Setting a goal is the first step to achieve it, and if you want to achieve it more conveniently — then knowledge would also be a greater tool. The ketogenic diet is becoming very popular nowadays and people all around the world are using it for different purposes like weight loss, boost up their athletic performance, control their diabetes, control appetite, or seizure management.
In a ketogenic diet, accurate analysis of ketones level is very necessary, which we can check by testing our ketones level by different methods. It gets you more ambitious towards your target as the feedback. The actual analysis helps you to find where you are at present and how far are you from your goal. Or maybe it confirms you’re already there.
There are three ways to test for ketones, that we’ll discuss later. First, let’s understand what is ketones.
What is ketones or ketosis?
In a ketogenic diet, you need to reduce your carbs intake and ramps up the fats ratio in your diet so the body won’t have enough insulin to make energy from the glucose, ultimately in the results – liver produced the ketones or ketone bodies as the energy fuels for whole body functions.
When a body reaches a certain threshold level for ketones production – that is 0.5 mmol/L of β-HydroxyButyrate (BHB – a type of ketones) in blood claimed by the ketogenic diet scholars Dr. Steve Phinney and Dr. Jeff Volek – then it said to be in the ketosis.
Why do you need to test your ketones?
You need to know the ketones level in your body to check the efficacy of your ketogenic diet. Either it should be for weight loss, boost up your athletic performance, control your diabetes, appetite control, or for seizure management.
Ketones test helps you to monitor your body responses regarding your keto-friendly diet effectiveness, the adjustments in your diet plan, or to discover the best foods to achieve your goal smoothly.
What should be your optimal ketones level?
Optimal ketones level isn’t just a simple phenomenon of either attaining a ketosis status or not. There are different methods (discussed later) to check your ketone bodies depending upon the different factors such as accuracy and consistency.
However, in general, a typical range of ketosis measurements relevant to the blood ketones “BHB” has been found by the scholars that could help you to attains a specific level regarding your goal. The following chart demonstrates the optimal ketones level regarding blood ketones.
- Light Ketosis | 0.2 mmol/L – 0.9 mmol/L – Reading below the 0.5mmol/L doesn’t indicate any ketosis status for a body. Although at 0.2 mmol/L your body getting close to attaining the optimal nutritional ketosis.
- Optimal Ketone Zone | 1.0 mmol/L – 3.0 mmol/L – The best nutritional ketosis level in which a body burns a decent amount of fats to reduce weight and improve your metabolism.
- Deep Ketosis | 3.1 mmol/L – 6.0 mmol/L – Readings above 3.0 mmol/L neither indicate any beneficial nor any harmful effects on your body. Sometimes it appears due to not getting enough food (starvation ketosis). But it’s better to exist in the optimal ketone zone.
- Danger Zone | Above 8.0 mmol/L – It is impossible for a healthy body to reaches this level only due to the ketogenic diet unless you’re suffering from diabetic conditions and unable to produce insulin at all. The outcome could be ketoacidosis, which causes severe impacts and needs immediate medical attention.
3 ways to test your ketones
In ketosis, our body produces three types of ketones that are:
- β – Hydroxybutyrate
- Acetoacetate (AcAc)
Each type of ketone body is measured with a different strategy. If you’re burning fat, ketones must be produced in your body, so any of the three measurements could help you to estimate your ketosis level. But the question is, how do you analyze your ketones in a better way? Let’s talk about it.
1. Test for ketones – Testing ketones in the blood
In blood ketone testing we measure Beta-Hydroxybutyrate (BHB) as the ketone body. BHB is considered one of the three ketone bodies that are produced in our body during ketosis.
What is β-HydroxyButyrate (BHB)?
During low carbs intake or fasting, our body decomposes free fatty acids and sends them to the liver. Here, after turning into acetyl-CoA, these free fatty acids condense and produce another ketone body known as acetoacetate (discussed later). Research shows that these acetoacetates (AcAc) now cause the production of BHB by reducing itself chemically through an enzyme in the liver, and hence these BHB from in the liver accelerate in our blood.
How to test your blood ketones?
In blood ketone testing you need to get a blood ketone testing meter. A couple of other devices – such as a lancing device, a lancet, a ketone strip, and alcohol wipe usually come within the shipment – also used along with the meter.
You’ve to prick just a blood droplet on the ketone strip with the help of a lancet device and simply found your BHB readings in the ketone blood meter by putting the ketone strip in it. Here is a demo video.
