes) Fucking drop it. I'm not kidding.

He looked at me for a second, and then walked away. If he had swung, I'da got my ass kicked. I had no idea how to defend myself back then. Funny how most people equate muscle with fighting skill...


I'm in about the same boat as you Nate, started off hella lite (155 or so), bulked up like mutha over the last few years to 220(I was a fatty) and am now trying to cut down to a solid ass 170 or so. I'm hoping to weigh a lean 185-190 in a few years.

It is very difficult for me to pack on muscle, as I think I wasted my time in the gym initially, but that just drives me harder.

I'll have transformation photos up on T-Nation in a few weeks I think, after I win the Precision Nutrition challenge :slight_smile:


I don't really know what to say about this other than good luck. I was weighing about 170 as a fat little 7th grader. That just gradually changed to a solid 220 when I was a senior.


Luck has nothing to do with it :slight_smile: I'm just busting ass more than I ever have trying to get as lean as possible in the next 27 days. 2x a day sessions of cardio most days, weights 4-5 times a week. I've lost 40 pounds over the Summer (didnt realize how fat I was at 220, I though 30 would be plenty) and still have another 10 to go before I'm at my goal body fat percentage. Strength hasnt dropped too much so I know most of that is fat.


Thanks, man.

To tell you the truth, I haven't done a back squat in a long-ass time.

I mostly do uni-lateral work including single leg squats, lunges, split squats and everything in between.

I still deadlift, although sparingly. I hit 500+ a while back and haven't really even tried to pull really heavy recently.

Here's a leg pic from my thread: "Nate Green Update"



Good stuff all around, guys. I knew there were some inspirational stories on here.

Keep 'em coming.