If you want to losing weight, you’ve probably figured out by now that there are a lot of options for diets to follow—like, a ton. But they’re certainly not one-size-fits-all, and doing your research before starting any new diet is more than smart, it’s necessary.
One diet that makes some interesting claims about how your body works and why you might be struggling to lose weight is the GOLO diet, or what the company calls the GOLO “plan.” The company leans into the idea that your hormones are standing in the way of your weight-loss goals.
You may have seen the commercials on TV or online: They feature a slew of people who lost a significant amount of weight, before showing actors talking about the perks of the diet. “I never felt like I was dieting,” one says. “I didn’t have to go to meetings. There was no counting calories,” another declares. Note, however, that while some of the testimonials mention not counting calories, the GOLO website suggests that daily calorie intake is recommended to be between 1,300 to 1,500 calories a day.
Another commercial says that insulin resistance—which is when cells in your muscles, fat, and liver don’t respond well to insulin (a hormone made by your pancreas) and can’t easily take up glucose from your blood—is why some people put on weight and have trouble losing it. “Once you have insulin resistance, fat becomes trapped in the body and it becomes very difficult to lose weight,” a spokesperson says. The solution, according to the commercial, is GOLO.
But for all of the testimonials, there’s not much info out there about what, exactly, this diet involves. Reviews of the diet — which includes the use of supplements the company provides — have also been mixed, and experts are wary about that whole supplement thing. So what is the GOLO diet and is this safe? Here’s the deal.
Meet the experts: Keri Gans, RD, is the author of The Small Change Diet.
Mir Ali, MD, is a bariatric surgeon and medical director of MemorialCare Surgical Weight Loss Center at Orange Coast Medical Center in Fountain Valley, California.
Vanessa Rissetto, RD, is the CEO and co-founder of Culina Health.
What is the GOLO diet?
The company claims that the reason some people have trouble losing weight, even when they follow a healthy diet and exercise program, is insulin resistance.
And insulin resistance “gets worse” when people lose weight and gain it back, the GOLO website notes. “Losing the same 10, 20, or 50 pounds over and over again, crash dieting or restricting calories or food groups slows your metabolism, disrupts the hormones that control weight and increases your risk of serious health conditions,” the website states. “If you have a slow metabolism you probably gain weight easily and have trouble losing weight despite dieting, you may have insulin resistance. It’s not your fault, and you are not alone.”
The GOLO diet aims to balance your insulin levels and regulate your blood sugar, “supporting proper glucose metabolism and managing fatigue while allowing your body to become naturally efficient at releasing stored fat versus storing it,” the company says online.
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How do you follow the GOLO diet?
The GOLO diet has a two-pronged approach. It doesn’t have any foods that are off-limits, although the company encourages people to eat “fresh meats, fruits, vegetables, and healthy fats.”
Followers need to buy a 30-, 60-, or 90-day supply of the company’s Release weight-loss supplement which comes along with a GOLO booklet. (The booklet is said to detail information about portion sizes and calorie intake.)
The supplement features seven plant-based ingredients, along with three minerals, according to the company: magnesium, zinc, chromium, rhodiola extract, inositol, berberine, gardenia extract, banaba extract, salacia extract, and apple extract. (Worth noting: Berberine has been called “nature’s Ozempic.”)
Followers are encouraged to take a Release capsule three times a day, either at the beginning or during meals.
Again, GOLO encourages foods like lean meats and vegetables but says you can basically eat whatever you want. It does, however, recommend that followers minimize processed meats, refined carbs, and processed foods or drinks high in salt or sugar. (The booklet is said to offer a little more guidance, though.)
What does the GOLO diet cost?
The big cost with GOLO is the supplements. You can buy them online and will pay $60 for 90 capsules, nearly $100 for 180 capsules, and about $120 for 270 capsules.
The booklet and access to online resources are free.
Is the GOLO diet effective for weight loss?