The blood ketone meter simply gives your BHB ketone body readings into mmol/L to check your ketosis level. There are several blood ketone meters available in the market to purchase, out of which some have good worth and positive performance feedback such as Keto-Mojo. (The product is also available on Amazon)
- Measure BHB – The most abundant and potential ketone bodies found in your blood.
- A ketone blood testing meter can also help you to test your blood glucose level, getting more feedback regarding your diet and lifestyle influencing your metabolism. Both the measuring features are available often in all the blood meters.
- Expensive – Initially the device cost roundabout $40 to $60 on average. After that one ketone strip cost almost $1, i.e. the cost for each test should be $1. Cant be used frequently due to high rates as compared to other testing methods.
- Awkward – if you’re prissy and don’t want to squeeze blood each time, then it is not for you.
- Sometimes the device failed to give the results due to accuracy factors between the device and strip even within the same brands, which means a wasted strip.
2. Test for ketones – Testing ketones while breathing
As the world is shifting towards technology, the breath ketone testing method is becoming very popular due to its simplicity and advanced technology. In breath ketone testing, we measure acetone/ acetate in our breath. Research conducted by Kathy Musa-Veloso and his team shows that measuring the breath acetones is also a reliable method to check the ketosis level in your body.
What is acetone?
Acetone is another type of ketone found in our body while we’re on a ketogenic diet. These ketones bodies just like BHB are also produced in the results of the chemical changes in acetoacetate (AcAc) in the liver and goes into the bloodstream.
The point where it distinguishes itself from the BHB is when the blood is streaming in the lungs, the acetones diffuses into the air spaces of the lungs due to their small size and comes out of our mouth while exhaled (the main cause of keto breath).
How to test your breath ketones?
To test your breath ketones i.e. acetones, you need a breath ketone measuring device. There are many breath ketone measuring devices available in the market, such as Ketonix.
All you need to do is just activate your device by plugging it into a USB port or with the battery comes within the shipment. Once the device is ready to use, you’ve to blow in the device until it starts flushing.
It signals to measure your breath acetone level. You can find the results by installing the relevant brand software on your smartphone where it integrates your current acetone level to show you results.
Typically, in the breath acetone test, you find your readings in ppm. The software (mobile app) on your mobile screen shows your acetones level in the specific range that helps you to know your ketosis level very clear.
- One-time investment – You just have to purchase the device at once, after that you can test your ketones as much as you want. And don’t need to purchase any other accessories like strip, lancet, again and again.
- Non-invasive – You don’t need to prick out your blood again and again, neither want to mesh up with your pee.
- Measure Acetones – In several comparative studies there is a pretty good correlation has been found between the blood BHB ketones bodies and the acetones in the breath, but it might vary as you get deeper into ketosis.
- Results could be unreliable due to the odorant of some specific foods like alcohol, onion, and garlic, etc. You need to wait unless it disappears.
3. Test for ketones – Testing ketones in the urine
In urine ketone testing, we measure acetoacetate as the third and last ketones found in our body.
What is acetoacetate (AcAc)?
Like other ketones body, AcAc is also one of them that produce in our body during ketosis. AcAc is chemically considered a “true” ketone body with its chemical structure.
These ketone bodies produce in our liver from free fatty acids and go into the blood circulation. While circulating in the blood some ketone bodies failed to get reabsorbed by the kidneys’ filtration system and wasted out by our urine, from where we can analyze it.
How to test your urine ketones?
To test your urine ketones, you need to purchase the ketone testing strips. There are many ketones testing strips brands available in the market and it is a formal product easily available in pharmacies. You can also purchase it online.
All you need to do is just take your urine sample and dip the ketone strip in it and wait for a while as demonstrate on the brand packing. The color of the strip will change from slightly pink (low ketosis) to dark purple (high ketosis) indicate your ketosis level. Match your strip color with the color bands available on the packing and analyze your ketosis level.
- Easy, quick, and cost-effective method
- Easily available in market
- Best for starting level to check either you’re in ketosis or not.
- Gives you a qualitative assessment, not a concrete figure.
- Not pretty good for advanced level
- Measure the wasted ketones, not actual blood ketones that are used by our body as fuel.
Factors affecting the credibility of each ketones measuring test
Based on the four parameters we’ve summed up the results to check the credibility of each ketone measuring testing method that suits you well.
- Blood Ketone Measurement – Best accuracy.
