You’ve probably seen the infomercials and online ads at some point: People swear they lost massive amounts of weight on the GOLO diet. “No subscriptions, just real results that last,” one commercial promises as before and after pictures flash on the screen. But does GOLO weight loss really work? And more importantly, is it the right choice for you?
Meet the Experts: Jessica Cording, R.D., C.D.N., a dietitian and health coach, and author of The Little Book of Game-Changers; Keri Gans, M.S., R.D.N., author of The Small Change Diet; Gina Keatley, C.D.N., co-owner of Keatley Medical Nutrition Therapy; Scott Keatley, R.D., of Keatley Medical Nutrition Therapy; Julie Upton, M.S., R.D., co-founder of nutrition website Appetite for Health.
Long story short, there are many reasons why you should be skeptical of any so-called miracle supplement that promises that the weight will fall off just like that. Ahead, dietitians explain everything you need to know before considering the GOLO diet and why the popular plan may not be worth your money.
What is the GOLO diet?
GOLO is a program that claims to help you lose weight sustainably by regulating your hormones—specifically insulin—using a supplement formulated and created by the brand called Release (more on that later).
GOLO is based on the concept that insulin, a hormone that helps regulate your blood sugar, can interfere with your ability to lose weight. The GOLO website claims that developing insulin resistance can cause your body to store fat and slow your metabolism.
By following the recommended dosage of the brand’s supplement and the brand’s eating plan (which comes free with the purchase of supplements), GOLO promises to “keep your hormones in check” by “controlling” glucose (a.k.a. blood sugar) and “eliminating conventional starvation dieting” so you can lose weight and keep it off.
What kind of foods do you eat on GOLO?
Unless you purchase GOLO’s booklets—The GOLO for Life Plan and Overcoming Diet Obstacles, which come free with the purchase of supplements—it’s not exactly clear how or what you would eat in a typical day. However, the website claims the low-calorie diet plan includes 1,300 to 1,500 “nutritionally dense calories” from “whole, affordable foods like eggs, poultry, fish, meats, fruits, vegetables, whole grains including potatoes and bread (with minimal ingredients), and healthy fats like olive oil.”
Here’s a list of what you can eat on the GOLO diet, broken down by the program’s food categories. Note: some foods can fit into more than one category—beans are both a protein and a carbohydrate.
Proteins: Beef, chicken, pork, salmon, eggs, beans, legumes, tofu, tempeh, bone broth, dairy (including yogurt, cheese, and milk)
Carbohydrates: Whole grains (such as brown rice, oats, quinoa, barley, whole wheat bread and pasta), fruit, beans, and legumes
Vegetables: All vegetables
Fats: Butter, olive oil, coconut oil, avocado, nuts, and seeds
The GOLO diet also advocates limiting the following foods:
- Processed meats (like deli meat or hot dogs)
- Processed meat substitute products
- Refined carbohydrates (such as white bread or white rice)
- Processed foods or drinks high in salt or sugar
What is the GOLO diet supplement?
GOLO’s Release supplement, which can run up to $120 for a 90-day supply, is the key factor that separates it from other weight loss plans. The capsules contain the minerals zinc, chromium, and magnesium, various plant extracts, a thickener, and citric acid. They do not contain soy, gluten, dairy, eggs, fish or shellfish, tree nuts, peanuts, or wheat.
GOLO claims on its site that “people who followed the GOLO For Life Plan together with Release got amazing results. They lost weight and inches, especially around their waist,” pointing to “several studies,” which were funded by the company, as its backing. While there are highlights from this research listed, GOLO doesn’t explain how the ingredients in the supplement support its promises, like regulating metabolism, slowing digestion, and reducing stress.
In general, GOLO recommends taking one capsule with each meal, increasing or reducing the dose “depending on your weight loss goals and metabolic health status,” (of which the latter has no concrete definition).
The GOLO diet also makes the claim that the supplement “is considered safe to take with medications and has no known side effects,” which is always a discussion you should have with your doctor, regardless of the pill you plan on taking.
Dietary supplements are products intended to supplement the diet. They are not medicines and are not intended to treat, diagnose, mitigate, prevent, or cure diseases. Be cautious about taking dietary supplements if you are pregnant or nursing. Also, be careful about giving supplements to a child, unless recommended by their healthcare provider.
