According to Google Trends, GOLO is STILL a thing right now. I’m not sure why, and you’ll see why I feel that way in a moment.
One thing for certain: GOLO makes a very big deal about trying to convince 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 for life Program?
GOLO For Life is GOLO’s diet plan, which you can see is low in calories:
Wait, I thought GOLO isn’t a diet? If a plan is giving out calorie budgets, especially low ones like this, IT IS A DIET.
And hey, GOLO, 1300-1500 calories a day is too few for most people, and it’s very unlikely that anyone will be ‘full all day’ on that. I don’t care how ‘nutrient dense’ a diet is, if you aren’t eating ENOUGH, that’s a problem.
It can cause rebound overeating, inability to stick to the plan long-term, and guilt and shame if you deviate from the diet. It can also potentially contribute to nutrient deficiencies.
For people who are really anxious to start their GOLO journey on the wrong foot, there’s a ‘reset plan’ that will no doubt make you even hungrier than the regular GOLO diet. GOLO claims the program isn’t a diet, but the information below sure sounds suspiciously like one:
GOLO’s whole thing is their theory about insulin and weight. They claim 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.”
But does GOLO have the ‘right’ strategy? I hate to spoil things for you, but probably not.
What is insulin resistance?
Insulin, which is made by the pancreas, helps to shuttle glucose from the blood into the cells after eating. Insulin resistance is when our cells can’t ‘see’ the insulin that our pancreas is secreting. This means our blood glucose remains elevated, and the pancreas continues to push out more insulin to get those cells to accept the glucose.
The result is elevated levels of both blood glucose and blood insulin. This may lead to cravings, hunger (because ultimately the cells aren’t getting fed), and weight gain. So yes, insulin resistance isn’t a good thing.
I wrote about insulin resistance more in my post What is the Best Diet for PCOS?
It’s easy for Golo 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 for everyone; 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.
I’m also confused as to how GOLO can claim that putting people on a low-calorie diet ‘fixes’ their metabolism. Because physiologically, that’s not really possible. Any talk about a ‘slow metabolism’ is a huge red flag.
Perhaps most importantly, unless you’ve been in a metabolic chamber – which I can assure you that you probably haven’t – you won’t have a clue what your metabolic rate is. Even if you did, your diet can’t really be ‘tailored’ to it. So the trendy ‘personalization’ of the program to your metabolic rate? No scientific backing.
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.
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. BS. 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. Nope. 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 random statement gives a false sense of security…and is physiologically impossible.
GOLO also claims that low-fat products, cutting carbs, and unbalanced meals can wreck your metabolism, which is false and completely random.
What is Golo Release?
Golo 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.”
GOLO markets Release almost as a non-negotiable for weight loss with their product. KA-CHING!
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:
- The FDA would approve the supplement for these uses
- The supplement would be first-line treatment for weight loss
- 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 a complete waste of time and money.
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.
In the same part of the site, GOLO offers 1:1 coaching, but who the coaches are is anyone’s guess.
The Research Behind the GOLO diet.
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.
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.
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.
Hard PASS on Golo…and every other diet like it.