What Is the GOLO Diet?

In This Article

The GOLO Diet is a popular approach to weight loss that became the most searched diet in 2016, according to a Google ranking. But just because a program is popular doesn't mean that it is effective. Before you invest money in this (or any) diet program, take a good look at research, costs, and nutrition.

What Experts Say

"The GOLO Diet focuses on a calorie-controlled plan with unprocessed foods, along with regular exercise. These core principles are solid and can help people lose weight. However, experts disagree that the 'release' supplement (sold as an adjunct to the diet) is necessary."
Chrissy Carroll, RD, MPH

Background

According to the company, the GOLO Diet was created by doctors, pharmacists, and nutritionists after doing "extensive research." The brand positions itself as a refreshing alternative to the traditional commercial diet industry, because it says that you don't have to rely on calorie counting or diet foods to create weight loss. The company says it has helped over one million people successfully lose weight.

How It Works

GOLO for Life claims to help you lose weight through insulin management. Customers invest in a 30-, 60-, or 90-day GOLO Rescue Program that promises to help restore hormonal balance and repair metabolism. 

The GOLO website doesn't provide a lot of information about the eating plan. But if you look at the research provided and conducted by the company, you'll find details about what you will have to do. 

  1. Reduce calories. You can expect to eat between 1300 and 1800 calories per day. Restaurant dining is allowed as long as you follow the eating guidelines. Home meal prep guidance (in the booklets) and online recipes are provided. As part of the calorie-restricted eating plan, users are also expected to practice portion control.
  2. Exercise. In the research, participants were directed to participate in 15 minutes of exercise per day or 105 minutes per week and to "preferably exercise using high-intensity workouts (HIT)."
  3. Take the GOLO Release supplement. The supplement is the cornerstone of the diet and, according to the company, is what makes the program different than others on the market.

GOLO Release

The GOLO supplement contains these three primary ingredients, according to the Nutrition Facts label on the product. 

Magnesium is an important essential mineral responsible for strong bones, a healthy heart, and good blood circulation. There is some research that suggests magnesium may be helpful in restoring insulin resistance in type 2 diabetics who are deficient, but there is no strong evidence to support its use by the general population for weight loss or improved metabolism. The recommended dietary allowance for magnesium ranges from 310 to 420 milligrams for most adults. The release provides 15 mg per tablet or 45 mg per day. You will also consume magnesium when you eat certain foods like almonds, spinach, and legumes. 

Zinc is an essential mineral that is found naturally in some foods. Limited studies have suggested that zinc supplementation may be helpful for weight loss, but even the scientists conducting research say that there is not enough evidence to know for sure.

The National Institutes of Health cautions that getting too much may be harmful; the upper limit for adults is 40 milligrams per day. The release provides 10 mg per pill (30 mg if you take three pills daily). Eating certain foods like red meat, oysters, and fortified cereals and poultry will also boost your zinc intake. The NIH also says that zinc supplements may interfere with certain medications including certain antibiotics or medications used to treat rheumatoid arthritis.

Chromium is a mineral required by the body in small amounts. There is some evidence to support the use of a chromium supplement for improved glucose control, but the evidence is inconclusive, according to the National Institutes of Health. Strong evidence to support the use of chromium as a weight loss aid is lacking.

There is no upper limit established for chromium, but the estimated safe and adequate daily dietary intake for chromium ranges from 20 mcg to 35 mcg for most adults. The release provides 70 mcg per pill or 210 mcg per day if you take as directed. Keep in mind that you will also get chromium in your diet if you eat common foods like broccoli or whole grains. It's also in red wine.

Release ingredients also include a "proprietary blend" of several herbal compounds in the supplement; the company does not disclose the amount of each herbal ingredient. As a consumer, this may make it difficult for you to discuss the supplement with your physician. Most health experts recommend that you discuss herbal supplements with your health care team to make sure that the products do not interfere with your current medications or the safe management of a health condition. These herbal ingredients include:

  • Rhodiola: This root extract may help to reduce fatigue and improve exercise performance, but may also cause dizziness or dry mouth.
  • Inositol: This nutrient has been used in psychiatric settings to treat depression with some success.
  • Berberine HCl (from barberry root): An herbal ingredient, it's been used with some success in treating several conditions including diabetes.
  • Gardenia extract: There is limited research to support the use of this fruit extract. There is a very small study that loosely suggests gardenia fruit extract supplements may be helpful for weight loss, but the research does not provide enough evidence to say for sure if gardenia extract can help you lose weight.
  • Banaba leaf extract: An herbal supplement, it may help with weight loss and management of diabetes. There is little known, however, about the long-term use of the supplement. 
  • Salacia bark extract: This herbal supplement is sometimes used to manage diabetes. There is some research which suggests that it may help to manage blood sugar after eating, but no strong evidence to support its use for weight loss. 
  • Apple fruit extract: This supplement that boosts your intake of pectin, a form of soluble fiber. Soluble fiber can help you to feel full longer after eating, but you can get soluble and insoluble fiber naturally from foods. Increasing your fiber intake quickly can cause some short-term stomach problems.

