The Bodybuilder’s Nutrition Book — by Dr Franco Columbu

Title: The Bodybuilder’s Nutrition Book
Author: Dr Franco Columbu
Year: 1985
Publisher: McGraw Hill

About the Author:

For those unfamiliar with golden-era Strongman or the Olympia stage, Franco Columbu (1941 – 2019) was a professional bodybuilder, powerlifter and actor from Sardinia, Italy. The two-time Mr Olympia was the best friend of Arnold Schwarzenegger and featured prominently in the documentary “Pumping Iron” (1975) – claiming the under-200lb title but losing out on the overall to Arnie himself. He passed away on 30 August 2019.


Franco is undoubtedly a highly accomplished bodybuilder and nutritionist, (holding a PhD in nutrition) having a solid track record in managing his lifestyle and diet; carrying him to the stage and enabling him to lift staggering weights

However, Franco himself concedes in the book’s introduction that many sections of nutrition books become outdated over time, as new theories emerge, and research becomes increasingly intricate and more thorough. Can a 35-year-old book be useful to a modern-day bodybuilder or does this serve as a time capsule, providing an insight into how golden-era bodybuilders approached life and nutrition? 

In short – this bodybuilder’s nutrition book manages both, offering vital information ranging from diet and vitamins to drugs and wonder foods, whilst also reflecting how far bodybuilding has come since Franco stepped on stage. 

Franco’s Knowledge Increases the Readability of this Book

It’s perhaps Franco’s knowledge that increases the readability of the book; providing complex information in an easily understandable manner. Despite some simplification, this book still provides greater detail than you will find in most online guides or print equivalents, resembling a scientific textbook. 

For example, Franco talks the reader through the role of EVERY major vitamin and mineral, from Vitamin A to iodine and phosphorus, listing their effects on the body, their different sources and the foods that can prevent their absorption. Furthermore, an extensive list of suggested vitamins is provided, alongside the quantities he suggests consuming related to your activity level (albeit divided between non-competitive and competitive dosages). 

Franco Columbu Covers Controversial Subjects in Bodybuilding

He also delves into areas of controversy, many of which have persisted since the 1980’s, including alcohol consumption and the usage of steroids. Any form of alcohol is a topic of debate for competitive bodybuilders. Franco himself confesses to drinking wine with his lunch and having a small beer after the gym to aid digestion and relaxation.

Many bodybuilders swear off it entirely, due to its effects on recovery and the need to drink more water when consuming it, whilst others will use it extensively during contest-prep as a dehydration aid (Ronnie Coleman took several shots of Vodka in his coffee before winning the 1997 Grand Prix).

Interestingly, in this bodybuilder’s nutrition book, Franco offers little guidance on specific steroids, rather writing about the lack of accessible knowledge for those considering taking them and the associated side effects (and how to counteract them). Nonetheless, he does discuss the oral steroid Dianabol (more commonly known as Dbol) but stresses the importance of medical consultations and hard work when taking it (Franco also claims to have won a Mr Universe contest before taking any steroid). 

Most of the material in the book is available online, but rarely is it offered on a single site. Nonetheless, some content within it does seem simple to those who have a rudimentary knowledge of health. 

In the appendix is a list of food organised by protein, carb and fat content, suggesting which to avoid and which should be consumed. Rather predictably, carbohydrate sources like cake, crackers and fizzy drinks are included on the avoid list – but somewhat paradoxically, tuna is also included in the avoid column due to its high-fat content. 

Franco Says: Bodybuilders Need a Thorough Understanding of the Human Body

Overall, Franco clearly supports the concept that having a thorough understanding of the entire human body is necessary if a person wants to be a bodybuilder. The book serves as a handy little guide, offering info on diet and vitamins, whilst aiming to educate on the basic functions of the body. It is showing its age – not that the information contained within is incorrect – offering little info on the modern-day supplements that litter the cupboards of even the least intensive gym-goer. 

Beyond its use as a nutritional guide, it offers more information on Franco himself. When compared to Arnie, Franco is unfairly less recognised within the sport – often only being known by those who either follow bodybuilding extensively or have seen “Pumping Iron”. Franco’s experiences as a boxer/powerlifter/bodybuilder/actor are fascinating in their own right and offer an insight into the golden era of bodybuilding and how he carved an Olympia-worthy physique.

Favourite Chapter:

Chapter 4 – Supplements, vitamins and minerals

Favourite Quote: 

“In truth, I have never found any food more wonderful than eggs”.

Book Rating: 9/10

We hope you found this review interesting. What are your views on the late Franco Columbu’s achievements as an athlete and Mr Olympia champion? Let us know in the comments below, and join in the conversation on FacebookTwitter Instagram. Want more from the world of bodybuilding? Then check out our Bodybuilding Legends series!

Charlie Thompson

Charlie has recently finished his MA in Multimedia Journalism at the University of Kent and is aiming to throw himself into a career writing about all aspects of the fitness industry. A fan of niche sports, he is a 3rd Dan Black Belt in Jiu-Jitsu and an avid gym goer with an interest in both bodybuilding and strongman. Outside of the gym he enjoys reading, watching films and all things pop culture.

We will be happy to hear your thoughts

Leave a reply

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

Keep Fit Kingdom