Former Army PT Talks Fitness and Food

Former Army PT Talks Fitness and Food

Next in our Personal Trainer Q&A series is Michael, a 26 year old PT, based in Crosby, North Liverpool. Growing up in an army orientated family, fitness and sports were always popular topics in Michael’s household; leading him to be a keen athlete in a number of sports, primarily football in which he played for his local team from the age of 7 up to 16.

Once he finished school, Michael enrolled into the British Army, where he spent just over 6 years starting at the age of 16 specialising as an army physical training instructor. He was responsible for making sure the soldiers were operationally fit all year round by designing and implementing their physical training scheme. In 2016, Michael left the forces and became a fully qualified Personal Trainer, who is now following his own career path and trains clients on a one to one basis at the gym he works at in Crosby.

What is your favourite exercise?
If it’s my favourite exercise and not the best exercise it has to be any pressing movement, such as bench press and shoulder press but I would have to pick barbell bench press as my personal favourite.  However, If I was only allowed to pick one exercise to do for the rest of my life my personal choice would be deadlifts because how many muscles groups are involved in that one movement so it’s a brilliant compound movement. 

What muscle do you consider to be the most important to be trained on?
It’s hard to single out one muscle group as being the most important to train because it really depends on what someone is trying to achieve and you are never really going to rely on one muscle group by themselves.
I think if I had to pick what’s the most important from an injury prevention perspective. I believe if you have really strong glutes you have a lot more of a strong and stable pelvis especially when doing your heavier compounds movements such as Deadlifts, Squats, Lunges, Spit squats etc. Which will only be beneficial.

What’s your favourite pre workout meal / snack?
I don’t normally have a pre workout snack/meal but if I do I have something quite boring to be honest, something containing a decent amount of carbs for some energy if I am going to be lifting at a high intensity for more than 60 mins such as some granola, a pasta based meal or a dark chocolate rice cake.

Tomato and Mediterranean Vegetables on Wholemeal Fussili Pasta
Also, I sometimes have some caffeine to give me that extra focus for my workout 30-60 mins before I train. I’d recommend staying away from caffeinated drinks if you’re going to be training after 3pm though as it may impact your sleeping quality; I know it can affect people in ways such as insomnia etc.

What’s your favourite post workout meal / snack?
I normally get a protein shake down me with a banana, nothing too exciting. Just to get fast releasing carbs with some protein back into my body.

What’s your favourite MFB dish?
It has to be the Malaysian chicken curry. I have been ordering of My Fresh Box for nearly 2 years now and I still never get bored of that meal.

What’s your favourite cheat dish?
My favourite sweet snack has to be either sticky toffee pudding or Ben and Jerry’s half baked.
I personally don’t ever call any of the food I am eating cheat meals and I also teach all my clients never to use that word since if you understand the principles of nutrition and follow a flexible approach to your nutrition you can have whatever food you like in moderation and still get amazing results. So you should never have a mindset of you aren’t allowed a certain type of food or even such thing as good and bad foods because that’s already setting you up for failure, it’s also not true.

How many times a week do you train?
I train a minimum of 4x a week, sometimes 5 and I split my training into 2 upper/lower sessions each week. 

How do you deal with sugar / junk food cravings?
If I have cravings for calorie dense food like some chocolate or ice cream etc, I personally have some, because I track my food and I can make it work within my calories. I just control my portion sizes and how much I have, trying not to go overboard. It’s usually only sweet food I get cravings for, I don’t drink fizzy drinks I just prefer water. And that’s not because I’m a PT and want to be a massive health icon, I just personally prefer it and think everyone should drink what they want, but also count it within their calories and cater their plans to include drink as well as food.
My only advice would be that if you do enjoy drinking fizzy drinks, then maybe try and swap in zero calories versions instead of the full fat versions, such as Coke Zero and Pepsi Max instead of full fat Cola, alongside reducing your consumption over time. 

What is the best diet to follow for losing weight?
Everyone should know by now you need a calorie deficit to lose body fat so that’s the easy part. The hard part is adhering to a diet that works for you that’s why I believe it’s so important to have a good coach who doesn’t just give you a template and say follow that, that’s literally setting you up for no progression especially long term.
My fundamentals for my clients trying to reduce body fat are all about setting good habits from the start such as getting their steps in so being more conscious of being more active, as well as tracking their food intake on MyFitnessPal. This can then allow them to have stuff that they like, and be able to work around these with their exercise and workout plans. The only time you shouldn’t be eating “junk food” is if you are competing in a body building competition or need to be at a specific weight for a performance reason, such as making weight for a boxing match.
I don’t believe that any PT should tell their clients what they can or can’t do, if you don’t enjoy your diet or fitness plan then you are more likely not to stick to it. I’d advise everyone to live the life they enjoy, but be cautious on what you consume, and the portion sizes, as well as how many times you are having them each week.

Former Army PT Talks Fitness and Food

What and when should I eat around my workouts?
Again, it really depends on the individual and the workout. If you are doing a workout that’s lasting longer than 60 mins it might be worth having a high carb meal a couple of hours before your session. It just depends on if you feel better eating before training or not, and then once you realise what works best for you then carry it on. Myself personally I rarely eat before a workout because I don’t feel like I need to, but again some people do need to eat to feel their best while training so it’s all down to the individual.
What I would say if you are unsure why not try both on separate days, and then you decide if you felt better or not performance wise eating vs not eating pre session. Also if you train super early before work or you train straight after work then I wouldn’t change that routine so you can eat and wait a couple of hours. Make sure you make training fit round your work/lifestyle, not the other way round.

If you’re based in the Crosby area or North Liverpool and looking for a personal trainer, or even have any questions for Michael, then message him directly on his Instagram page @MichaelStephens_PT, where he ensures he gets back to everyone as quickly as possible.

If you’re a personal trainer or knowledgeable about fitness / nutrition and would like to get involved with this, then please drop us a message on any of our social channels or via email at and we’ll send over the questions, featuring you in our next available slot.