What to Eat

Compliant Foods

  • Protein

  • Carbohydrates

  • Fats

  • Vegetables

Non-Compliant Foods

  • Processed or refined foods

  • Added sugars and sweeteners

Protein

One of the GOLO Diet's four "fuel groups," protein can include meat, poultry, seafood, dairy products, nuts, and eggs. Like all the foods on the GOLO Diet, whole foods are strongly encouraged. Pork tenderloin is acceptable; pork sausage with added ingredients is not.

Carbohydrates

This group includes whole grains, but also beans, fruit, and starchier vegetables such as potatoes, sweet potatoes, and winter squash.

Fats

This "fuel group" comprises seeds (such as chia, hemp, and flax) and oils (such as olive and coconut).

Vegetables

The fourth "fuel group" is made up of mostly green vegetables, from broccoli to zucchini.

Processed and Refined Foods

Skip them all and focus on whole foods only.

Added Sugars and Sweeteners

This goes along with the ban on processed foods; avoid sweet baked goods and sweetened beverages, including those made with sugar substitutes.

Recommended Timing

The eating plan calls for three balanced meals every day, each made up of one or two portions from the diet's "fuel groups." For most people, one capsule of Release is to be taken during or just after each meal.

Resources and Tips

Along with the supplement, the Rescue Program also includes a guidebook that explains the eating plan and access to support tools and services on the myGOLO.com website.

Modifications

The company promises that the GOLO diet can be modified to meet special dietary needs and preferences, such as a vegetarian eating plan. The Release supplement is free of gluten and all major allergens. But you should consult your doctor before taking it or any supplement, in case it might interact with any medications you are taking or complicate a medical condition such as type 1 diabetes. Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should not take Release.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Whole, nutrient-rich foods

  • Includes exercise

  • Based on sound nutrition advice

Cons

  • No independent research

  • Supplements are costly

  • Rules can be confusing

Pros

Whole Foods

The GOLO Diet eating plan recommends eating whole foods and seeking nutrient-dense options, like leafy green vegetables and whole grains.

Exercise

Exercise is an important component of any weight-loss plan. The GOLO Diet acknowledges this and encourages users to exercise at least 15 minutes per day, preferably at high intensity.

Sound Nutrition Advice

Some people will probably lose weight successfully on the GOLO Diet. But it's very likely that the weight loss results are due to simple caloric restriction combined with high-intensity exercise. When people consume 1300 to 1800 calories per day and burn a few hundred extra calories per day, they are most likely producing the calorie deficit required for weight loss.

So while the GOLO Diet has some solid nutritional backing, the GOLO supplement may not actually be necessary, and has some downsides.

Cons

No Independent Research or Reviews

On the GOLO website, you'll find statements made by customers and by doctors whose names, but not credentials, are listed. One of the GOLO reviews is by the diet's founder, Keith Ablow, MD. He is a psychiatrist who does not list any experience with weight loss on his professional website.

Another concern is the lack of peer-reviewed research. When weight loss studies are published in peer-reviewed journals, the researchers generally have to follow certain guidelines to demonstrate that they have provided unbiased and well-designed evidence for their conclusions. The research provided to support GOLO's effectiveness does not follow those rigorous guidelines. 

Many of the ingredients in the supplement have been studied, and some show promise for people who are trying to lose weight. But more evidence is needed before any of the ingredients become standard care for obesity or metabolic disorders.

The lack of strong, impartial GOLO reviews and research doesn't mean that the diet will fail or cause harm. But if you think that you have hormonal imbalances, a dysfunctional metabolism, or reduced sensitivity to insulin, it's probably safest to visit your own physician. You can also look for a board-certified weight loss doctor whose credentials you can verify.

Costs

When you first start the GOLO diet, you'll make an initial investment based on the weight you want to lose and the amount of time you think you'll need to be on the diet. A 30-day plan costs about $50. A 60-day plan is $80, and a 90-day plan costs $100. This first purchase is exempt from shipping fees.

