Golo Diet 101: Pros, Cons, Reviews, Pricing, What to Eat, More – Everyday Health

The Golo diet, also known as the Golo Metabolic Plan, was launched in 2009. (1) According to the diet's official website, it was developed by a “team of dedicated doctors and pharmacists,” but it’s unclear exactly who they are. To follow Golo, you eat “1,300 to 1,500 nutritionally dense calories” per day, and take a dietary supplement called Release. The goal, according to the website, is to maintain lean body mass, reduce risk of disease, and look and feel better. (2)
The plan hinges on the idea of regaining control of your metabolic health, including making your metabolism “more efficient,” addressing insulin resistance (insulin is a hormone that plays a role in fat storage, and insulin resistance is a hallmark of prediabetes and type 2 diabetes), and balancing hormones (such as hunger and stress hormones). (3) The first element, insulin resistance, appears to be the most important target of the program. The company states on its website that the dietary supplement stops weight gain and is able to “reverse insulin resistance” in order for your body to “release stored fat.” (4) Golo makes some really big medical claims, including that its customers have reported fewer symptoms of PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome), have been cured of prediabetes or type 2 diabetes, and have lowered their blood pressure and cholesterol.
One positive aspect of Golo is that you are encouraged to eat good-for-you foods. “The plan appears to be a whole-foods, healthy-eating plan that prioritizes fruits, vegetables, lean protein, nuts, and whole grains over refined grains,” says Samantha Cassetty, RD, of New York City. “This would be a very healthy plan to promote a healthier weight and positive health outcomes,” she says.
With the focus on whole foods, there’s less reliance on processed foods, and that on its own may be a boon to your health. (1) Cassetty points to a study published in the journal Cell Metabolism in May 2019 that suggests that this way of eating may be favorable to weight loss. (5) The study was small (consisting of only 20 adults), but for two weeks, participants ate either an ultra-processed or an unprocessed diet. Then they switched diets for another two weeks. When eating processed fare, participants consumed 500 more calories (from carbs and fat) than the fresh-food dieters, and gained about two pounds. As for those on the diet with fresh food? They lost two pounds. “People who eat processed foods don’t fill up as quickly and eat faster, so they consume more food,” says Cassetty.
This diet relies on a supplement called Release. According to the company’s FAQ, Release is made of seven natural plant-based ingredients and three minerals: (6)
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It is touted as a weight loss supplement that is supposed to prevent insulin levels from rising. Limited evidence shows that banaba leaf extract may be used for lowering blood glucose levels in people with diabetes. (7) Rhodiola rosea is a flowering plant that may affect cells that store fat, particularly in the midsection, per a study in the May 2015 issue of Molecules. (8)
Still, this preliminary research is not solid evidence that this supplement — or any weight loss supplement with these ingredients — is a silver bullet. In fact, according to Cassetty, “there has never been a supplement that materially and meaningfully boosts your weight loss for any sustainable or long-term period.”
What’s more, there are potential safety issues with the Release supplement. “I’m a bit concerned about the supplement,” says Emmaline Rasmussen, RDN, the owner of Sound Nutrition in Chicago. She suggests that anyone interested consult a physician and registered dietitian before trying the Golo diet, especially those who are managing diabetes. “Diabetes may be regulated with medication, and it can be potentially dangerous to start a diet that claims to impact insulin levels without medical supervision,” she says.
While the company claims that the supplement is safe to take with medications, at the very least you’ll want to ask your healthcare team if your meds should be adjusted. (6) You may also be taking medication for high blood pressure, a condition that this diet claims to help improve. In that case, your doctor should keep tabs on any progress and assess if your prescription needs to be adjusted in any way.
There is a lack of peer-reviewed research published in a medical journal on the Golo diet. One of the company's pilot studies did not have a placebo group. (9) A placebo group is required to meet the gold-standard in research, because it helps scientists assess whether study results are attributable to the intervention in question. Peer review is critical, too, says Cassetty: “If research does not go through that rigor, the results are not as meaningful,” she says.
A small randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study on Golo did appear in the peer-reviewed journal Trends in Diabetes and Metabolism in May 2019 and is linked on the company’s website. (10) It consisted of 68 participants, and those who followed the Golo diet and took Release lost about 13 pounds over 13 weeks compared with the placebo group, who lost about 7.5 pounds. For perspective, keep in mind that the study was small, and 13 weeks amounts to short-term results — it’s not clear what happened to these participants after three months. Most experts will tell you it’s easy to lose weight on any diet if you follow it for such a short time, and the true test of a diet is whether it leads to sustained results over several months or years.
It’s entirely possible you will lose weight on the Golo diet. But experts including Rasmussen attribute that more to the calorie restriction than to the Release supplement. “When reducing calories, most people will lose weight,” she says.
It’s easy to find a number of rave reviews on the Golo website, with people displaying their “before” and “after” bodies. “This promotes an idea that there’s one look to health, but bodies come in a lot of different sizes, and healthy does not have a look,” adds Cassetty.
To start the diet, you will order the Release supplement. Along with the supplement, you will receive the Golo for Life plan (a guidebook) and free support (meal plans, coach support, exclusive products), which the company says is a $199 value.
How much Release you purchase appears to be tied to how much weight you’d like to lose. This is what’s currently listed on their website: (11)
Here’s a sample list of foods you can eat and ones you should avoid on the Golo diet.
According to the website, foods that are encouraged are: (2,6,12)
There are few restrictions beyond the focus on nutrient-dense whole foods. But you're encouraged to avoid highly processed products like diet shakes, bars, and meal replacements. (1) Also limit or avoid heavily refined and processed foods and snacks in general.
According to a video on Golo’s YouTube channel, you should organize your meals in suggested serving ratios. (13)
Breakfast 1 fat, 2 proteins, 2 carbohydrates, 1 vegetable
Lunch 1 fat, 2 proteins, 1 carbohydrate, 2 vegetables
Dinner 1 fat, 1 protein, 1 carbohydrate, 2 vegetables
One overarching idea of the Golo plan is to spend one to two hours per week on meal prep. You can then prepackage containers with foods in their correct ratios and grab and go throughout the week. Doing it this way means you’ll likely repeat meals and foods throughout the week.
Breakfast 2 hardboiled eggs, overnight oats made with zucchini, chia seeds, and coconut flakes
Lunch Chicken, salad greens, sweet potatoes, and coconut oil
Snack Celery sticks
Dinner Chicken, broccoli cooked in coconut oil, sweet potatoes
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