GOLO Diet 101: Benefits, Risks, Foods To Eat & Avoid 2022

Lindsey Jerke

Updated on - Written by
Medically reviewed by Kathy Shattler, MS, RDN

what is golo diet

Makers of GOLO believe they have the answer that will help you stop on and off dieting.  It is hard to lose weight and keep it off no matter how much effort and discipline you dedicate if your body can’t utilize energy appropriately.

The GOLO diet plan is based on the theory that metabolic insufficiencies are to blame for the everyday challenges of losing weight.  GOLO uses a nutrition plan plus a proprietary supplement with each meal to tackle weight loss goals. 

Curious about the name GOLO? According to the company’s website, it is short for “go lose” weight. We’ll review the ins and outs of this plan and discuss the 

What Is The GOLO Diet?

The GOLO diet was developed in 2009 to target metabolic health and insulin resistance as the key to successful weight loss.  The program involves nutrition recommendations for healthy meals plus a dietary supplement called Release that is taken with every meal. 

The specifics of the meal plan must be purchased to review fully, but the company’s website states their diet recommendations are focused on whole foods and balanced meals. They encourage foods such as meat, eggs, yogurt, fruits, whole grains, vegetables, and healthy fats.  There are no excessive dietary restrictions but rather recommendations for balance in each meal. The plan is focused on a “2-1-2-1” approach to building meals –two portions of protein, one portion of carbohydrate foods, two portions of vegetables, and one portion of healthy fats per meal. 

The Release supplement contains several plant extracts and three minerals–magnesium, zinc, and chromium. It does not contain any stimulants or caffeine. According to the company’s website, Release helps to improve insulin resistance, stimulate your fat metabolism, and control cravings, among other benefits.  

How Does GOLO Work To Reduce Weight?

GOLO’s philosophy is the importance of a healthy metabolism to lose weight. You may eat healthy foods and exercise regularly but still, struggle to lose weight if your body doesn’t have an efficient metabolism and an optimal hormonal balance. 

Their answer is targeting insulin resistance.  Insulin is a hormone that regulates energy absorption from broken-down carbohydrates, proteins, and fats by the cells. Insulin signals whether glucose should be used for energy in the cells. This is called insulin resistance if your body cannot respond correctly to insulin. Blood glucose and blood insulin levels will rise with insulin resistance.

If you have insulin resistance, your body isn’t efficiently using your food’s energy, which is then stored. It also increases cravings and hunger cues. Despite adequate calorie intake, you feel hungry because your body can’t utilize the available energy properly. 

Exactly how the ingredients in the Release supplement work to improve insulin resistance isn’t fully addressed by the company.  Some investigative research on the ingredients in the supplement does provide some clues, however. 

Zinc deficiency has been studied as having a role in diabetes and obesity[1]. It acts as a transporter in insulin signaling, so inadequate zinc may affect insulin action[2], promoting obesity. There is 91% of the daily value (DV) for zinc in the Release supplement, or 10 milligrams (mg).

Magnesium[3] has been studied for its role in glucose metabolism in the cell.  Without adequate magnesium, the body’s ability to break down glucose for energy may be impaired. There is a mere 4% of the DV for magnesium in the supplement, so it’s unlikely to contribute much to the pool of essential nutrients for this mineral.

Chromium[4] has less evidence to support a role in impaired metabolism, but preliminary work indicates a possible connection. There is 200% of the DV or 70 micrograms (mcg) of this essential mineral in the Release supplement. Chromium has no tolerable upper limit established because of its safety.

What these micronutrients have in common is they are frequently low in observed obese individuals.  The evidence as to their potential therapeutic benefit for obesity is still limited.

What about the plant extracts in Release?  These also have limited research but may act similarly.  Plant extracts like Rhodiola[5], banaba leaf extract[6], gardenia extract[7], and berberine[8] in the supplement have some positive studies, but overall, currently, there is very limited evidence on these plant extracts relative to the treatment of obesity. GOLO states on its website that there are over 100 studies that support the safety of the ingredients in Release, but they don’t have references to any particular study to follow up on their claims. 

A 2019 double-blind, placebo-controlled study for 13 weeks on 68 obese subjects on the GOLO plan with Release supplements versus a control group showed a significantly greater weight loss[9] and reduced insulin resistance with overall improved metabolic parameters in the treatment group as compared to the placebo.  

It is important to always follow the dosing instructions for Release that the company provides. 

Pros & Cons Of GOLO Diet

There are pros and cons to most diet plans because weight loss isn’t a one-size fits all solution.  There are many individual factors to consider. So, let’s discuss the pros and cons of the GOLO diet.

