A Look At Workout Nutrition And The Anabolic Window With Dr. Warren Willey

Dr. Warren Willey is the Medical Director of a medical weight loss center and primary care office. He uses a unique approach to patient care by offering preventative medical intervention by helping people to obtain optimal health and fitness through elite nutritional programs, diet strategies, and exercise programs.

He is a Board Certified Osteopathic Physician, and did his postgraduate training at The Mayo Clinic. He is a founding diplomat of the American Board of Holistic Medicine and a diplomat with The America Board of Family Medicine, The America Board Urgent Care Medicine and The American Board of Obesity Medicine.

Dr. Willey is highly sought after, dynamic speaker and does regular speaking engagements around the country concerning obesity medicine, laboratory medicine, hormone replacement, and other medical and fitness related topics. Dr. Willey is an established author having written a medical textbook in the late 90’s and What Does Your Doctor Look Like Naked? Your guide To Optimum Health, re-released in 2003. This book has helped thousands of people lose weight and obtain and then maintain optimal health.

One of his books, Better Than Steroids, is sold internationally as it is the most concise summary of what you need to know to get that ultimate physique! Other books to his credit are The Z Diet, the secret to long term dietary adherence, and The T Club – A Medical Guide to Male Hormones. He also writes for a number periodicals and web sites. He has 30 years experience with exercise development and nutritional intervention. He can be reached through his web site: www.drwilley.com or email at: [email protected]

How much of a role do you feel genetics plays in an individual’s physique? And do you feel someone can achieve or surpass their genetics through the manipulation of their nutrition and supplementation alone without the use of anabolic steroids?

dr-warren-willeyGenetics are like light switches. We all have genetic predispositions to things and certain body builds, but the environment, particularly the one you create, can turn those light switches on or off. For example, I do genetic testing on all of my patients in the realm of heart disease. There are certain genetics types that have bad cholesterol and a much higher risk for heart disease and other vascular related conditions like Alzheimer’s disease. Following these genetic subtypes for years, I have seen people with bad genetics who have no obvious vascular disease in their 80’s because their lifestyle is so good. They eat right, exercise daily, avoid toxins, sleep well, etc. On the other hand, I have patients in their 30’s with the ‘good’ genetics who have luckily survived their first heart attack.

So the question should be not what my genetic potential is, but what I am doing to achieve my desired results? Obviously, there is only one Jay Cutler and similarly genetically gifted people. But what if he had never gone for it and turned on the light switch that was sitting there? So the answer to the question is the following if you want to see what you can become; it is essential you eat right, train hard, recover well, keep stress to a minimum and see where your body goes.

How important do you feel nutrient timing and the anabolic window actually are? And do you feel that if the anabolic window is used properly it can support and spur new muscle growth?

The answer to the second question is: absolutely. Let’s take the analogy of a car; drive the car and you will need to replace gas and oil, change the tires, and have regular exams of the belts and all working parts. Muscle used burn fuel. They wear out the tires. Belts need changed. This window allows you to pull in to a full service station and get all of these things done every time you push the limits in the gym. Our bodies are amazing at doing just that if you pull into the service station at the right time – very important to emphasize the right time, just like a car, and refuel during that window. The answer to the first question should be obvious.

What would you say to those who disregard the anabolic window theory?

Everyone is entitled to their opinion, however in my experience the ones that do not utilize food timing are likely using drugs and therefore their dependence on good technique with food is not as important. I am not condoning or ripping on those who use drugs, but from my 30+ years in this field, the ones who say it does not matter are driving a low maintenance Toyota vs. the Ferrari the rest of us drive.

How important do you feel pre and post nutrition are and what would you say to those that neglect it?

As far as the pre-workout meal, it is certainly important for most. Some would argue that your body will burn more fat if no outside fuel is available, others would say you can train harder with a pre workout meal and therefore the end result is more fat burning. It is very individualized and one has to experiment with both to see how well they will function and what their results are. Post workout meals done at the right time are very important as long as it’s the proper nutrients and minimal calories are utilized.


Some negative kick back against the post work out meals are because most offered by gyms and in preset amounts/bottles are extremely high in calories and therefore have a more negative effect in the big picture. Proper protein, carbs, and fat ratios with minimal calories, all in the hopes of triggering the hormonal response to food is what you should be after. It’s basic human physiology. Going back to the car analogy, you cannot drive the car without gas, and you cannot drive the car tomorrow without filling the tank.

What are your thoughts on liquid versus solid nutrition pre and post, which is better and why?

In the setting of pre and post workout meals, liquid nutrition is best. Liquid nutrition is absorbed immediately and stimulates the hormones you want for repair, recovery, and growth. Let’s take a simple physics 101 class; pour water down a PVC pipe – it goes to the end immediately. Pour mud filled with rocks and clumps of dirt down a PVC pipe – it gets there slowly, if at all. I am 100% for chewing all of your food, except in the case of the post workout meal; it needs to get there quickly and with force. Solid food does the same, just not as fast and some people have a hard time eating before or immediately after training.

In regards to intermittent fasting, could someone build muscle from using it? And who would be right for it?

