Measuring Ketones: How to Know if You’re in Ketosis
Measuring ketones is often the difference between a keto diet that works, and getting frustrated and not getting the results of everyone else.
Well, over the years I have been asked this question very often – receiving thousands of emails in fact about this question as it is one of the more popular ones. I’m going to address it here once and for all for you, to help you make an informed decision:
AM I IN KETOSIS?
I’ve been lucky enough to dissect this question and have found some answers. After reading through many people’s diets with a fine comb I am unfortunately going to say most people are not in ketosis for very simple reasons. It is very easy to overlook some critical problems. If you’re one of these people reading this and have tried keto once before without getting any results, this may be your answer. Were you really in ketosis? Measuring ketones would inform you with certainty – especially starting out.
Some of the most common problems would be, just not looking at food labelling close enough. Getting caught out by just plain old smoked salmon; not seeing the dextrose in the curing process. Dextrose and maltodextrin are sugars, and even some sweeteners, have hidden sugars in them. Now is this much of a problem? Well yes and no! If you want to be burning in the upper level of nutritional ketosis this will be a problem. However too many of these mishaps would more than likely mean that you’re not burning ketones and would be doing more of a low carb high fat diet (LCHF), rather than ketosis.
Personally I think the LCHF diet is probably more achievable and sustainable long term. I only say this as I have had enough emails suggesting keto is not the easiest diet to maintain. But don’t get me wrong – in my opinion, the keto diet is still the best weight loss diet I have seen to date. Now, for the die-hards that want to be in full nutritional ketosis; you may want to invest in blood monitor and collect some personal data.
So why is it important to measure ketones?
Measuring ketones are not all that necessary in the initial Keto adaption phase. By adaption phase, I mean that it will take you at least 3 weeks before you wll be burning any ketones of any significant magnitude! HOWEVER, after the initial adaption phase, measuring ketones can prove to be a very useful tool for a number of reasons:
Measuring ketones can prove to be a very
useful in constructing your very own food log.
We know tolerances to carbohydrates very from person to person, and there are many more deciding factors such as metabolic damage and mitochondrial damage we have picked up due to living a high carbohydrate consumer lifestyle. This mitochondiral damage you may have will play a role in your individual carbohydrate tolerance. This is precisely why measuring ketones is so important DURING the fat-adaption phase; to learn your body’s tolerances and later on become independent of blood monitoring if you wish.
We all have individual reactions and
tolerances to certain types of carbohydrates.
For this reason you need to understand and learn about your own individual data rather than relying on your friends, or better still some faceless person on the internet on the other side of the world.
Now I don’t agree by living by a blood meter or urine stick however it does have its spot in finding what effects your ketones at the start of your Keto journey.
After you get at least a month of data you should be about right to drop the measuring meters and sticks and start a freer and more informed Keto diet.
Now to answer the next, and of the more important questions –
Blood meter or urine stick?
We have 3 commonly used ways of measuring ketones, through the urine as Acetoacetate, through the breath as Acetone, or from your blood ketones as Beta Hydroxybutyrate (BOHB).
At this point there a few companies in the early stages of development of breath meters and have not been around for long enough for us to have any significant amount of data on the reliability of this tool. So the jury is still not out on this yet.
As for ketone sticks, they are testing for ketone bodies leaving your body and really don’t provide us with any useful information other then you are spilling over your ketones, and may be dehydrated.
So this is not the best option in my opinion and may be a little bit of a waste of time as it really does not provide us in any information.
Now to blood meters, these prove to be a very useful tool and we are lucky enough to be getting some reputable scientists coming into the Keto field who are helping us in making informed decisions when undertaking a Keto Diet and measuring ketones.
Jeff Volek, PhD, RD & Stephen Phinney, MD, PhD are two of the most recognized names in Ketosis, Ketogenic diets and performance athletes and athletic performance while in ketogenic states.
From them, I’ve learnt how measuring ketones and interpreting blood testing results that assess Beta Hydroxybutyrate (BOHB) in the blood, obtained from a finger prick, is the most effective way for keto’ers to track their progress.
We can test for levels of BOHB and glucose in a matter of seconds.
From taking data for about a month of testing, provided me with valuable feedback on when I was in the right ketone range for my body and body type.
The Nitty Gritty Numbers Bit
With research from scientists Jeff and Steve we have found the best levels of ketones are in between 0.5 millimolar BOHB at the lower end, and improving up to 3.0 millimolar. There do not appear to be any benefits to pushing blood ketones higher than 3 millimolar, which is about as high as most people seem to get when eating a well-formulated ketogenic diet. However these figures will read much higher if you’re taking the intermittent fasting (IF) approach to ketosis. So with minor changes in your intake of carbs or protein could boost you from 0.4 millimolar BOHB to 2.0 millimolar At this lower level, ketones are doing little to feed your brain or help you build muscle, whereas at or above 2.0 millimolar BOHB, both would be working strongly in your favor.
So in just a few hours after a meal you can check to see if your ketones have dropped and be able to log and pin point out the foods that may affect you worse than others.
And also you may find that you can tolerate more than the suggested 30g of carbohydrates per day. I personally have learnt that I can double these figures, so you too can get to find this useful individualized information out using a blood ketone meter.
Measuring Ketones: SUMMARY
- Record & track your progress
- Take the guess work out and be able to see if you’re burning ketones.
- See which foods trigger a negative ketone response.
- Adjust your intake of carbohydrates according to your tolerance levels.
- Adjust your protein intake levels according to your tolerance levels
Optimal Ketone Range
Remember we must make this diet as friendly and palatable as we can; and obviously we don’t want to be living day to day by the blood meter as we don’t want to be living day to day by food scales. That being said, both of these are useful in the earlier stages of the keto life.
Think of it just more like your first days in the gym. At first you may need a PT personal trainer to show you how to exercise properly but after a while you should have the hang of it and should be able to drop the trainer.
And this is the same with the keto diet. With a blood meter you should be able to collect your own data. Not to mention giving you a good idea of food weights.
To give you an idea of what you need, to get started:
Take a look at the Optium Blood Ketone Starter Pack on my store KetosisTools, visit this link Ketosis Tools Starter Pack.
In short don’t be to discouraged by the colour of your pee sticks! Remember, results count!