For these reasons, nutritionists are hard-pressed to recommend or support the GOLO diet. “I’m wary of any diet that is supplement-based because they’re not regulated the way medications are regulated,” says Jessica Cording, R.D., C.D.N., a dietitian and health coach, and author of The Little Book of Game-Changers. “I would not feel comfortable recommending this to anyone, especially if they were not under the care of a physician who can monitor them.”
Supplements “perpetuate a cycle of dieting,” Cording adds. “If someone is promising big things with supplements, run in the other direction.”
Keri Gans, M.S., R.D.N., author of The Small Change Diet, adds that there is “no conclusive scientific evidence to support the claims of this diet that include the Release supplement.”
What is the downside of GOLO?
In addition to supplement skepticism, experts have some concerns about the GOLO diet’s core principles. “The reason they give to go on this diet is that you have a slow metabolism—which is most likely true as compared to 16-year-old you, but research has shown that metabolism does not slow noticeably from about ages 25 to 65,” says Gina Keatley, C.D.N., co-owner of Keatley Medical Nutrition Therapy.
Keatley questions the claim that insulin resistance is the universal cause of a slowed metabolism. “While the body’s ability to handle sugar and insulin plays a role in metabolism, it is less than 20% of the equation,” she says. Keatley is also concerned about the recommended calorie intake of 1,300 to 1,500 calories a day. That, she says, “is really low for most people over 130 pounds.”
The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recommends that adult cis women have between 1,600 and 2,400 calories a day, while cis men should strive to have between 2,000 and 3,200 daily calories. Dropping below the minimum amount is not considered healthy, so always consult your doctor or dietitian before starting a calorie-deficit diet to ensure that you are still getting enough calories for your health.
So, can the GOLO diet help you lose weight?
The company has plenty of testimonials from people on its website and it points to studies online that it says prove the diet can help you lose weight. But—and this is a big but—again, the studies were paid for by GOLO and cannot be found on peer-reviewed databases, says Julie Upton, M.S., R.D., co-founder of nutrition website Appetite for Health.
GOLO says that the studies were “preliminary” and didn’t include a placebo control, meaning it didn’t compare the results people got with the GOLO diet against people who weren’t on GOLO. Translation: “There is absolutely no conclusive scientific evidence to support any of these claims,” says Gans, meaning it’s hard to tell whether or not the plan will actually work for you.
However, one potential perk is that the diet encourages fruits and vegetables, and doesn’t have a long list of foods to avoid “which is rather refreshing,” Gans adds.
And given that it seems to follow a standard weight loss formula, you may drop some pounds. “Decreasing calories and consuming more whole foods like lean protein, fresh fruit, and vegetables is a great way to lose weight,” says Scott Keatley, R.D., of Keatley Medical Nutrition Therapy.
As for GOLO’s claim that insulin resistance is the main reason why many people have trouble losing weight, Gans says it’s not that simple. “Bottom line: If you eat too many refined carbs than your body needs for energy, it will store the excess as fat,” she says.
If it wasn’t clear already, the consensus among all the experts we consulted is that you should not expect this so-called miracle pill to be the answer to your weight loss plan. “I always shy away from pills that have substances which have not been well studied,” Keatley says, and we advise you to do the same.
The bottom line
“This is the TB12 of dieting plans,” Keatley says. “There is enough science to make this seem like a great idea but has all the hallmarks of pseudoscience.”
“Any program that requires you to purchase their proprietary food or supplements, run—don’t walk—away from it!” says Upton. Instead, she simply recommends focusing on eating more vegetables, fruit, and whole grains, and limiting low-quality food choices, like processed foods and refined carbs. “For 99% of people, that’s enough to help them lose weight and keep it off,” Upton notes.
And if you really want to find a specific plan to follow, there are options out there that do have tons of peer-reviewed research to back up claims, like the Mediterranean diet, DASH diet, and flexitarian diet.
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.
Madeleine, Prevention’s assistant editor, has a history with health writing from her experience as an editorial assistant at WebMD, and from her personal research at university. She graduated from the University of Michigan with a degree in biopsychology, cognition, and neuroscience—and she helps strategize for success across Prevention’s social media platforms.