My Food & Fitness Regime: Faisal Abdalla

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Celebrity trainer Faisal Abdalla is known as ‘Mr PMA’ because of his infectious positive mental attitude. He believes a strong mindset is the key to being the best version of yourself – and his years as a master trainer for Nike and Barry’s Bootcamp have taught him a thing or two about building a strong body too. From go-to workouts to recovery tips, here’s how he stays in shape…

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I’m no stranger to an early workout. I have two small children and my days are busy, so the magic formula is to wake up earlier. I’ll often train from around 4.30am for an hour – nothing complicated, but a cheeky hour is better than nothing and means I can then get on with my day. Over the years, I’ve realised HIIT and strength training work best for my body. HIIT and its fat-burning benefits have transformed my body and fitness levels. Strength training works in perfect harmony with HIIT as it helps to sculpt and define lean muscle. If you want a healthy body that’s low in fat, and want to be strong and physically fit when it comes to cardio, HIIT and strength training provide the perfect formula to get you there. 

CrossFit is my current obsession. I am currently following a training programme called ‘team training’, which is inspired by CrossFit. I do a lot of weightlifting, metabolic conditioning, gymnastics and functional fitness. I’m also training for Hyrox, a fitness competition that consists of eight rounds of a 1km run followed by functional movements. Running is something I need to work at, so I try to fit that in when I can. In total, Monday to Friday, I’ll do five or six fitness sessions. My non-negotiable is that every session finishes with a stretch.

“Strength training works in perfect harmony with HIIT as it helps to sculpt and define lean muscle.”

If you only have ten minutes, you can still get a workout in. If I’m pushed for time, you can’t beat an EMOM workout – every minute on the minute, you pick a different exercise. You can do it for ten minutes or 60 minutes; it’s versatile and results driven. 

Overtraining and under-recovering are two of the biggest mistakes you can make. Training too much causes you to plateau, while not resting enough can cause you to burn out. I always try to alternate the body part I’m focusing on and include at least one full day of recovery each week. Now I’m a dad of two, my recovery days are still active days. While I’m not actively doing a workout, there’s plenty of moving and walking around. 

I take an ice bath three times a week. Cold therapy has always been part of my life – when I was a kid it was a family joke that I’d jump into the sea even when it was freezing. At the start of the year, I invested in a stock tank, which I use three or four mornings a week for a cold plunge. It’s the best way to aid recovery post-workout. Stock tanks are made to withstand extremely cold temperatures and are one of the simplest ways to create an ice bath at home. I aim for 11 minutes each week, for a minimum of four minutes each time. The effect it has had on muscle recovery has been incredible – that’s the thing I’ve noticed the most. The cold water reduces swelling and inflammation, which reduces pain and stiffness. You don’t need a stock tank to reap the benefits – even finishing your shower with a minute of cold water will make a difference. 

I stretch for 20 minutes every evening. This has become a ritual in the last few months – it’s a great way to wind down after a busy day and improve blood flow and relieve muscle circulation, all of which aid muscle recovery and sleep quality. Flexibility is key for everything you do. If you don’t include flexibility and mobility in your training, you’ll start to pick up niggles, which could turn into a full-blown injury. 

You can’t out train a bad diet. I tell my clients that success is down to 100% training and 100% nutrition. I focus on nutrients rather than calories or macros, and always ensure I get a good source of carbs post-workout. Carbs aren’t the devil – the focus should be on when you eat them. When you train, you dip into your glycogen stores for energy, so you need to top them up post-training so you’re ready for your next session. My go-to post-workout breakfast is a cinnamon and raisin bagel with peanut butter and sliced banana. 

I’m more relaxed with my diet than I used to be. I eat what I want, when I want, unless I’m training for a race or there’s a goal on the horizon, in which case I will cut back on sugar. When I was younger, I was really strict with my diet during the week and would have a cheat day on a Sunday. I’m now more balanced across the week and believe food should be something you enjoy. You just need to find a way of enjoying it that allows you to stay healthy. Of all the macros, the one I focus on the most is protein – I eat a lot of eggs and yoghurt. Whether you’re looking to build muscle, lose weight, do both or maintain your current state, protein will help. 

“Carbs aren’t the devil – the focus should be on when you eat them.”

Staying hydrated is key. Everything in your body works better if you are hydrated. It boosts metabolism, aids muscle repair, improves digestion and aids circulation. We’re all slightly different, but I aim to drink around three litres of water a day. Your body weight in kilograms divided by 30 is a good way to work out your suggested daily water intake in litres. I add another 350ml to this number for every 30 minutes I work out. 

Plant-based protein powder has been a game-changer. I find the whey in most protein powders doesn’t agree with my digestive system, so stick to plant-based versions. I stir it through porridge and overnight oats, add to smoothies, or even add to yoghurt. 

The right supplements can help. On the daily, I take a multivitamin, omega-3, and a standalone bone and joint formula. I also take ZMA – a blend of zinc, magnesium and vitamin B6 that supports muscle and strength gains. It can also reduce tiredness and fatigue, while magnesium helps with sleep. When it comes to brands, I rate PHD Nutrition

So much of fitness is in your mind. For me, the glue that holds everything together is a positive mental attitude. Once you learn the basics of nutrition and how you should train, what will keep you on track is a positive mental attitude. It’s your mind that holds the power – the decision to either give up or power on comes from the mind. Looking after your mental health is also important. I live out in Essex and being near green spaces is a game-changer. We’re an hour-and-a-half from the Cotswolds in the car and love spending time there on a Sunday – disconnecting for the day is so good for the mind. I’ll switch off my phone, go for a walk with the family and finish the day in a country pub with a good roast – it doesn’t get better than that.  

Faisal is a coach for audio-led fitness app WithU – to access his workouts on the app, including his newly launched HIIT workouts, download WithU from the App Store or head to WithUTraining.com. You can also find him at PMAFitness.co.uk and on Instagram @FaisalPMAFitness


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