- Breath Ketone Measurement – Less accurate as compared to the blood test, but high as the urine test.
- Urine ketone Measurement – Low accuracy as compared to both others.
- Blood Ketone Measurement – Best precise and concrete result as in numerical value.
- Breath Ketone Measurement – Good precision as a blood test.
- Urine ketone Measurement – Low in precision as compared to both others due to lack of a concrete figure.
- Blood Ketone Measurement – Non-consistent, variations could be found in numerical values within two consecutive tests, but slightly low.
- Breath Ketone Measurement – Non-consistent as the blood test.
- Urine ketone Measurement – Highly consistent.
- Blood Ketone Measurement – Most expensive
- Breath Ketone Measurement – Expensive at the time of purchasing, but just a one-time investment.
- Urine ketone Measurement – Less expensive as compared to both other methods.
Evaluate ketosis with your body’s symptoms
If you don’t have access to any of the blood, breath, and urine ketones analysis tests, you can determine your ketosis level by evaluating the following signs and symptoms in your body. These indications could enable you to check either you’re in ketosis or not, but not accurate enough to analyze your specific ketosis level.
- Keto flu – Once your body gets into ketosis, you might feel decreased in performance for some days, but when the body gets adopted with it, it will increase your overall performance such as mental state, focus, and energy.
- Dry mouth and bad breath – Bad or fruity breath may occur due to the presence of acetone.
- The decrease in appetite – One welcoming sign to get in ketosis is a decrease in hunger.
- Increased thirst and urination – In a ketogenic diet, due to the excess use of glycogen, you may experience more frequent urination and hence an increase in thirst. It may also cause the depletion of carbs, which stored water in the body. So it is advised by Alyssa Tucci, RDN (Nutrition Manager at Virtual Health Partners in New York City) to drink plenty of water during the whole day to avoid dehydration.
- Digestive issues – Due to the change in diet, you may experience disorders in your digestive system and cause constipation and diarrhea in the beginning but should settle after the transition period.
- Insomnia – Poor quality sleep might also be experienced in the beginning during ketosis.
What should be the best time to test your ketones?
Several variables impact the concentration of the ketones in your body such as meal, time of the day, stress, hormonal balance, and exercise, etc.
Research shows that ketones are high early in the morning and at night, while low during the daytime, but still the factors can be affected. It is advised not to test your ketones right after your meal and workout due to the increase of glucose level at that time. Also, avoid testing after 30 to 60 minutes of wake-up due to the dawn effect.
In blood and breath ketone testings, though the companies encourage testing frequently anywhere at any time to find consistent results. But in the case of breath ketone testing, you’ve to avoid it right after taking some odorant foodstuff like alcohol.
While the urine test could give you the best results early in the morning or in the late evening, a few hours after dinner. However, whatever the time suits you, stick with it, and be consistent to find the best results.
What if you are not making ketones?
If you have been taking the ketogenic diet for a long but not experiencing ketosis, then here are a few points you need to take into consideration.
- Track your carbs intake – make sure to intake less than 20% of carbs.
- Try blood testing in the late morning or a few hours after the meal – ketones are high at that time.
- Try to increase your physical activities.
- Be patient – The time to get into ketosis may vary from person to person. Some people start experiencing it relatively quickly, while others take some time. Put the solid efforts regarding all aspects of keto-friendly strategies for almost a month, you will surely start experiencing the results after four weeks.
Choosing the best ketones testing way !!!
What is the best way to test your ketones? It depends on you. All three methods have advantages and disadvantages regarding different factors.
So, how to choose?
If you’re just new to the keto lifestyle or want to know either I’m in ketosis or not – by keeping yourself in a comfortable economical zone, then the urine ketone testing method is best for you.
If you can afford and want to know the concrete and accurate value of your ketone bodies in response to your ketogenic diet or other lifestyle changes, you may choose the blood ketone testing method.
Finally, If you’re on a medium budget and don’t want to prick out your blood again and again but still want to know almost accurate ketone readings, then you must have to go for the breath ketone testing method.
Measuring ketones is fun to start taking control of your health. Now it’s up to you to choose the best one in response to your wallet, needs, and personality.
I hope I covered all the ketones testing methods very thoroughly, and it would definitely help you to clear the concept about your concerning query. I would like to hear you in a comment section that how would this article help you and what ketone testing method you are going to choose for testing your ketones?
Wish you the best of luck!