The ketogenic diet is favored for many reasons. Beyond its sustainable (and sometimes quick) weight loss results, the keto diet is known to create an anti-aging elixir in the body known as ketones. Ketones are the body’s most efficient source of fuel. Once your body relies mostly on ketones for its fuel, it enters a metabolic state referred to as ketogenic. These powerful chemicals are made in the liver as a result of it breaking down fat. This process can only happen if you follow a very low carb and no sugar diet.
As carbs are removed from your diet, sugar is detoxed from the blood causing the body to source its own energy resulting in the production of ketones. Many say, “you know you’re in ketosis if you’re producing ketones!”
This is true. But measuring ketones requires more than a mainstream pee-stick offering you a variety of colored results. And science tells us that these results aren’t representative of everything happening in the body as it becomes fat-adapted. This article will cover all the ways you can measure ketones and other ways to know you’re in ketosis.
Why Measure Ketones?
All the type A personalities may gasp at the idea of not measuring their keto diet success by every possible incremental means, but measuring ketones can be encouraging for many. Especially when you’re abstaining from sugary temptation, seeing the coveted purple result on a urine ketone test is the extra push you need.
But, are ketone test results as meaningful as they seem? What good is it to see ketones in your urine if you’re not experiencing weight loss, increased energy, and a reduction in your appetite? Understanding more about the results of your ketone test provides you the opportunity to be free from measuring your keto diet success through inconclusive means.
Testing Your Urine for Ketones
Nothing like a good ol’ fashion pee stick to tell you about the many workings of your newly fat-adapted body.
Well, they certainly are an old way of measuring ketones in the urine. But, these ketone sticks were originally for diabetics to avoid having an excess production of ketones. For diabetics, too many ketones can be deadly. Urine ketones were a red flag and the ketone test sticks were used as a preventative measure. Soon, keto dieters began getting their hands on these test strips as a means to see if they are in ketosis and producing urine ketones. Only, they really missed the mark on what the test results mean.
Measurable ketones in urine are actually acetoacetate, a ketone not readily usable by the body. Those newer to the ketogenic diet may see a higher level of urine ketones. If you’ve been on the diet for many months those results will reduce. This isn’t a bad thing. It means your metabolism has optimized and is producing primarily ketones that can be used for fuel.
So, if you’re a keto dieter seeking validation from your test results, shy away from the tests that measure ketones in urine. If the ketones are in your urine, it means your body isn’t using them yet for fuel. If you’re actually keto adapted, the test result will show little to no urine ketones. Until the body decides to use it as a primary energy source, ketones will continue to be dumped into the urine.
It doesn’t stop there. The accuracy of ketone urine tests has even been challenged by the American Diabetes Association. There are, however, more accurate ways to understand to what extent your body is creating ketones.
Measuring Breath Ketones
Breath ketone meters require you to blow into the tester for 6-15 seconds and then give you a reading of the ketone levels in your breath. What such devices are actually measuring is the acetone produced in the mouth when the body is producing ketones. What these meters can’t tell you is the density of your ketone production or how keto-adapted you’ve become.
Breath acetone levels aren’t as varying as ketone levels in the blood or urine. They will remain relatively the same after and before a meal. So, for a broad perspective of how your body is responding to a ketogenic diet, measure breath ketones. Breath ketones are a good indication that you’re on the right track, just not to what extent.
Overall, testing breath ketones falls in the middle when it comes to precision, cost, and effectiveness—better than testing urine, but not as accurate as testing blood.
Testing Your Blood for Ketones
The most accurate way to determine your body’s ketone production is with blood testing strips. If you’re afraid of blood or needles don’t worry, you really don’t have to deal with either. Ketone blood testing devices are very similar to glucose tests. They use a tiny pen that’s pressed against your fingertip to prick a little hole which should produce a drop or two of blood to place on a strip. The strip is then put into the tiny testing device that reveals an exact real-time measurement of ketones in your blood.
The device can be a pricey one-time purchase of $150-$200 and the test strips are about $1 each. It’s usually not covered under insurance like a blood sugar test is. But, beyond the expense, testing your blood for ketones is the most effective and active way to measure your level of ketosis.
How to Read Your Results
Here is a brief guide to consider when understanding how to read your blood ketone results.
|Below 0.6 mmol/L||Suggests a normal, high carb diet is being consumed.|
|Between 0.6 and 1.5 mmol/L||These results are likely as your body begins to keto-adapt.|
|More than 1.5 mmol/L||These are the results of someone who is keto-adapted or has been fasting for some time.|
Other Indicators of Ketosis
Testing for ketones has its perks and perhaps a few downfalls. The body and its functions are complex and require a high level of technology to understand exactly what is happening to them and why. Keto adapting is also quite an extreme change from what your body is used to, so being patient and gentle with yourself is crucial.
Interested in ketosis indicators that don’t involve pee, breath, or blood?
You’re in luck, because being familiar with your body is the best way to recognize its keto adaptation. (Psssst….it’s not the ketones in urine!) Not to mention, it’s free! Here are subtle ways your body tells you it’s in ketosis.
Signs Your Body is in Ketosis
- Reduced hunger
- Significant reduction in sugar cravings
- Mental clarity
- Stable blood sugar
- Balanced mood
- Regulated hormonal activity
- Weight loss
- Good sleep
- Improved physical performance
- Consistent energy
Even if you follow the ketogenic diet perfectly, you may not experience all of these positive symptoms of ketosis at once. But, if you weren’t previously in optimum health, you’ll notice a significant difference in your overall well-being.
Keeping a journal of what you ate and how you felt throughout the day is another free and easy way to track how your body responds to your diet. While something may be considered keto friendly, is it causing you to have an energy dip? You can really learn what works for your body and lifestyle and what doesn’t if you’re able to reflect.
The Most Effective Ways to Become Ketogenic
Achieve your desired level of ketosis by implementing the following tips:
- Choose high-quality fats including organic and non-GMO products like meat and butter.
- Keep dairy to a minimum.
- Prep your meals or have keto friendly meals delivered right to your doorstep.
- Keep cardiovascular workouts to a minimum until you’re fully adapted. Even then, don’t push it too hard or you may starve your ketone source.
Stop Peeing on Sticks
Stop wasting time and money peeing on sticks or puffing into a breathalyzer. You deserve better than that! To really know what it means for your body to be in ketosis, journaling (as suggested above) is going to be really effective. If tests are of importance to you, checking your blood ketones is your best bet. But remember, a number won’t represent everything and should not deter or discourage you on your journey toward ketosis.