Ketosis is a state at which the body has an extremely high fat-burning rate. Even the brain runs on fat, via ketone bodies. These are energy molecules in the blood (like blood sugar) which become fuel for our brains after being converted from fat by the liver.
To encourage ketone production, the amount of insulin in your bloodstream must be low. The lower your insulin, the higher your ketone production. And when you have a well-controlled, sufficiently large number of ketones in your blood, it’s basically proof that your insulin is very low – and therefore, that you’re enjoying the maximum effect of your low-carbohydrate diet. That’s what’s called optimal ketosis.
Ketosis Symptoms: 7 Signs You Might Be in Ketosis
These don’t 100% guarantee that your body is in ketosis but if it is in ketosis then these signs will appear. Here are the ketosis symptoms that we will cover:
- Weight Loss
- Loss of Appetite
- Increased Focus and Energy
- Short-Term Fatigue
- Toilet Issues
- Bad Breath
- Increased Ketones
Why should you care about how high your ketone levels are?
Over time, keeping track of the level of ketones in your blood can help you to work out what levels make you feel best, and help you to optimize your diet to achieve your goals. Many people read their blood ketone levels while doing the keto diet, or taking exogenous ketones, to verify that they’re actually achieving ketosis.
Graph comparing levels of blood ketone levels
It’s a great idea to test your blood ketone levels if you are starting off with the keto diet for weight loss and other health benefits such as control of metabolic syndrome. If you’re trying to lose weight on a low-carb diet, moderate ketone levels could be an indicator of whether you’re on the right track for fat loss. When following a keto diet, body fat stores are broken down, and fatty acids concentrations increase in the bloodstream. The fatty acids are turned into ketones in the liver. When ketone levels exceed 0.5 mM, that is considered to be a state of ‘ketosis.’
Whilst we can all measure our weight to see whether weight loss is occurring, there are a number of reasons why measuring ketosis can be better.
Our weight can go up and down through the day but this won’t tell us whether we are actually burning body fat. Simply going to the toilet, for example, will involve a certain loss of body weight but that won’t give us any idea whether we’ve burned any body fat over the past hour or two.
Additionally, if you’re exercising and putting on muscle, the scales will only show weight loss stalling or a gain in weight and won’t show you whether you’re gaining muscle whilst also losing body fat.
Measuring ketone levels can help much more directly therefore as the production of ketones is a direct result of fat burning.
Just as blood sugar levels vary through the day, depending on what we’ve eaten and how our body is coping with metabolizing the food, ketones levels can also change through the day in response to the food we eat and how our body copes in response.
There are three methods that you can use to measure your level of ketosis, with this data you have the power to optimize your biohacking protocol:
- Blood Test
The ketone bodies measured in blood are acetoacetate and is β-hydroxybutyrate (BhB), the latter being the most commonly measured. A well-known at-home device for doing so is the Precision Xtra.
It can also measure blood glucose using glucose-specific strips. The portable device can measure BhB concentrations ranging from 0.1 mmol/L (1.0 mg/dL) to 8 mmol/L (or 83.3 mg/dL). Measuring blood ketones is the most accurate method compared to breath and urinary ones but the ketone strips are still quite expensive.
Most accurate way to measure ketosis in mmol/L (mM).
Measures BHB, the predominant ketone in the body, rather than acetoacetate or acetone.
You need a handheld device (i.e., Precision Xtra or Keto Mojo) and test strips, which can be expensive relative to other techniques. Keto Mojo is substantially more affordable than Precision Xtra, with each testing strip costing only 99 cents.
You have to take a finger prick blood sample which can be bothersome and invasive at first until you get used to it.
When testing blood using a BHB/glucose meter, you’re getting the most accurate measurement available. The meters measure glucose or ketone levels depending on which test strips are inserted. Those with diabetes commonly use the same procedure and the same blood meters to measure their blood glucose levels. It’s critical for people with diabetes to control blood sugar levels and also to avoid dangerously high levels ( > 20mM) of ketones, known as ketoacidosis.
To use a blood ketone measuring device, you need a measurement device and compatible test strips, as well as a lancet device, lancets, and an alcohol swab for sanitization.
In order to take a reading:
Clean the pad of your finger with the alcohol swab.
Load a fresh lancet into the lancet device, prick your finger with the lancet, and massage your finger to squeeze a small droplet of blood onto the tip of the ketone test strip.
After 5-10 seconds the measuring device will report your present blood BHB levels.
Wipe your finger with the alcohol swab or a tissue. The skin puncture is small enough that it will self-heal immediately; you will not need a bandage.
Using blood BHB might seem like an obvious choice to measure ketone levels. However, pricking your finger multiple times a day might not be realistic for your lifestyle. If that’s the case for you, there are still other options.
- Urine Test
Urine testing strips are cheap but measuring ketones in the urine rather than the breath or blood tends to be less accurate as ketones. The results from urine testing strips also reflect ketone levels over the past few hours rather than at the time of testing.
Testing ketones in the urine is good if you just want a rough idea of the level of ketosis you’re hitting
Widely available in pharmacies.
Less accurate than blood.
Over time the body adapts to excrete fewer ketones in the urine.
Urine ketone test strips can be bought at your local pharmacy or online. They’re easily accessible, affordable, and straightforward to use; however, there are certain drawbacks. Urine testing was designed to measure acetoacetate, one of the three ketone bodies, but it turns out this is not the best indicator of being in ketosis as it doesn’t account for blood BHB levels.
Furthermore, urine is a waste product so what’s displayed on the urine strips is what your body is excreting, not necessarily the best indication of how well your body is utilizing ketones for fuel. As you become more keto-adapted, you will excrete fewer ketone bodies through urine. Hydration status can also affect these ketone readings and lead to inconsistent results, as relative hydration level can dilute the concentration of ketones in urine.
Urine ketone strips may be a cheap way to get a general sense of whether you’re headed in the right direction, but not an accurate long-term option.
- Breath acetone meter
It is possible to measure ketones on the breath. The method is not as accurate as blood ketone tests but is better than urine test strips.
Another advantage of using a breathalyzer is that it involves a single up-front cost, which means that once you have the device, you can test your ketone levels as often as you wish.
This can be useful for people looking to seriously understand how well they’re achieving ketosis through the day.
Once you have bought the device, it is free each time you test.
You need a handheld device (e.g. Ketonix).
Less accurate than blood meter.
Breath ketone meters are relatively new to the market for testing ketone levels. These meters specifically measure the amount of acetone that is excreted in your breath. These devices give readings that relate well to blood ketone levels at low concentrations. However, there haven’t been enough studies done to confirm the accuracy of breath acetone meters at higher ketone levels, such as the level achieved after drinking HVMN Ketone.
We strongly recommend that you start out testing your ketone levels if you are trying to get into nutritional ketosis or if you are using exogenous ketones like HVMN Ketone. Fat burning mode via the ketogenic diet is tough enough to get into as it is, so it’s helpful to monitor ketone levels to make sure your efforts are working out and that you’re in ketosis. Ketone readings don’t tell the whole story, but they are a large piece of the puzzle of taking advantage of ketosis. That way you will know what is going on in your body and to what degree. Over time, some people develop intuition around what diet or routines lead to a given ketone level, but it’s helpful at the start and on a periodic basis to use an accurate ketone measurement device to get reliable objective data.
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