What Is the GOLO Diet?

golo diet

Verywell / Debbie Burkhoff 

At Verywell, we believe there is no one-size-fits-all approach to a healthy lifestyle. Successful eating plans need to be individualized and take the whole person into consideration. Prior to starting a new diet plan, consult with your healthcare provider or a registered dietitian, especially if you have an underlying health condition.

The GOLO diet is a popular short-term approach to weight loss that became the most searched diet in 2016. But just because a program is popular doesn't necessarily mean that it's safe or effective.

GOLO for Life claims to promote weight loss through insulin management. Customers invest in a 30-, 60-, or 90-day GOLO Metabolic Plan that promises to help restore hormonal balance and repair metabolism. The principles of this eating plan include limiting calories, portion sizes, and processed foods, and adding exercise. It also calls for the use of a proprietary supplement intended to aid the weight loss process.

According to the company, the GOLO diet was created by doctors, pharmacists, and nutritionists after doing "extensive research." The brand positions itself as an alternative to the traditional commercial diet industry because it says that you don't have to rely on calorie counting or "diet foods" to support weight loss.

The GOLO diet suggests a slow and steady weight loss pace of 1 to 2 pounds a week, which is a sustainable method. It also teaches healthy lifestyle habits (such as portion control and regular exercise) that should help with weight maintenance.

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

What Can You Eat?

You can expect to eat between 1,300 and 1,800 calories per day on the GOLO diet, emphasizing whole foods like meat, whole grains, healthy fats, vegetables, and fruits.

Restaurant dining is allowed as long as you follow the eating guidelines. Home meal prep guidance and online recipes are provided. As part of the calorie-restricted eating plan, followers of the diet plan are also expected to practice portion control.

It is also recommended by the company to take the GOLO Release supplement while on the diet. The supplement is the cornerstone of the diet and, according to the company, is what makes the program different from others on the market.

What You Need to Know

The eating plan on the GOLO diet 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. Along with the supplement, the GOLO diet Metabolic Plan includes a guidebook that explains the eating plan and access to support tools and services on the myGOLO.com website.

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 additional details about what you can and cannot eat.

GOLO Release Supplement Nutrition Facts

The GOLO supplement contains three primary ingredients, according to the Nutrition Facts label on the product: magnesium, zinc, and chromium (in that order).

Magnesium

Some research 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 release provides 15mg per tablet or 45mg per day which is about 4% of the recommended daily value.

Zinc

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. The upper limit for adults is 40mg per day. The release provides 10mg per pill (30mg total if you take three pills daily as advised).

Chromium

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 (NIH). 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 20mcg to 35mcg for most adults.

Most health experts recommend that you discuss herbal supplements with your healthcare team to make sure that the products don't interfere with your current medications or the safe management of a health condition.

The product also includes a "proprietary blend" of several herbal compounds. The company does not disclose the amount of each herbal ingredient, but the following are listed below in the order in which they appear on the label:

  • 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: Banaba 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 that 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 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.

The plan recommends that you continue to take the Release supplement 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—though it is probably not necessary.

What to Eat
  • Protein

  • Carbohydrates

  • Healthy fats

  • Vegetables

What Not to Eat
  • Processed or refined foods

  • Added sugars and sweeteners

Healthy Fats

One of the GOLO diet's four "fuel groups," healthy fats include seeds (such as chia, hemp, and flax) and oils (such as olive and coconut). These fats are essential for maintaining optimal health and may also help promote weight loss.

Processed and Refined Foods

Whole foods are strongly encouraged on the GOLO diet. Pork tenderloin, for example, is acceptable, but pork sausage or hot dogs with added ingredients are not. The same goes for many plant-based meat substitutes, which are often processed. Stick to real, whole foods with minimal or no processing and avoid processed foods like lunchmeat or refined foods like white bread whenever possible.

Added Sugars and Sweeteners

Avoid sweet baked goods and sweetened beverages, including those made with sugar substitutes. Added sugar is often hiding in many common foods or beverages we may think are healthy, which can contribute to weight gain and lead to other health problems.

Sample Shopping List

The GOLO diet encourages the consumption of real, whole foods. From lean proteins to loads of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, the following shopping list provides an overview of the food items that might make your shopping list on the GOLO diet. Note that this is not a definitive shopping list, and you may find other foods that work better for you while you're following the GOLO diet.

