There have been so many incredible transformations over the years that we’ve been doing the Stark Naked (SN) competition, but most people only see the finished product. The physiques that you see in the final pictures are awe-inspiring, but when you understand everything that goes into achieving such a high level of physical fitness, it only makes you appreciate the competitors’ accomplishments even more!
Before we dive into the details about how the different pieces of the program work together to create the “next-level” results you see, one thing must be mentioned. Each person participating in the challenge has to have the grit and determination to ADHERE to the program. The Stark team does a lot to orchestrate the magic that happens, but every person who steps in front of that camera has made significant sacrifices in order to do so.
And with that, let’s get into the nitty gritty. In this article we are going to lay it all out and give you a glimpse into HOW the Stark team works behind the scenes to get the SN competitors to the “fitness line” (bad pun, I know… but I couldn’t help it).
“By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” – Ben Franklin
Any goal you set should be accompanied by a detailed plan on how to accomplish it. However, in order to create a plan, you have to know your starting point. This is why we take a comprehensive baseline assessment at the beginning of the journey for each SN competitor.
We want to know EXACTLY where each person is at from a health and fitness standpoint, so that we can be precise in predicting the outcomes of the journey. We want to have the following information on each person before we leave the gate:
- We want to know someone’s body fat percentage (BF%), lean muscle mass, and body fat mass for two reasons. First, it’s nice to see how much progress a person makes through the duration of the competition. But second (and most important), it helps us ensure that each person stays safe. Attempting to lose body fat at such an aggressive pace that you lose too much lean mass is not good for someone’s health. But we cannot monitor that unless we know someone’s body composition to begin with.
- While BF% is the focus, weight is an important indicator for us during the SN process. Along the same lines as the previous point, we want to ensure that we preserve lean mass by monitoring the rate of weight loss. Because we are programming for a specific rate of fat loss during the course of the 16 weeks, a disproportionate drop in weight would indicate the loss of lean mass. This helps us identify it quickly and make adjustments. Conversely, if weight is dropping slower than our projected rate of fat loss, we can quickly course correct and get a person back on track.
- When attempting to lose body fat, there has to be a caloric deficit (aka, burning more than you’re eating). It’s just how it works. But when you operate at an energy deficit for a prolonged period of time, it can take a toll on your endocrine system, resulting in impaired hormone production. The caloric deficit will cause a decrease in hormone production. We know that, and it’s not necessarily a bad thing, because the hormones can bounce back once we remove the caloric deficit. However, it’s important to understand a person’s hormone status before we get started. If a person has impaired hormone function to begin with, then a conversation needs to be had as to whether or not he/she should dive into such an intense program.
- This one is simple. The training for SN is grueling, and you’re eating less food than you do normally. This means your body has fewer nutrients on hand to repair itself. So we want to address any injuries at the beginning. Also, we want to make sure that someone is structurally able to handle the intensity of the training they are about to perform.
CREATE A ROADMAP
“Begin with the end in mind.” – Stephen R. Covey
Rate of Fat Loss
Before we start talking about macros or writing workout programs, we need to determine the goal we are trying to accomplish. Of course, the goal is to get as shredded as possible, but that’s not what we mean. We’re talking about specific goals. In most cases, on the very first day of the competition, we are able to predict what a person will weigh the day of his/her photo shoot within 1-2 lbs. It is the specific, measurable target that allows us to work backward and create a detailed roadmap that outlines exactly how much weight/body fat a person will lose each week throughout the duration of the competition.
- For each competitor, we create an individualized nutrition plan with hyper-specific parameters around total caloric intake as well as specific macro-nutrient ratios (protein/fat/carbs). As previously mentioned, there will be a caloric deficit to reduce body fat. However, depending on how lean someone is at the beginning (hence the initial assessment), he/she may not be required to be in a deficit for the entire 16 weeks. Also, the size of the caloric deficit can vary from person to person. Then we address protein requirements, which is crucial. There are many reasons for this, but the main one is to help preserve lean mass. Fat and carbs are for energy, but how much of each is a delicate balance that needs to be managed. We want each person to have as much carbs as possible for energy, while keeping fat intake high enough to ensure that more serious health issues don’t occur.
