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There are many diets on the market, and one of the newest—the GOLO diet—is gaining traction. But what exactly is the GOLO diet, and does it work the way it claims? Here’s an overview of the GOLO diet, including a rundown of the meal plan, price and commitment it requires.
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Unlike other diets, such as the keto diet or Mediterranean diet, the GOLO diet isn’t so much a way of eating as it is a specific diet plan. While there is some flexibility in what you can eat on the GOLO diet, the plan requires a specific supplement from GOLO, LLC, the company that created the diet in 2009.
The theory behind this diet is to achieve weight loss by speeding up your metabolism by reducing insulin resistance—which causes an increase of blood sugar—in order to prevent health conditions related to weight gain.
As for the creators, the company’s website says the team consists of “dedicated doctors, pharmacists and researchers.” However, the only specific individuals listed include the CEO and president, both of which have sales and marketing backgrounds and are not doctors or registered dietitian nutritionists themselves. In fact, the website doesn’t identify any specific healthcare personnel.
“The GOLO diet is an approach to weight loss designed to be used short-term,” says certified functional medicine practitioner Vikki Petersen, who’s also a certified clinical nutritionist and founder and executive director of Root Cause Medical Clinic, which has clinics based in California and Florida. “Its goal is to manage your insulin levels, thereby normalizing your metabolism and hormones.” Programs range from 30 to 90 days.
The website offers limited information about the specifics of the GOLO diet. Instead, you must purchase their supplement, Release, in order to access materials they refer to as the “Metabolic Plan.” As Petersen notes, the aim of the GOLO diet is to address and lower increased blood sugar levels that are caused by insulin resistance, which is associated with the eventual development of cardiovascular disease. By addressing insulin resistance—in part with the supplement—GOLO claims to speed up your metabolism, resulting in fat loss.
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GOLO says on their plan, you actually “stop dieting.” Instead, you simply take Release, which the company claims helps regulate insulin, prodding your body to lose weight without calorie counting or restrictive eating. There are a few recommended foods—and some discouraged foods—which is common for many diets.
While the website does list studies confirming the safety of Release and efficacy of the GOLO diet for weight loss, it’s worth noting that both pilot studies and those published are funded or sponsored by GOLO in some way and the subject pools were very small.
People on the GOLO diet receive booklets outlining the metabolic program, which recommends consuming 1,300 to 1,800 calories a day across three meals (and each meal is followed by a Release capsule). While everyone has the same food guidelines, your specific caloric intake recommendation is based on your gender, age, current weight and activity level. GOLO also provides eating guidelines, encouraging you to eat more whole foods (including fruits, vegetables, meats, eggs and grains) while avoiding sugar and processed foods. It reassures you can eat out while on the plan as well. A minimum of 15 minutes of exercise a day is also encouraged.
Before starting a diet plan, special considerations should be made if you have pre-existing conditions.
“Important considerations include kidney function—you don’t want to do too high protein if kidney function is impaired,” says Melina B. Jampolis, M.D., who maintains a small private nutrition practice in Los Angeles and is a Forbes Health Advisory Board member. “And if you are taking insulin or an oral medication for diabetes, it may need to be adjusted as you are losing weight or if you are making major changes to your diet to avoid your blood sugar dropping too low.”
ou can’t discuss the GOLO diet without highlighting Release, the diet’s official supplement. The first thing to note is while the supplement was made in a laboratory regulated by the FDA, the agency cannot regulate dietary supplements and therefore cannot prove the safety or efficacy of their claims. The supplement itself claims to promote healthy weight loss by increasing your metabolism and balancing insulin levels, while providing added benefits such as improved energy, reduced hunger and reduced stress and anxiety.
Release contains “seven natural, plant-based ingredients and three minerals,” including:
These ingredients are generally recognized as safe by the FDA.
Petersen says the amounts of many of the minerals and ingredients in Release aren’t large enough to do much in the way of reversing mineral deficiency or adding impact. She specifically notes apple extract, which includes fiber, is the last ingredient in the proprietary blend ingredient list, indicating a smaller concentration of it in the supplement. “Maintaining optimal levels of these minerals is a good idea, but there is nothing particularly special or weight loss-stimulating in the formula,” she adds.
Just because these ingredients are generally recognized as safe doesn’t mean you shouldn’t exercise caution when taking the supplement. Especially if you have a pre-existing condition such as diabetes that you take medication to treat.
“For supplements in general, people should not assume that just because a supplement is natural that it is safe for everyone and won’t interact with other medications or cause side effects,” explains Dr. Jampolis. “They should talk to their pharmacist or [or physician] to make sure that what they are taking is safe for them.”
