The GOLO Program: Science-Based or Typical Fad Diet?

The GOLO Program: Science-Based or Typical Fad Diet?

I was recently contacted by a major outlet to give an interview about the GOLO program. Surprisingly, I had never heard of it, so I looked this plan up to see what it was all about. 

Eh. Sometimes, I wish I could get the time I spend reading about these diets, back. Those were a perfectly good three hours, y’all.

I figured I might as well review it for you all, because apparently GOLO is a big thing right now. So, here we go!

GOLO makes a very big deal about convincing people that its program is actually not a diet. They make several references about how dieting and the diet industry has failed people and made us fatter, but that their product isn’t part of the ‘diet industry.’  

Um, okay then.

What is the GOLO Program

GOLO claims that once insulin resistance is fixed, and blood glucose levels normalize, metabolism will speed up, making weight loss easy.

The site uses a lot of fun science-y words and confusing graphs to show you that your metabolism and your insulin resistance is to blame for all of your weight issues: “If you have a slow metabolism you probably gain weight easily and have trouble losing weight despite dieting, you may have Insulin Resistance. It’s not your fault, and you are not alone. Willpower and effort will always fail if the strategy is wrong.”

Not sure why they’d capitalize insulin resistance, and put the world’s longest run-on sentence right on their front page, but RED FLAG.

Also: willpower will always fail because weight loss isn’t about willpower!!

It’s easy to hypothesize that fixing insulin levels will cause weight loss, but we  don’t know for sure that insulin resistance is the cause of obesity; that’s merely a theory. We know that obesity can cause insulin resistance, but does it work the other way around? There aren’t enough human studies to determine this, even though GOLO makes it seem as though they have found the definitive answer. 

They refer several times to how the diet works so well for your slow metabolism, and that you can tailor the eating plan to your very own metabolic rate. 

But problem: how in the world do you know if you have a slow metabolism? Unless you’ve been in a metabolic chamber – which I can assure you that you probably haven’t – you won’t have a clue about your metabolic rate.

Of course, even without that critical testing, everyone and their dog will be like, YES! MY METABOLISM IS SLOW!! because that’s just what people are like. And that’s how GOLO reels them in for the kill.

It’s simplistic shit like this that sounds legit, coupled with scientific half-truths, that are so popular in these sorts of diets. The problem is that the layperson may not be able to tell the difference and will buy into it. Grrrr.

The truth about metabolism, as I wrote in my very popular piece on the topic, is that nothing you eat or drink will increase your metabolic rate. Metabolism is determined by a lot of things, such as genetics, age, muscle mass, hormones (in particular thyroid hormones), and maybe even gut bacteria.

The rest of the diet involves limiting calories and eating whole foods.

GOLO Diet Claims

GOLO makes some really interesting claims. Here are my responses to them in bold: 

  • Release helps control insulin – the hormone that regulates the metabolism. Insulin is not THE hormone that regulates metabolism. There are other ones too, including leptin, ghrelin, and thyroid hormones…but GOLO doesn’t claim affect those, so suddenly they don’t matter….except they really do, especially for weight loss.

 

  • You’ll lose real fat weight on the GOLO program without conventional dieting so there is no isolation, deprivation or time required. What is ‘real’ fat? As opposed to ‘fake’ fat? But this is a conventional diet, since the program is 1300-1500 calories. Any plan that gives you a restriction of any type is a diet. And of course you’ll lose weight with GOLO, you’re cutting calories. The diet is based on whole foods, which is great, but you can do that part on your own. 

 

  • Your metabolism gets faster and is able to convert food into energy quickly. Bullshit. This is the hallmark of a fad diet: giving followers an ‘outcome’ like ‘your metabolism gets faster,’ that they can’t even measure. Nope.

 

  • You choose the foods you like to eat and as your metabolism improves, your body is able to steadily burn fat and not store it, even if you indulge. Total crap. How do you know if your metabolism is ‘improving?’ And storing fat is a normal physiological function, especially after you ‘indulge,’ no matter what your metabolic rate is. This sort of garbage statement gives a false sense of security and is totally wrong.

GOLO also claims that low-fat products, cutting carbs, and unbalanced meals can wreck your metabolism, which is false and completely random. 

Release

Release is the crown jewel of the GOLO program: an “all-natural plant-based supplement designed to balance the hormones that affect weight, improve your metabolism, and help combat Insulin Resistance so you can lose weight effectively and keep it off.”

STOP RIGHT THERE!

Listen to me, and listen to me closely, please.

If there was any supplement that worked consistently and well to do these things, the following would happen:

  1. The FDA would approve the supplement for these uses
  2. The supplement would be first-line treatment for weight loss
  3. The weight loss industry would cease to exist

Turns out, none of this has happened, and it’s also not that easy to ‘improve your metabolism.’

Hint: metabolic ‘booster’ supplements are bullshit.

Release contains the usual suspects: plant-based ingredients with a few minerals thrown in there. A few of the ingredients, banaba, rhodiola, and berberine, appear to have anti-diabetic effects, although studies are small. 

In fact, one of the red flags that popped up for me with GOLO is that there is a supplement at all. 

I’m going to say it louder for the people in the back:

YOU NEVER NEED A SUPPLEMENT TO LOSE WEIGHT. THERE HAS NEVER IN THE HISTORY OF THE WORLD BEEN A WEIGHT-LOSS, FAT-BURNING, METABOLISM-REVVING SUPPLEMENT THAT HELPED ANYONE LOSE A SIGNIFICANT AMOUNT OF WEIGHT.

The GOLO Blog

I think one of the most concerning things I found with GOLO is their ‘blog.’ 

Hidden in the deep recesses of the GOLO site, it was like a portal into an alternative nutrition universe, with articles promoting a ‘Reset 7’ detox that eliminates dairy, gluten, and meat and help you identify foods that may be sabotaging your weight-loss efforts (eyeroll); 

There are also the very popular gems, “12 Reasons to Drink Warm Lemon Water in the Morning” and “What is Proplene Glycol?”

So we now know the true character of the GOLO fam…and it’s not evidence-based. 

Shocking. 

In the same part of the site, GOLO offers 1:1 coaching, but who the coaches are is anyone’s guess.

Frigging awful.

The Research Behind GOLO

Surprisingly, GOLO has research on its diet/Release supplement. 

One of the studies is a randomized double-blind study, which is impressive! The results look good, too…that is, until you realize that GOLO funded all of the studies they list on their site. Looking even closer at them, I saw that the study methodology wasn’t great: there were confounders,  including large dropout rates, the average weights of people in each group being different, the intake being self-reported, and the studies being small. 

Most of all, none of the studies were published in peer reviewed journals.

Uh-oh.

The product is also endorsed by known charlatans like Mark Hyman and Dr. Oz, and the president of the company is a chef and holistic nutritionist. So therrrrre’s where that lemon water post came from! I jest, of course. 

Maybe.

In Short, My GOLO Diet Review

What can I say, GOLO is pretty much like every other commercial diet out there:

It’s a low-calorie diet based on whole foods. Nothing to see here, folks.

It pushes a costly supplement that may not do anything.

It makes half-witted claims that confuse the layperson.

The research is not so great.

The blog is like falling down a rabbit hole of unscientific nonsense.

The physiology of the diet isn’t sound. They also say the program isn’t a diet, which it is. 

PASS.