  • Red meat, chicken, pork tenderloin 
  • Fresh or frozen seafood
  • Milk, cheese, yogurt, and eggs
  • Whole grains like brown rice and quinoa
  • Legumes including chickpeas and black or pinto beans
  • Fresh fruit such as berries
  • Potatoes, sweet potatoes, and winter squash
  • Green vegetables like asparagus, broccoli, kale, and zucchini
  • Nuts including almonds, walnuts, and cashews

Sample Meal Plan

The GOLO diet recommends eating three meals per day along with the Release supplement that’s taken either before or after each meal, ideally with a glass of water. Each meal consists of one or two foods from each of the diet's four "fuel groups:" protein, carbohydrates (i.e., fruit or whole grains), vegetables, and healthy fats. Note that this is not an all-inclusive meal plan, and if you do follow this diet, there may be other meals that work better for you.

Day 1

Day 2

Day 3

Pros and Cons

Pros
  • Whole, nutrient-rich foods

  • Includes exercise

  • Based on sound nutrition advice

Cons
  • No peer-reviewed research

  • Supplements are costly

  • Rules can be confusing

  • Lack of transparency

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. 

Reviews of the diet are included on the website, but information about the reviewers is lacking. 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 former psychiatrist who does not list any experience with weight loss on his professional website.

While there is little independent research to prove the GOLO diet's effectiveness, if followed correctly, the eating plan itself is generally considered safe. The GOLO diet emphasizes whole foods over processed foods, encourages healthy fats, minimizes added sugars, and also encourages regular exercise, which are all expert-endorsed approaches to healthy weight loss.

The company assures that the GOLO diet can be modified to meet special dietary needs and preferences. 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. People who are pregnant or breastfeeding should not take Release.

Is the GOLO Diet a Healthy Choice for You?

The Department of Agriculture (USDA) recommends that we fill our plates with a balanced mix of protein, grains, fruits, vegetables, and dairy products for most meals. The GOLO diet generally aligns with this approach, 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, the diet should provide adequate nutrition, depending on the choices followers make.

The typical American male consumes 2,475 calories daily. For women, the number is 1,833 calories, according to data collected by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). 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 in its Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

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

Health Benefits

The GOLO diet eating plan recommends eating whole foods and seeking nutrient-dense options, like leafy green vegetables and whole grains, which is healthy for any balanced diet.

Exercise is an important component of any weight-loss plan. The GOLO diet acknowledges this and encourages its followers to exercise. During the company's 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."

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 1,300 to 1,800 calories and burn a few hundred extra calories per day, they are most likely producing the calorie deficit required for weight loss.

Health Risks

The GOLO website includes a statement required by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) 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 also see statements on the page about "healing metabolic dysfunction," and how the system can help to manage insulin, repair your metabolism, or balance hormones. The company is also lacking in high-quality evidence to support its weight-loss claims.

Many of the individual ingredients in the GOLO proprietary 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.

Despite the lack of strong evidence, impartial GOLO reviews, and independent research, the GOLO diet will not necessarily fail or cause harm. If you think that you have hormonal imbalances, a dysfunctional metabolism, or reduced sensitivity to insulin, however, it's probably safest to visit your own physician before trying the GOLO diet. You can also look for a board-certified weight loss doctor whose credentials you can verify.

If you are looking to lose weight for health reasons, ask your doctor about a calorie goal that's personalized for your goals and calculate your daily caloric intake with a tool like this one.

A Word From Verywell

Finding the right diet can be difficult. The process is complicated further when weight loss companies make enticing claims that include complicated terminology but little evidence to back them up. The GOLO diet's basic premises are similar to standard nutrition advice and government guidelines, but the proprietary supplement is not. Before you invest money in this (or any) diet program, take a good look at the research, costs, and nutrition.

Remember, following a long-term or short-term diet may not be necessary for you, and many diets out there simply don’t work, especially long-term. While we do not endorse fad diet trends or unsustainable weight loss methods, we present the facts so you can make an informed decision that works best for your nutritional needs, genetic blueprint, budget, and goals.

If your goal is weight loss, remember that losing weight isn’t necessarily the same as being your healthiest self, and there are many other ways to pursue health. Exercise, sleep, and other lifestyle factors also play a major role in your overall health. The best diet is always the one that is balanced and fits your lifestyle.

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Article Sources
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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