Pros

  • No foods or food groups are expressly restricted. The GOLO diet encourages whole foods, but treats and restaurant meals are not completely out of the picture.  
  • Balance is encouraged among food groups, which is a good thing!
  • No calorie counting or food journaling is required, so the plan is pretty flexible and user-friendly
  • The plan’s principles are evidence-based.  Metabolic syndrome and insulin resistance can play a pivotal role in obesity treatment, and weight loss challenges

Cons

The Release supplement, which is a main pillar of the program, is a major hurdle for several reasons. 

  • The cost. One bottle of 90 pills is about $60 currently on the website, which should last about one month if you take one pill with three meals per day. GOLO states most people take the supplements for 3-6 months for desired results. 
  • Research on the efficacy of the ingredients is pretty limited. It may or may not work as intended, although the 2019 research study[9] on the program showed weight loss with and without the supplement.
  • While there is no evidence for significant safety concerns for the ingredients in the supplement, there isn’t a lot confirming their safety either.  
  • What happens when you stop taking the supplement? Is it difficult to maintain your weight loss? The company does not address this, and further study is needed.
  • The plan assumes you have insulin resistance or metabolic dysfunction, which is likely not the case for everyone, and it thus may be unnecessary treatment. However, the obese state is one in which insulin resistance[10] is frequently found, which is one reason why obesity is a risk factor for type 2 diabetes.

Foods To Eat

While the food plan is not available for full review without purchasing the supplements, the GOLO official webpage mentions some limited specifics for what foods you should eat.  This includes whole, unprocessed foods such as

  • Animal proteins including meats, fish, eggs, milk, yogurt, and cheese
  • Fruits and vegetables
  • Legumes such as pinto beans and black beans
  • Whole grains such as brown rice or quinoa
  • Healthy fats and oils such as avocado oil, hemp seeds, chia seeds
  • Nuts such as cashews, walnuts, almonds and macadamia nuts

Foods To Avoid

GOLO’s philosophy discourages foods that are typically recognized as those with limited health benefits.  This includes

  • Added sugar
  • Artificial sweeteners
  • Processed meats including sausages, hot dogs, lunch meat, and plant-based meat alternatives
  • Sweetened beverages and baked goods
  • Refined snacks such as crackers, chips, pretzels, etc.

Restaurant meals and fast food meals are not encouraged but can be included occasionally.  These typically high-fat and high-calorie meals should be compensated for to minimize the impact on your overall energy intake. According to other GOLO review sites, you can expect to eat between 1300-1800 calories daily on the plan.

Sample Menu On The GOLO Diet

Foods are categorized on the GOLO plan based on GOLO’s “metabolic fuel matrix” in which there are four “fuel” groups- healthy fats, proteins, carbohydrates consisting of whole grains and fruits, and lastly, vegetables. 

Each meal consists of one or two foods from each of the four fuel groups based on specified portion sizes. Portion sizes may differ from the serving size you read on the nutrition facts label, so it’s important to pay attention to portions on the GOLO plan. 

If you were following the main principles of the GOLO diet and their two protein-one carbohydrate-two vegetables-one fat approach to each meal, a full day may look like this: 

Breakfast:

  • 2 scrambled eggs with roasted broccoli (2 protein portions + 2 vegetable portions)
  • 1 slice whole grain bread with butter (1 carbohydrate portion + 1 fat portion)

Lunch:

  • Turkey Burger Patty[11]  (2 protein portions, 1 carbohydrate portion)
  • Side Salad with Dressing (2 vegetable portions, 1 fat portion)

Dinner:

  • Salmon Teriyaki[12] (2 protein portions)
  • Bok Choy sauteed with oil (2 vegetable portions + 1 fat portion)
  • ½ cup Sliced Strawberries (1 carbohydrate portion)

Note that fruit is considered a carbohydrate portion when it comes to the GOLO diet.  It’s also unclear what the GOLO diet says about snacks. In the materials available, snacks are not mentioned. One can only conclude snacks are not encouraged.  

The GOLO blog has a recipe database available without a customer login. You can browse the recipes and get an idea of what a day of meals may look like on the GOLO diet and get some inspiration. 

Is The GOLO Diet A Healthy Choice For You?

The main principles of the “GOLO for life” plan seem to be a good option for healthy diet choices.  The plan does not eliminate any major food groups or encourage significant restrictions.  The emphasis is on whole foods, fresh fruits, lots of vegetables, and healthy fats. 

