People on the keto diet are always curious about whether their bodies are in “ketosis,” which is when ketone bodies are elevated due to a low-carb diet or even fasting. Although it isn’t healthy to stay in ketosis all the time, it is all right for you to be in this state for certain periods of time. Ketosis happens when your body starts using fats instead of carbohydrates for energy, which is why it happens on a keto diet.
There are three basic types of ketone bodies:
- Acetoacetate, which can be detected with a simple urine test
- Beta-hydroxybutyrate, which is usually detected with a blood test
- Acetone, which isn’t as prevalent as the other two and can occur when acetoacetate breaks down
If you’re curious about whether or not your body is in ketosis, the good news is that it is simple to find out. There are now test strips you can purchase to test yourself and determine the level of ketosis in your body. These are done by testing either your blood or your urine and they each have their own set of pros and cons.
Urine Tests for Ketosis
Most dieters choose the keto urine strips because they are so simple. In fact, you simply urinate into a small cup or jar, dip the test strip into the urine for a few seconds, shake it to remove excess urine, and then wait 15 seconds so that you can proceed to Step 2. After the 15 seconds are up, the tip of the test strip will be a certain color. All you do then is compare that color to the color chart on the bottle of test strips to determine the exact number.
Keto numbers are broken down as follows:
- Very light: either 0.1 to 0.5 mmol/L or 1 to 5 mg/dL
- Light: 0.6 to 1.5 mmol/L or 6-15 mg/dL
- Medium: 1.6-3.0 mmol/L or 16-30 mg/dL
- Strong: 3.1 or more mmol/L or 31 or more mg/dL
For those who automatically assume that “strong” levels are the best, think again. In fact, every one of these levels means that you’re burning fat and getting rid of excess weight so they are all good for you. However, you have to listen to your body and determine the level that makes you feel the best. For some people, a “light” reading may make them feel great while others may need a stronger ketosis level in order to feel good. It’s up to you to determine the level that is right for you.
One important note on this subject: if you’re following a keto diet for medical purposes, you should ask your doctor what level he or she wants you at instead of trying to figure this out yourself. You need to be safe above all else so working closely with your physician is always the smartest option.
Back to the urine test. Now that you know what the numbers are and that you should decide for yourself the best number for your body, it is important to decide whether you want to test your ketosis via urine or blood. Keto urine strips are found in various places, including online stores, and they are very simple to use. However, they are not always 100% accurate.
Testing your urine results in a number that may not be accurate. Here’s why: the urine test tests the unused ketones that are excreted through the urine. This means that the number you get doesn’t give you a full picture of what is happening in your body. Your number may be higher than the test strip indicates and your body may be in ketosis even though the test strips show that you’re not.
What can you do about this? If you’re serious about the keto diet, you should test your ketones with a blood test instead of a urine test because this is a much more reliable way to do so.
Testing Your Blood for Ketosis
There are now simple ways to test your blood for ketosis and they work very similarly to the devices used to test the blood sugar of diabetics. You simply place a test strip into the meter, prick your finger with a specialized device, and place a small amount of blood onto the test strip. Within seconds, your number will pop up on the meter and you can rest assured that the number is completely accurate.
For those who are concerned about the finger prick, do not worry. It doesn’t hurt that much and the meters require only a small amount of blood in order to give you the results you need. Some keto blood strips are on the expensive side but you can shop around for a better price because all of these strips work the same.
There is also a breathalyzer that is able to test your ketones; its accuracy is somewhere in between the urine test and the blood test. It also doesn’t require test strips so it is somewhat more affordable than the urine or blood tests. However, at the end of the day, most people want the most accurate device rather than the cheapest and that would be the blood test.
How to Utilize These Tests
Whether you choose the urine or the keto blood strips, it is best to test before lunch or dinner and preferably at least two to three hours after you’ve eaten any food. If you’ve eaten food recently, keto-friendly or not, your blood sugar will be higher than normal and your ketosis number is likely to be low. This is necessary to process foods right after eating but if you wait a while, the numbers for both blood sugar and blood ketones will be a lot more accurate. In most cases, testing your ketones once a day is sufficient. Some people test twice a day when they’re trying to determine if they are sensitive to certain foods but as long as you’re simply testing to make sure that your ketones are high enough, once a day will suffice. These tools make it that much easier to ensure that you are doing what you can to increase the odds of losing weight and staying healthy.