The plan recommends that you continue to take Release until you reach your goal weight. After you reach your goal, according to the website, you may want to continue to take the supplement, perhaps in a lower dose.

Confusing Information

The website also provides statements about the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). On the main page, there is a required statement explaining that "GOLO is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease and has not been evaluated by the FDA." This may be confusing for some consumers who are also seeing statements on the same page about "healing metabolic dysfunction," and how the system can help to manage insulin, repair your metabolism, or balance hormones. 

In addition, the diet's food plan is not as simple as it may seem at first glance. Customers must determine what to eat based on the "metabolic fuel matrix" (included in the guidebook). It includes such factors as physical activity, "personal metabolic rates," and the "fuel values" of particular foods.

How It Compares

The GOLO Diet's basic premises are similar to standard nutrition advice and government guidelines, but the supplement is not.

USDA Recommendations

Food Groups

MyPlate (the USDA's dietary advice tool) sums up current expert thinking on nutrition with its suggestion to fill a plate with a balanced mix of protein, grains, fruits, vegetables, and dairy products for most meals. The GOLO Diet generally aligns with this, although it suggests eating foods from just one or two of the "fuel groups" at each meal. Over the course of a day or week, this should provide adequate nutrition, depending on the choices users make.

Calories

The typical American man consumes 2475 calories daily; for women, the number is 1833 calories according to data collected by the Centers for Disease Control. That means that a typical man on the GOLO Diet would reduce his intake by roughly 700 calories per day, and a woman might reduce hers by about 500 calories per day. This is also in line with USDA advice for weight loss. If you are looking to lose weight, it's best to calculate a calorie goal that's personalized to you by using a tool like this one.

Similar Diets

Of course, GOLO is far from the only company offering weight loss through supplements. Here's how some of them compare, along with a plan that's similar to the GOLO Diet but without the supplement.

GOLO Diet

  • Diet basics: The principles of this eating plan include limiting calories, portion sizes, and processed foods, and adding exercise plus a proprietary supplement.
  • Safety: The eating plan itself is safe. The supplement is probably safe for most people unless they have certain medical conditions.
  • Effectiveness: There is little independent research to prove this diet's effectiveness. But its advice should promote weight loss if followed correctly.
  • Sustainability: The GOLO Diet suggests taking weight off at a slow and steady pace of one to two pounds a week, which is a sustainable method. It also teaches lifestyle habits (such as portion control and regular exercise) that should help with weight maintenance. It is probably not necessary to continue taking the supplement.

Purium Diet

  • Diet basics: The Purium diet is a very low-calorie plan that includes a series of meal replacements and supplements.
  • Safety: The diet is so low in calories that it is probably unsafe (or at least very uncomfortable) for most people.
  • Effectiveness: It is likely that many users will lose weight on this plan, due to the severe calorie restriction.
  • Sustainability: The diet is meant to last 10 days. After that, weight regain is almost unavoidable.

Açaí Berry Diet

  • Diet basics: There are variations of the açaí berry diet, but all center on supplements made from an extract of the berry along with other ingredients. Unlike the GOLO Diet, there is little other weight-loss advice.
  • Safety: Like other supplements, the açaí berry products are not regulated by the FDA, so they may not be safe for everyone.
  • Effectiveness: There is no evidence that the açaí berry diet is effective for weight loss.
  • Sustainability: Experts say it's not a good idea to consume unregulated supplements for any length of time.

Mayo Clinic Diet

  • Diet basics: The Mayo Clinic Diet is similar to the GOLO Diet minus the supplement: Limit portions and calories and favor whole, nutrient-dense foods.
  • Safety: This diet is quite safe.
  • Effectiveness: If followed carefully, the diet should be effective for weight loss.
  • Sustainability: This diet teaches sustainable, long-term lifestyle habits that will help users both lose weight and keep it off.

A Word From Verywell

Finding the right diet can be difficult. The process is complicated further when weight loss companies make claims that include complicated terminology and enticing claims. Remember that you can always turn to your health care team for guidance. If your physician can not provide weight loss advice, ask for a referral to a registered dietitian. These experts can help you sort through diet advertisements and make recommendations based on your health goals.

You can also try to lose weight without purchasing a plan. The GOLO Diet includes portion control, calorie restriction, and regular exercise; these are all changes you can do on your own. You may find that you gain a stronger, healthier body without the high price of a commercial plan.

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Article Sources

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