Ask The Powells: How Can I Structure My Meals?

It’s a brand new year, the fire is lit, and you’re ready to do what it takes to reach your health and fitness goals…the only problem is that your schedule doesn’t want to cooperate with your dreams of a slimmer, fitter you. Guys, this is a question we get all the time – how am I supposed to structure my meals with my crazy, long schedule? It can be so difficult to find a healthy?eating schedule that coordinates with odd hour shifts, long days, and just general busyness. Luckily, after many years on the road and working around the clock, Chris and I have come up with a few solutions to keep you on track. Here are a few of our tried-and-true methods:

  1. Spread out your meals longer than every three hours. Although at first glance this may seem counter-intuitive to what we always preach?”eat every three hours no matter what!”?in some cases, it’s just not feasible, and we understand that. There have been several times that we, ourselves, have worked 20 straight hours, so spacing out our meals was a must. If every three hours is just not going to cut it, try eating a healthy, balanced meal every 3 1/2 or 4 hours instead.
  2. Cut your meals in half, eating each half-meal every 3 hours. Some jobs, like first responders, for example, require you to be up for 24 hours straight, which would mean eating every 3 hours and would give you 8 meals a day! Even if you’re eating clean, 8 full meals is quite the caloric bomb. On days where I’ve been required to be up 16+ hours, I try to cut my meals in half and continue on my regular eating schedule. That way, I’m satisfied and never hungry, but not overdoing it either.
  3. Plump up your meals with extra veggies! I don’t know about you, but when I’m tired, I’m hungry, or hangry (so hungry I’m angry), as Chris lovingly refers to it. ๐Ÿ˜‰ Satisfying your appetite when you lead such a crazy schedule can be difficult, so instead of loading your plates with more carbs or fats that’ll just leave you feeling groggier, fill up your plate with veggies. It’s a great way to make your meals go farther and keep you feeling fuller longer.

Do you work a long schedule or lead a crazy lifestyle? What works for you? I’m always on the hunt for helpful hints for staying on track! Let me know in the comments below. ๐Ÿ™‚

For more meal planning and healthy eating tips and tools, check out our new book,?Extreme Transformation, and?subscribe?to my YouTube channel?here!



Related reading:

Ask The Powells: How Do I Gain Healthy Weight?
1-Minute Breakfast in a Mug
Ask The Powells: How Do We Handle the Holidays?
Tip of the Day: Curb Those Cravings!



115 Responses

  1. My questions is this. Here in canada the price of food especially vegs have doubled over the last year. A head of cauliflower costs $8.oo. What can I do to help save money yet eat healthy?

    1. Hi Lisa: Wow! That is an expensive head of cauliflower! I’d choose veggies that are in season, and that could help. Another thing is to look for farmer’s markets and buy locally grown veggies. Frozen veggies can be a great option too. Hope that helps!

  2. Question… How do you know how much Protein, Carbs, and Fat to have in a day? Also how to change them depending on your calorie intake?

    1. Hi Ty: In Chris and Heidi’s carb cycling program, everything is figured out for you, you just need to follow the program. You can learn more about their program here: As far as general recommendations, you could try a 40/30/30 program – 40% calories from protein, 30% calories from carbs, and 30% calories from fats. Hope that helps!

  3. My name is rashaun cherry and I’m 16 and I weight 370 which is allot I wat to get down to 210 because I am tired of carying all this weight something needs to chance can you help me

    1. Hi Rashaun: Heidi wishes she could help everyone who needs her help, but she’s not able to take on clients right now. You can get some great tips for developing healthy habits in this other post on her blog: Here’s another thing that might help you on your journey to get and stay healthy: One awesome tool Chris and Heidi use with every client is to make and keep a small, simple promise to yourself every day. This is truly a key to achieving any goal! Learn about the process here: What will your first promise be today? Make and keep that one, then make and keep one tomorrow, and so on. It works! You can do this! ?

  4. Hi! My hubby and I have been reading your new book, and love all the tips!

    I have been struggling with my eating schedule for the past 5 years as a 3rd shift RN. Half of the week, I am up early to get kids to school, and sometimes don’t sleep until after I get them to school THE NEXT DAY!! When I’m on my work schedule, I’m usually up at 3p and in bed at 9a the next day. I really struggle with the timing of my meals, and eating every 3-4 hours during my shifts just isn’t always doable.

    I eat fairly healthy, and so follow a workout plan, but I have about 20 lbs I’d like to lose, as well as focus on sculpting more muscle.

    Any tips would be greatly appreciated! Thanks & love you guys!! Keep up the amazing work you do!


