It seems like there are a bazillion diets out, all with the same promise: to help you lose weight. And while each one has its own method of doing so, the GOLO diet is centered around tackling the hormonal issue that messes with your ability to lose weight. GOLO reviews are mixed, so you may be wondering whether it really works.
So, what exactly is the GOLO diet? It zeros in on the hormone insulin as the reason some people can't lose weight even when they're doing everything right. Out-of-whack insulin levels can interfere with weight loss even if you’re eating healthy foods and exercising regularly because it “causes fat storage and slows your metabolism,” per the GOLO program's website.
That's why the GOLO diet offers a plan that promises to help you lose weight by "balancing hormones that affect weight, helping to regulate blood sugar levels, supporting proper glucose metabolism and managing fatigue, while allowing your body to become naturally efficient at releasing stored fat versus storing it," according to the website.
Hormone imbalance can definitely make weight loss way more difficult than it should be. "For example, some people with an underactive thyroid struggle to lose weight because their body isn’t producing enough hormones," says Roxana Ehsani, RD, a National Media Spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. But in that case, it's thyroid hormones they're missing, not insulin. "Or if you are always super stressed, your cortisol constantly being activated could cause you to gain weight as well."
So, the GOLO diet’s theory behind managing your hormones to help you lose weight is sound, says Ehsani. However, it targets insulin specifically, not other hormones that could be problematic. And the brand recommends using their supplement to manage your insulin hormone, but the evidence on that is a little fuzzy.
Is the GOLO diet actually effective for weight loss, and more importantly, is it safe? Here's what you need to know about the program before jumping in.
Meet the experts: Roxana Ehsani, RD, is a national media spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. She regularly appears on morning shows in Baltimore and Washington, DC. She previously served as the sports performance dietitian for Georgetown University's Division I Athletic Department.
Jessica Crandall Snyder, RDN, is a recognized expert in the nutrition and wellness industry, serving as an expert resource on numerous national news outlets. She is also a personal trainer and an Aerobics and Fitness Association of America-certified group fitness instructor.
Peter LePort, MD, is a general surgeon in private practice in Orange County, California. He is a member of the faculty of the American College of surgeons, the Orange County Surgical Society, and the American Society of Bariatric Surgeons.
What exactly does the GOLO diet involve?
You can eat "fresh meats, fruits, vegetables, and healthy fats—and of course fresh breads, pasta, and butter," according to GOLO's site. It seems that no foods are considered off-limits, which is good, according to Jessica Crandall, RDN, who is a certified diabetes educator and the founder and owner of Vital RD.
To follow this diet, you need to purchase the diet's booklets and a 30-, 60-, or 90-day supply of its Release weight-loss supplement (ranging from $40 to $90) to get information about portion sizes or calorie intake. So, you do need to pay for the program in order to get the full details, Crandall notes.
What does the GOLO diet Release supplement do?
The GOLO diet relies on the program's Release supplement, which was "designed with plant-based ingredients," according to the company website. You take it with every meal, or possibly less often depending on how much weight you want to lose.
The website lists all of the ingredients in the supplement, which include minerals like zinc, chromium, and magnesium; and plant extracts like Banaba leaf extract and rhodiola rosea), and cites that "over 30 studies on the Release ingredients showing both the safety and efficacy of the GOLO Release dietary supplement."
In one 2018, 13-week randomized double-blind placebo-controlled study that's mentioned on the website (but not linked to), overweight people who took Release lost significantly more weight, inches around their waists, and lowered their health risk markers more than folks who took a placebo. GOLO, however, does not provide further information on this study or the other 30 studies it has conducted.
The natural ingredients in the supplement "work together to address the underlying cause of weight gain and helps to repair your metabolism," according to the website. The site also states that the supplement does not interact with other medications and does not cause a jittery feeling (something that many so-called weight-loss pills, especially those with caffeine in them, do cause).
The issue? You can't completely guarantee that a mystery supplement will sit well with you without actually trying it. Crandall and weight-loss expert and bariatric surgeon Peter LePort, MD, agree that it'd be tough to know exactly how Release works to improve insulin resistance and metabolic issues without clearer info. Some of the ingredients could also cause stomach upset or nausea.
Plus, "there are no real studies that weren’t company-funded that will indicate whether or not this supplement will effectively help manage one’s insulin levels thus resulting in weight loss or from following the diet itself," adds Ehsani.
Another thing worth noting about supplements in general: The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) doesn't regulate them, notes Crandall.
Can you lose weight on the GOLO diet?
It's unclear. As mentioned, GOLO cites multiple studies on its website as proof that the diet program really works—but the studies were paid for by the company and weren't found in the peer-reviewed National Library of Medicine database, Crandall says.
It's important to eat a healthy, balanced diet and monitor your caloric intake when trying to lose weight, and the GOLO diet seems to follow these key weight-loss principles. The GOLO diet does encourage a healthy diet of fruits, veggies, fats, and lean protein, says Ehsani.
"People may claim to have lost weight following this diet, but we aren’t able to determine if it was from them starting and following the healthy diet, or starting exercise, or a combination of both or the GOLO supplement," she says. "Therefore, we are unable to state whether or not this specific diet can help you lose weight."
It's also important to be cautious about GOLO's claims regarding insulin, warns Dr. LePort. Here's the deal: When your body releases insulin, you start to feel hungry, says Dr. LePort. GOLO's Release supplement, however, aims to keep insulin levels from rising and essentially trick you into eating less frequently. What Dr. LePort didn’t get from the site was how these plant extracts and minerals actually balance hormones and help you lose weight.
What are the cons of the GOLO diet?