The supplement is a main tenet of the program, though it is a concerning choice that should be considered carefully.  The dietary supplement industry[13] is not highly regulated, so it is important to do your research when considering taking a supplement.  The ingredients in Release do not appear to have any safety concerns, but research is limited, particularly on the proprietary formula. 

The monthly cost of the supplement should also be considered. Currently, about a one-month’s supply of Release costs $59.95.  There is no auto-ship or auto-billing, so you won’t be charged for any supplement you didn’t order, which is a plus. If the average customer takes Release for six months, that is a $350+ investment, although you can save money when ordering multiple bottles. 

As you consider whether this is a healthy choice for you, it’s always important to first talk with your doctor before starting a supplement and diet regimen.  


+ 13 sources

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  1. Olechnowicz, J., Tinkov, A., Skalny, A. and Suliburska, J. (2017). Zinc status is associated with inflammation, oxidative stress, lipid, and glucose metabolism. The Journal of Physiological Sciences, [online] 68(1), pp.19–31. doi:10.1007/s12576-017-0571-7.
  2. Fukunaka, A. and Fujitani, Y. (2018). Role of Zinc Homeostasis in the Pathogenesis of Diabetes and Obesity. International Journal of Molecular Sciences, [online] 19(2), p.476. doi:10.3390/ijms19020476.
  3. Piuri, G., Zocchi, M., Della Porta, M., Ficara, V., Manoni, M., Zuccotti, G.V., Pinotti, L., Maier, J.A. and Cazzola, R. (2021). Magnesium in Obesity, Metabolic Syndrome, and Type 2 Diabetes. Nutrients, [online] 13(2), p.320. doi:10.3390/nu13020320.
  4. SUBJECT INDEX. (2019). Essential Metals in Medicine: Therapeutic Use and Toxicity of Metal Ions in the Clinic, [online] pp.393–412. doi:10.1515/9783110527872-015.
  5. Bai, X.-L., Deng, X.-L., Wu, G.-J., Li, W.-J. and Jin, S. (2019). Rhodiola and salidroside in the treatment of metabolic disorders. Mini-Reviews in Medicinal Chemistry, [online] 19(19), pp.1611–1626. doi:10.2174/1389557519666190903115424.
  6. López-Murillo, L.D., González-Ortiz, M., Martínez-Abundis, E., Cortez-Navarrete, M. and Pérez-Rubio, K.G. (2022). Effect of Banaba (Lagerstroemia speciosa) on Metabolic Syndrome, Insulin Sensitivity, and Insulin Secretion. Journal of Medicinal Food, [online] 25(2), pp.177–182. doi:10.1089/jmf.2021.0039.
  7. Meng, X., Wu, C., Liu, H., Tang, Q. and Nie, X. (2021). Dietary fibers fractionated from gardenia ( Gardenia jasminoides Ellis) husk: structure and in vitro hypoglycemic effect. Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture, [online] 101(9), pp.3723–3731. doi:10.1002/jsfa.11003.
  8. Imenshahidi, M. and Hosseinzadeh, H. (2019). Berberine and barberry (Berberis vulgaris): A clinical review. Phytotherapy Research, [online] 33(3), pp.504–523. doi:10.1002/ptr.6252.
  9. J Buynak, R. (2019). A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study evaluating the effects of the GOLO weight management program with and without Release supplement on weight and metabolic parameters in subjects with obesity. Trends in Diabetes and Metabolism, 2(1). doi:10.15761/tdm.1000109.
  10. Hoddy, K.K., Axelrod, C.L., Mey, J.T., Hari, A., Beyl, R.A., Blair, J.B., Dantas, W.S. and Kirwan, J.P. (2021). Insulin resistance persists despite a metabolically healthy obesity phenotype. Obesity, [online] 30(1), pp.39–44. doi:10.1002/oby.23312.
  11. Covington, E. (2019). Tasty Turkey Burgers. [online] GOLO. Available at: https://www.golo.com/blogs/recipes/tasty-turkey-burgers
  12. Covington, E. (2019). Salmon Teriyaki with Bok Choy. [online] GOLO. Available at: https://www.golo.com/blogs/recipes/salmon-teriyaki-with-bok-choy
  13. Center (2022). Dietary Supplements. [online] U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Available at: https://www.fda.gov/food/dietary-supplements
Lindsey Jerke

Medically reviewed by:

Kathy Shattler

Lindsey Jerke has over 10 years of experience as a registered dietitian working in the clinical setting and now in the food industry in regulatory compliance.

Medically reviewed by:

Kathy Shattler

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