Nowadays, there's no shortage of trendy diets. And there's another to add to the list: The GOLO Diet, which promotes low-glycemic-index foods in order to boost metabolism and trigger weight loss, as well as keep blood sugar stable. Based on all the GOLO Diet reviews out there, it's becoming pretty popular.
It can also be pricey, though, and a challenge to stick with all the different components. Plus, there's not a ton of research to back up its claims. Here's what you need to know before you decide to GOLO, including what the experts have to say about its safety and effectiveness.
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First, What Is the GOLO Diet?
The GOLO Diet is a weight-loss plan that focuses on managing insulin levels and balancing hormones, and it encourages followers to do so by eating foods with a low glycemic index value — that is, foods that don't spike blood sugar — exercising regularly and taking a branded supplement. Beyond weight loss, the diet also promises better energy levels and increased metabolism.
The diet sells 30-, 60- and 90-day programs as well as various guidebooks and a supplement called GOLO Release, which claims to help regulate blood sugar levels and reduce hunger or cravings, according to the website.
"[The diet] claims out-of-whack insulin levels can curb weight loss even if you're eating healthy foods and exercising regularly because it 'causes fat storage and slows your metabolism,'" Niket Sonpal, MD, a New York City-based internist and gastroenterologist and adjunct professor at Touro College of Medicine, tells LIVESTRONG.com.
You can expect to eat between 1,300 and 1,800 calories per day on the diet. Home meal-prep guidance and recipes are provided, but restaurant dining is also allowed, as long as you follow the eating guidelines and practice portion control.
The first phase of the diet is a seven-day detox, called "Reset 7," restricting grains, dairy and meat. You'll likely see the scale move after a week on this plan, but it's unlikely that you'll have made any real progress. "This will result in water weight loss, giving you the placebo effect of weight loss," explains Brigitte Zeitlin, MPH, RD, CDN.
Why Is It Popular?
GOLO's appeal likely comes from its novelty, Dr. Sonpal says. Many people may be attracted to approaching weight loss from an angle outside of counting calories or tracking macronutrients. The diet's focus on managing insulin as the key to losing weight makes it seem less restrictive and therefore more desirable, he says.
Zeitlin notes that parts of the diet, at least, have merit. "It claims to help maintain healthy blood sugar levels, which it does by promoting plant-based foods and eliminating processed, refined and sugary foods," she says.
The diet also promotes eating vegetables, healthy fats and lean proteins, which are the cornerstones of any well-balanced diet.
What Do You Eat on the GOLO Diet?
The GOLO diet asks followers to choose foods from its four "fuel groups," which include protein, low-glycemic carbohydrates, healthy fats and vegetables. Whole foods are strongly encouraged over processed products.
Foods Included on the GOLO Diet
- Dairy products
- Whole grains
- Starchy vegetables, such as potatoes, sweet potatoes and winter squash
- Seeds, such as chia, hemp and flax
- "Clean" oils, such as olive and coconut
- Broccoli, zucchini and other green veggies
When it comes to how much you're meant to eat from each food group, though, followers must purchase supporting materials for the full breakdown. "They seem to keep this particularly vague on their website so that you have to buy their books and products," says Zeitlin, who notes that this raises a red flag about the diet's legitimacy.
What's more, it's unknown if all fruits are fair game. "They do not tell you upfront which fruits they do and do not allow, without purchasing their books. Based on what I know of the glycemic scale, I would assume all melons and pineapple would be restricted," says Zeitlin. You would likely be allowed almost any other fruit, though, as most are low on the glycemic index.
Foods to Avoid
- Sugar and refined carbs, as well as processed and packaged goods, which are high-glycemic for the most part
- Sweeteners, baked goods, sweet drinks and sugar substitutes
Does GOLO Really Work for Weight Loss?
The makers of GOLO have conducted several studies that point to the diet's effectiveness for weight loss, but these should be taken with a hefty grain of salt, Dr. Sonpal says. "They did not include any placebo control group. The studies were paid for by the company and they weren't found in the peer-reviewed National Library of Medicine database," he says.
Translation: These studies aren't exactly objective, so we can't take their results at face value. Unfortunately, no other research has been done to investigate this specific diet's effect on weight loss.
Zeitlin says the diet may help you lose weight in the short term. "Anytime you eliminate foods groups, you are going to lose weight," she says. "But that is not a long-term plan and so the weight eventually comes back unless you have established a lifestyle plan that you can maintain for good."
"Research promoting this diet and supplement has been biased, and there is little unbiased evidence to support the claims."
What's the Deal With the Supplement?
The supplement on GOLO, also known as Release, is the cornerstone of the diet and, according to the company, is what makes the program different from others on the market.
A diet that relies on supplements is another red flag, says Dr. Sonpal, since there is no "magic pill" for weight loss. Plus, the Food and Drug Administration doesn't regulate supplements, so there's little to no guarantee that it's safe or effective. And at $49.95 per bottle (a one- to two-month supply), it's a pricey investment.
What's in GOLO Release Pills?
Release contains three primary ingredients, according to the nutrition facts on the label: Magnesium, chromium and zinc. Although it doesn't list the quantities of each, the National Institutes of Health cautions that getting too much zinc especially may be harmful; the upper limit for adults is 40 milligrams per day. The NIH also says that zinc supplements may interfere with certain medications, including certain antibiotics or medications used to treat rheumatoid arthritis, so you'll have to be wary of that warning as well.
Here's how the supplement claims to work: When your body releases insulin, you start to feel hungry. GOLO's Release supplement, however, aims to keep insulin levels from rising and essentially trick you into eating less frequently.
But Dr. Sonpal says he doesn't see how plant extracts and minerals actually balance hormones or insulin. "Unless you have a medically diagnosed issue with your insulin levels, like diabetes, messing with them at all is likely not a good idea for your overall health," he says.
How Do You Take GOLO Release?
Release comes in capsule form, which you take three times daily with your meals, according to the GOLO site. The website warns against taking release on an empty stomach, as it may cause a drop in blood sugar. It's also not recommended to take more than three capsules per meal, or nine per day.
The GOLO website suggests that you add an extra Release capsule with your meal if you are eating a higher-carbohydrate dish, experiencing hunger or cravings or have excess belly fat. On the other hand, you should reduce the dosage if you only need to lose between 10 and 20 pounds, are losing more than 4 pounds per week or want to phase out of the supplement.
Nevertheless, it's safest to avoid the supplement completely, recommends Zeitlin. "Personally, I do not promote supplements and am especially wary of ones claiming to suppress hunger. Plus, research promoting this diet and supplement has been biased, and there is little unbiased evidence to support the claims."
GOLO Diet Pros and Cons
Emphasis on healthy, whole foods
May help you lose weight
No sound research behind the diet
Relies on purchasing costly supplements
No clear rules to follow
The Bottom Line
Neither Dr. Sonpal nor Zeitlin would recommend the diet.
"As a physician, I don’t recommend one 'universal diet' to my patients. I take each patient case-by-case based on several factors, including age, the amount of weight they need to lose, underlying medical issues, allergies, medications they are taking, dietary restrictions and other factors," Dr. Sonpal says. "I would certainly not recommend a supplement that I have not vetted myself or seen proper clinical research on."
Zeitlin adds: "Overall, I think this diet is overly restrictive with its portion sizes and rules. I don’t believe it is a long-term, maintainable lifestyle plan."