WH advisory board member Amanda Baker Lemein, RD, a nutritionist based in Chicago, says there are some cons to consider. While some people think a pro to the diet is that it doesn't seem like a diet in the traditional sense but a supplement regimen, Lemein says this is actually a hurdle.
Supplements are not a heavily regulated industry, Lemein points out—which means you need to proceed with extreme caution and research before using them. What's more, the plan may not be sustainable. "As a nutrition expert who has counseled many weight-loss clients over the years, this [diet plan] does not evaluate any of the behavioral issues that need to be resolved," Lemein says.
It's also unclear what the long-term effects of taking the supplement are, and it's possible that any ingredients in this supplement could interact with another medication or supp you are taking, Ehsani notes. So always check with your medical provider before starting a new supplement.
And Lemein recommends focusing on making long-lasting lifestyle changes that include healthy, balanced meals (which may look different for everyone) and the ability to allow all foods to fit in moderation.
She also points out that you wouldn't know much about your hormones unless you worked with your doctor to get that information. "It is simply untrue to claim that everyone is insulin-resistant," Lemein says. If someone has concerns about having a hormonal imbalance, they should consult with their physician, who can recommend proper therapies for their individual situation.
Another con? Price. "The GOLO diet is an expensive diet to follow as well, having to purchase the supplement and eating manual," says Ehsani.
What do the reviews say?
Amanda Tsigonias, 36, of Meridian, Idaho, has lost 52.4 pounds on the GOLO diet in the past year, and tells WH, "I still have about 60 pounds to go, so maybe another year to go. But I’m adding exercise this year. So I might have better results by next year."
"The GOLO Release helps me feel full so I eat less, no more snacking, and I don’t crave sweets as much," Tsigonias adds. "I love how they allow delicious options, unlike other strict diets. I can still eat my favorite foods, like potatoes, pastas, and breads. It’s just healthier options, like whole wheat and measured portions. They have an amazing recipe book, as well as hundreds of recipes online. The company is so great too. They help you along the way, reach out to you for support and follow-up. I even joined an empowerment group that meets on Zoom every couple of weeks to stay connected and motivated."
Shanna Booher, 40, from Baldwin, Wisconsin, has enjoyed being on the GOLO diet. She tells WH, "I have been on MANY 'diet plans,' and this is the first to truly use real food, from all food groups. Fats and carbs are no longer off-limits. It's very freeing mentally after diet culture has brainwashed so many of us into eating 'fake food' full of chemicals and replacements. The online community (and moderators) are so helpful and encouraging, and their vast recipe portfolio on the website is so good!"
Out of the 149 reviews available on Amazon (it is currently not for sale on Amazon, however), many people pointed out that they were motivated by all of the materials and resources that you get when you pay for the GOLO diet program and supplements.
"I’m kicking myself for waiting so long to try Golo Release, which I purchased directly from Golo’s website. I’m perimenopausal and deal with hormonal cravings and appetite increase during for about 2 weeks during PMS, not to mention ‘Power of Suggestion’ and emotional snacking. I’ve only been taking this for a few days (one pill three times per day with each meal), and so far, I have not had the urge to snack between meals, nor have I had any sugar cravings, which is a major improvement for me," one person wrote.
Another wrote, "I've only been using this item for a few weeks, and I'm slowly beginning to change my eating habits and use the diet plan materials that came with the supplements. I seem to be able to tolerate this product, have not had any side effects, and have noticed a slight weight loss along with a decrease in appetite."
Another GOLO dieter gave this detailed positive review but was super honest about the fact that you have to really commit to a healthy lifestyle: "I have been taking this product for 9 months ... The product works well with healthy diet and exercise. I cook everything at home, follow the portion of protein intake limit and lots of vegetables, drink a lot of water to keep hydrate ... there is no one-time-fix product which promises to keep your weight loss forever. The game is yourself that depends how do you want to play it. Highly recommend this product for whom would want to live in a healthy life and be happy to enjoy it.
But some people aren't so sure how necessary the Release supplements are when the eating advice in itself seems to be effective on its own. One person wrote, "The diet would work even without this supplement ... Now I'll just follow a low-carb diabetic diet. It does the same thing."
Side effects of the supplements seem to be another issue for some people who have tried the GOLO diet plan. "After about 30 days the pills started to make me nauseated. [I] stopped for a few days and nausea went away. Started again and nausea came back," another consumer commented. "I'll probably stick to a revised edition of the eating plan, that seems to make some sense, but I will cut some of the carbs."
Another critic warned, "Had to stop taking due to the absolutely horrific side effects. Terrible stomach cramps, gas, bloating and did not help with weight loss or curbing appetite. DO NOT BUY."
So should you try the GOLO diet or program?
Dr. LePort doesn’t see anything harmful about the balanced meals that incorporate healthy servings of carbs, proteins, and fats, but, again, the overview of what GOLO meals are made up of is limited unless you pay for the program assets. And, as for the supplements, he can’t speak to their safety or benefits.
If you want to lose weight, your best bet is to eat whole foods and maintain a caloric deficit that is appropriate for your age and weight, says Dr. LePort.
The bottom line: Some of the GOLO diet principles are straightforward weight-loss methods, such as eating whole foods and aiming for a caloric deficit appropriate for your age and weight. But there's not a ton of data on the GOLO diet or the supplements it uses, so proceed with caution.
Alexis Jones is an assistant editor at Women's Health where she writes across several verticals on WomensHealthmag.com, including life, health, sex and love, relationships and fitness, while also contributing to the print magazine. She has a master’s degree in journalism from Syracuse University, lives in Brooklyn, and proudly detests avocados.