This is tricky. GOLO’s website has plenty of testimonials from people who say they lost a lot of weight, but the company clearly states that they’re “not typical.”
“While some people may experience greater weight loss in the first few weeks the GOLO weight loss system is designed to minimize weight loss to one to two pounds per week to minimize muscle loss,” GOLO says online. It’s worth noting that this is the weight loss range experts typically say is healthy.
GOLO has a section on its website dedicated to research into the diet, but it was paid for by the company.
But experts say you can lose weight on GOLO because it encourages healthy eating. “A diet that encourages eating protein, plenty of fruits and veggies, limiting overly-processed foods, and not excluding food groups, can be effective for weight loss,” says Keri Gans, RD, author of The Small Change Diet. “Also, their meal plans tend to be calorie-restricted between 1,300 to 1,500 calories a day which would lead to weight loss in most individuals.”
However, it’s important to note that how many calories you eat per day while looking to lose or maintain your weight is highly individual and a range this small brings up concerns over the level of personalization the plan offers. Also, as mentioned, many of the reviewers and company’s own language touts the fact that the diet is *not* restrictive and doesn’t involve calorie counting, while the 1,300-1,500 calorie number is listed as a comparison to “conventional diets” on their website. It’s possible there is more personalized info available to paying customers, but that’s unclear based on the publicly available information.
It’s “reasonable” to think that people would lose weight on the diet, but that’s likely due to the foods the company recommends you eat—not the supplements, per Mir Ali, MD, a bariatric surgeon and medical director of MemorialCare Surgical Weight Loss Center at Orange Coast Medical Center in Fountain Valley, California.
“I’m not aware of any good, reliable scientific data to support the supplements they’re recommending,” Dr. Ali says. “The ingredients are not really tried and proven methods to lose weight.”
GOLO also makes a lot of broad claims. “They talk in absolutes here, and say that the only reason people have difficulty losing weight is because they are insulin resistant, which is only one piece of the story,” says Vanessa Rissetto, RD, CEO and co-founder of Culina Health. “Sure, people can be insulin resistant, but we know there are also a myriad of other factors that affect one’s metabolism—genetics, underlying medical conditions, lifestyle, and behavior.”
Is the GOLO diet safe?
“The risk of this diet is related to taking their supplement,” Gans says, noting that it could be potentially harmful. In particular, if you’re on a medication, she recommends checking in with your doctor to make sure there are no potential drug interactions. “Since their supplement, Release, claims to have an effect on insulin levels, a person with diabetes should be extremely cautious and consult with their physician,” she adds.
Also noteworthy is the fact that the company touts the fact that the supp is made in a registered pharmaceutical facility which is NSF International and Organic certified, but Gans says that this is not the same thing as the supplement itself being third-party certified.
Should you try the GOLO diet?
Our experts generally don’t recommend that people try the GOLO diet.
To start, the claims are difficult to back up. “If there were a pill that we could all take and be our ideal weight, everyone—and I mean everyone—would take it,” Rissetto says.
Ultimately, the best way to lose weight is to change your diet and exercise plan, Dr. Ali reiterates. “Patients will typically lose weight if they follow a strict diet but, if they don’t make long-term, healthy changes, they can regain the weight,” he says. “The goal is to form healthy, sustainable changes.”
Korin Miller is a freelance writer specializing in general wellness, sexual health and relationships, and lifestyle trends, with work appearing in Men’s Health, Women’s Health, Self, Glamour, and more. She has a master’s degree from American University, lives by the beach, and hopes to own a teacup pig and taco truck one day.
Registered dietitian nutritionist
Keri Gans is a registered dietitian nutritionist, certified yoga teacher, and author of The Small Change Diet. The Keri Report, her bi-monthly podcast, and newsletter, helps to convey her no-nonsense and fun approach to living a healthy lifestyle. She lives in NYC with her husband Bart and 4-legged son Cooper.