    1. Hi Gabrielle: There are some awesome tips in this post and video, so I’d start there. And just do the best you can! It might take a bit of time to figure out what will work best for you, but it can be done. You got this!

  5. So glad this post came up – as like many others it’s something I’m struggling with. I work shift in the hotel industry – morning, afternoon/evening and overnight shifts and sometimes it’s physically not possible to have a sit down meal break or it can be 5 hours or more between meals. Any suggestions on what I can do as my hangry side makes an appearance and trying to eat healthy is beginning to become a struggle. Thanks in advance!

    1. Hi Tammi: Follow the tips in this post, and have foods handy and ready to go like protein powders, protein shakes, low-sodium deli meats, non/low fat Greek yogurts, reduced fat cheeses, nuts, pre-cut fruits and veggies, etc. You can do this!

  6. Hi powells ๐Ÿ™‚

    I have begun my journey and I feel very empowered. I am looking for advise on finding my ideal, maintainable weight. I am 5-7 and currently 175lbs I know I have set small goals for along the way. I am part of your dietbet so don’t be surprised to see my name as a winner lol. Thanks for bringing motivation and compassion to the world around you.

    1. Hi Brandi: Your ideal weight range depends on several factors like muscle composition, bone structure, and others, so there’s not really a one-size-fits-all answer to your question. I’d suggest you discuss your ideal weight range with your healthcare team, and then go from there. You got this!

  7. I am single mom of 2 teenage boys. I just got your new book and my youngest and I have been following the food portion. (I haven’t been able to find time to squeeze in the workouts… yet, but I will.) I feel like when I come home from work I spend hours in the kitchen prepping, cooking and packing the next days meals. Any suggestions on how to make meal prep and packing easier?

    1. Hi Maralee: Chris and Heidi recommend prepping your foods two days during the week (at the beginning and in the middle). Keep taking those baby steps, and you got this!

  8. Hi Chris & Heidi!
    I just bought the book yesterday and read through it. I am also part of your DietBet challenge right now. ๐Ÿ™‚
    I have 2 questions, currently I have been on an 1100 calorie diet and jogging 3x/wk for over 6 months. I want to start your extreme program but with the calories at about 1500 for women, will I gain weight since I’ve been on 1100calories? Also, can I substitute certain recipe ingredients from your book such as mayonnaise and salmon for something else? Do I just choose another fat for mayo and lean protein for salmon?

    By the way I LOVED the French toast!!!

    Thank you!!


    1. Hi Christina: Yes, these are the calorie recommendations, but you can adjust these to fit your needs if you need to. And depending on what your goal weight is, as you get closer to that weight, you’ll need fewer calories to maintain your weight/weight loss. And you can substitute like foods for those in the recipe if you need to.

  9. Hi, I just bought you new book and I love it. I am ready to start a new life. But I am trying to figure out how to eat my meals due to my work. I work 7 days a week. I deliver newspapers (which I drive and throw for 6 hrs a night). I get up at 11:00pm, leave for work at 11:45. I am on the road driving until 6:30am, then I have to get sleep (due to being physical and mental drained) from 7am-10am. I am then up only until 6pm when it all starts over again. Please let me know what times I should eat. I can eat finger food during driving but can not stop to eat or eat anything needing fork or spoon. Plus it is dark and that could get messy, lol. I hope you can help me so I can get started. Thanks so much, Kimb

    1. Hi Kimb: What a crazy schedule! There are some great tips in the video and in this post, and I’d start there. And keep in mind that each day might be different and you might have to be a bit creative, but it can be done! As far as finger foods, you can try protein shakes, protein bars, boiled eggs, low-sodium deli meats, whole grain products, pre-cut fruits and veggies, nuts, reduced fat cheeses, and others. You can do this!

  10. Thanks for this. It’s like you read my mind. I’m up from 2am-930pm 4 days & work one overnight shift a week plus teach spin classes in the evening which leaves me exhausted & reaching for food to pull me through the day …. I have a hard time staying under my calorie count for the day which has lead to about a 20 lb gain last year. I workout just can’t seem to find a balance eating to lose & keep off the weight – so frustrating! I’ll take any suggestions you have beyond what you said above. Plus quick protein ideas you have for a grab & go meal or snack. Thanks for your motivation & sharing ….

    1. Hi Heather: Begin with the tips in this post, and hopefully those will work for you. As for grab and go proteins, try protein shakes, protein bars, low-sodium deli meats, boiled eggs, and low/non fat Greek yogurts. Hope that helps!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.