- Another key component to the nutrition is re-calibration. If a male competitor starts off at 185 lbs., then the caloric deficit is determined based on a calculation as to how many calories a 185 lbs. man burns in a day (that number is determined using many more factors than just body weight). That means that if that man’s weight drops to 180 lbs., and he continues to eat the same amount, then his caloric deficit will be reduced. This is due to the fact that with physical activity being equal, a 185 lbs. male will burn more calories than a 180 lbs. male. This will impact the rate of fat loss, which is why we recalibrate the nutrition requirements of each person several times during the course of the challenge.
- It’s much more complex than simply burning as many calories as possible. Because of the caloric deficit, burnout needs to be prevented over the 16-week period, so the intensity level of the training is strategically managed. We also need to change the training routine several times during the competition to prevent plateaus. There also may be individualized body composition considerations, such as areas that a person wants to focus.
- Since the competitors are eating less food, this means their bodies have access to fewer nutrients than normal. This is where nutrient deficiencies present a risk. It’s also why certain weight/fat loss programs get results at the expense of a person’s health. For example, extreme dieting can negatively impact a woman’s thyroid function. This will make maintaining the results nearly impossible, and in some cases can cause weight gain beyond the original starting weight! This concept is often referred to as “crash dieting” or “yo-yo dieting.” It is for this reason that our naturopathic doctor creates a therapeutic support program to ensure that every person’s health stays in tact while pushing their bodies to the limits. This is most often expressed in the form of specific recovery protocols, nutritional supplements, and IV therapy.
INTEGRATION IS KEY
“The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.” – Aristotle
This is a fairly straight forward point. None of the things mentioned above can happen unless each member of the Stark team communicates with the others. Without feedback from the chiropractor on someone’s shoulder problems, the trainer may have that person doing exercises that aggravate an old injury, making it impossible to continue with the competition. Similarly, if the naturopathic doctor does not communicate with the nutritionist about a competitor’s Omega-3 fatty acid deficiency, the nutritionist will not know to adjust that person’s macro-nutrient ratio to allow for consumption of Omega-3 rich fatty fish, such as salmon, mackerel, or sardines. These are only two examples of what could happen when the various aspects of one’s health and fitness are addressed in isolation from the others. And the SN competitors cannot come out on the other side of this healthier than before, unless this collaboration/integration takes place.
ACCOUNTABILITY IS CRUCIAL
“Accountability is the glue that ties commitment to the result.” – Bob Proctor
This process is hard. There’s no denying it. Even if someone has an iron will, he/she will reach a point where their resolve is at its limit. But it’s a partnership. And each member of the Stark team is there to provide guidance, accountability, and encouragement to push through those moments.
This is the one aspect of the competition that is out of our control, because it takes surrender on the part of the participant. It takes trust to allow oneself to be held accountable. And that is not something that we can program or engineer, which is why we need a firm commitment from each person at the very beginning to allow us to keep them accountable, no matter how challenging it becomes.
We provide accountability to every individual that we work with at Stark. But in the case of the SN competition, we take it to another level. We are monitoring what each person is eating, checking their daily weigh-ins, tallying up calories burned, and then providing real-time feedback to ensure that the goal we set at the beginning will be reached. All the while, reminding everyone that we are in their corner.
ENJOY THE RESULTS
“Nothing builds self-esteem and self-confidence like accomplishment.” – Thomas Carlyle
There is nothing quite like seeing the look on the competitors’ faces when they see the pictures of themselves and realize what they just accomplished. And that is an accomplishment worth being enjoyed. We love seeing people transform their bodies, but nothing compares to the transformations we see in people’s minds. The SN challenge gives people a new framework for what they can achieve. “I never thought I could ever look like this” is something we hear a lot, and the effect that has on a person goes way beyond his/her physique. It changes who they are. It lifts the limits of what they previously thought was possible.
And THAT is why we do what we do.