Intermittent fasting (IF) is a great way to do things for some people. It’s more of a fat burning technique vs. a muscle growth technique. Our bodies are amazing at utilizing fat when food is not available – hence the technique – if protein is adequate during the feeding times and training and recovery are appropriate, muscle can be built. For some it’s hard to get the calories in during the feeding time; those people would not do as well for muscle building. The right person doing it is the person whose life schedule allows it. From my experience, having written hundreds of IF plans for both physique artists and people in a weight loss program; busy, overworked, goal achievers do great with IF. People with time on their hands tend to not do as well as the call of food is loud during the fast if you are not distracted.

Enhanced lifters have an advantage to reaching a lower percentage of body fat, for a natural lifter what could be a realistic expectation they should have? Would a natural lifter be able to achieve the same level of conditioning?

dr-warren-willey-2I would disagree with the statement made in this question. Drug users do not have an advantage when the diet and exercise are dialed in. They have an escape. Drugs hide deprived eating and poor exercise – once you come off the drugs some are screwed because the reliance was on the pharmaceuticals and not the diet. I have had thousands of natural clients, including myself; hit the 3 to 5 % body fat range with hard work and rigorous dieting. Once again – drugs allow more leeway in the effort and allow one to get there a little quicker, but in the long run, the ones who did it on their own are better off; they can also maintain it longer with minimal effort once they understand the process. We also have to be reminded that it is more about a look; I have had women physique competitors win shows at 22% body fat and I have had similar competitors lose shows at 9% body fat. These are numbers to help us guide eating, not numbers to shoot for when preparing for a contest. It’s the look that’s important, not the numbers.

Metabolic damage has become a hot topic in the industry lately. What are your thoughts on it?

It is called different things in different arenas, but it is real. I do not like the word ‘damage’ as that implies broken. I like the term metabolic adaptation. When someone decides to get lean or lose weight, they usually increase their activity and decrease their calories. The body seeing this kicks into survival mode and adapts the calories utilized to the lower intake or extended use of said calories.

Your metabolism does not give a shit what you look like – it works to keep you alive. If it thinks you are starving to death, it slows all active processes down including your thyroid function, testosterone level, growth hormone level, increases cortisol (catabolic hormone), etc. A lot of this is due to a powerful ‘mother hormone’ called Leptin released from your fat. Playing with leptin kinetics is beyond the scope of this questionnaire, but it suffices to say that you can override your metabolic adaptations to your diet and exercise program by understanding how to use food, re-feeds, or loads, and exercise.

For someone not looking to compete how important do you think fasted cardio is? Is there merit to it and why?

Since I am obviously fascinated with the car analogy for this interview let me use it once again; a few big trucks have two tanks. So do we. We have the carbs we just ate as an energy source and we have our ever abundant fat as an energy source. If one tank is empty, the other tank is utilized. If carbs are there to burn; they will be preferentially used. If they are not as in the case of fasted cardio, the other tank will be used. Now this is also very individualized as everyone is different. Some cannot do a really hard cardio program without recently eating. In the big picture, it’s still the amount of calories you consume during the exercise routine. So if you can go harder, faster, and longer by eating first- then do it. If you can train harder, faster, and longer and not eat before hand- do that.

What would be the most beneficial supplementation for the natural lifter and why?

The supplement to your lifestyle of eating very clean and keeping protein high and calories appropriate. The supplement of exercising like crazy, and recovering well. There is no magic solution or supplement for good eating and hard exercise. Period! Save your money and do the basics. It’s the only thing proven over time and in every study out there.

How can the natural lifter use foods to their advantage to maximize their gains and achieve their desired look naturally?

Understanding the hormonal implications of food, food timing, and balancing calories to activity levels; sometimes daily (i.e. zig-zag dieting) – keeping protein high, and fat appropriate is key. Alternate eating styles such as using a Modified Carb Drop (MCD) as I describe in Better Than Steroids, or an occasional KETO run. As important as the actual food is keeping track of your results using body composition, the mirror and pictures. This way you learn what food is doing to you, and how to modify it based on results or lack thereof.

Do you believe the average person should try to achieve the 2 goals at one time; dropping body fat and building muscle at the same time?

Of course! It’s not simple, but it has been shown to work time and again for those willing to put the effort into it. I have found with the large number of people I have worked with over the last 30 years that your two-fold goal should be maintaining muscle while getting fat down and then building muscle on the lean physique (keeping fat down). You get the body you want in the early get-go and then you improve on it. The ‘bulking/cutting’ cycles are hard on your body and your brain. Shooting for both works and allows you to maintain it!


  1. Excellent Interview, Lisa! I so enjoyed reading Dr. Willey’s responses to your questions-especially the very last question regarding ‘killing to birds with one stone’ (i.e., can one gain muscle & lose fat at the same time??). That query has so many answers/approaches-it would make one’s head spin! I’m living proof, that BOTH can be accomplished but, it does require experimentation and commitment to find what WORKS for the individual. Not easy, but well worth the effort! BRAVA, LISA!!

    • Thanks, May. I am glad you enjoyed the interview. I thought you’d find his information helpful. Keep at it girl; you are doing great and I am proud of you!

      • Yes, I am learning so much from you, Lisa! Thanks for taking the time to educate a ‘newbie’. I am in this for the proverbial ‘long haul’ when it comes to learning how to fuel for my Strength Training/Body Building Workouts. Glad to have found you and to be the beneficiary of your passion. With Ivory Soul, May Palmer, The Queen of Ivory Soul


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