Petersen breaks down the foods emphasized on the GOLO diet, which can be found in a booklet you receive for free when you first purchase Release:
The encouraged foods consist of whole, unprocessed foods, and Petersen adds that the list is fairly encompassing of most general food groups. However, she has some issues with a few of GOLO’s recommendations, like how it emphasizes animal protein, yet doesn’t provide recommendations on the type and quality of that protein. Petersen also notes there aren’t any specifics on food quality emphasized in other categories, including seafood, which can sometimes contain high levels of mercury and be harmful for young kids, women who plan on becoming pregnant, are pregnant or who are breastfeeding, according to the Food and Drug Administration.
Foods discouraged on the GOLO diet include:
Overall, this list is inclusive of foods linked to poor health and inflammation. It’s worth noting that these foods are simply discouraged, as the GOLO diet emphasizes that they don’t restrict foods. However, even when discussing eating out, GOLO notes you should follow its guidelines so you don’t “sabotage your efforts.”
Indeed, Dr. Jampolis notes that added sugars can actually lead to insulin-resistance, which is, of course, a main theory behind the GOLO diet and its supplement. She notes that some of the top sources of added sugars include beverages—such as soft drinks and flavored juices—packaged snacks, breakfast cereals, sweetened fruit yogurt and dairy products.
The GOLO diet plan itself is “free;” however, you must purchase the Release supplement in order to access the details of the eating plan.
One bottle of 90 Release capsules costs $49.95, and GOLO encourages users to take one capsule with each meal. Therefore, one bottle lasts about four weeks. You can get a discount if you buy multiple bottles at once.
The ingredients in the Release supplement are considered safe by the FDA—and following the “Metabolic Plan” may help establish sustaining healthy habits for individuals after they stop taking Release. However, as with any diet, an individual’s results and benefits will vary from person to person.
“Certainly emphasizing whole foods and healthy fats and encouraging exercise are all well-established healthy lifestyle elements,” notes Petersen.
There are no true risks with the GOLO diet (aside from some risks for people with diabetes). However, as with any diet, individuals should talk to their doctors before they begin. The biggest problem with the GOLO diet is the lack of concrete evidence of its efficacy—all relevant studies are funded by GOLO—so weight loss claims of 1 to 2 pounds a week are unverified. Still, weight loss at this rate is safer than diets that promise rapid and massive weight loss.
“Most health websites include a statement that the product/website is ‘not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease,’” explains Petersen. “The GOLO site includes this statement, but it also claims to ‘heal metabolic dysfunction,’ which could be misleading.”
Additionally, due to lack of research, there’s no indication as to how long weight loss results (if any) will last. GOLO notes that most people take Release for about three to six months, and it’s unknown whether any weight loss is sustained beyond that time period.
“Generally, reducing calories overall—the program decreases the average man’s intake by 700 calories and a woman’s by 500 calories—eliminating ‘empty calories’ associated with sweets and baked goods and increasing your exercise will likely create weight loss for many who try it,” says Petersen. “But whether it will be stable and long-lasting is another question, and there is no research on this particular program to provide that data.”
In terms of ending the diet, GOLO’s website states that since Release is safe for long-term use, “you can take it as long as you want or phase out as your metabolism improves and you reach your goal weight. Some people choose to continue at a lower dosage once they reach their goal.”
As with any diet, you should consult your physician or nutritionist to determine if the GOLO diet is a fit for your current health and wellness goals. While the diet recommendations and ingredients in Release are generally safe, there’s no concrete evidence that the GOLO diet is a more effective diet for weight loss than other diets.
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The GOLO Release supplement can be purchased on GOLO’s website. Currently, the company offers one bottle of 90 capsules for $49.95, two bottles for $79.90 and three bottles for $99.90.
The GOLO Release supplement features seven plant-based ingredients and three minerals. Specifically, it includes magnesium, zinc and chromium, as well as a proprietary blend of ingredients containing rhodiola extract and apple extract.
GOLO recommends consuming one capsule three times daily during or at the end of each meal, though dosage may differ depending on how much weight you’re aiming to lose. Full dosage instructions are included with the purchase of the supplement, according to the company.
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Ashley Lauretta is a journalist based in Austin, Texas. Her bylines can be found in WIRED, the Atlantic, SELF, ELLE, elemental, espnW, Men’s Journal and more.
Toby Amidor is a registered dietitian, nutrition expert, food safety consultant, instructor, speaker and author in New York City. Through Toby Amidor Nutrition, PC, she provides nutrition and food safety consulting services for individuals, restaurants and food brands. For over 12 years, Amidor has served as a nutrition expert for FoodNetwork.com and is a founding contributor to the website’s Healthy Eats blog. She has also written Today’s Dietitian magazine’s “Ask the Expert” column for the past eight years. She is an adjunct professor at CUNY Hunter School of Public Urban Health in New York City where she teaches food service management. Amidor is also the author of eight cookbooks, one of which is a Wall Street Journal bestseller.