You’ve followed the meal plans, you’ve logged the nutrition, and you’ve stuck to your exercise routine.
Even if you’re doing everything you’re supposed to on the keto diet, how do you know for sure you’re actually in ketosis?
You may think that losing weight alone is the only sign of your keto diet working, but that is not the case!
Even if you lose weight, your body may not be in a state of ketosis. If you don’t know how to test for ketosis, then you’ve come to the right place to answer all your questions.
In this guide, not only will you learn how to test for ketosis, but you will also learn why you should test for ketosis.
Different stages of your transition in the keto diet call for different methods of measuring ketones.
If you have only just begun the keto diet, your body will go through chemical changes. The results range beyond losing weight, and some of these ways may surprise you.
This guide will discuss all the subjective ways (how you are feeling), you can test for ketosis without spending money on test strips and meters.
For those of you that have been on the keto diet for three weeks or more, this guide will describe all the objective ways you can test for ketosis.
Once your body has fully transitioned from producing insulin to regulate blood sugar, to producing ketones for energy from fat, you may have more difficulty observing external symptoms of ketosis.
Choosing a meter that fits your lifestyle will provide you with more accurate ketone readings than what you may have needed during the initial weeks of your diet.
You may be wondering: if you are sticking to your keto diet and cutting out carbohydrates, shouldn’t that be enough to know your body is in ketosis?
Unfortunately, the answer isn’t that simple. It’s important to learn how to test for ketosis and read your ketone level to experience the most benefits of a low carb, high-fat diet.
Should You Measure Ketones?
Measuring your ketone level throughout your ketogenic diet journey is a helpful way to see how well your body has adjusted and if you have room for improvement.
Including this habit in your lifestyle is also a fabulous way to keep track of your health or discover when and why your ketone level alters.
Just like you have tools to learn when your body is feeling sick, here you will learn a few ways how to test for ketosis on a regular basis.
Reasons for measuring your ketones include:
- You are not sure if you’re in ketosis or not
- Finding your ketone baseline at the beginning of the day
- Feeling low energy before exercise or activities
For those just starting their keto diet (no more than a week in), you don’t need to use any gadgets or gizmos to measure your ketone level, just yet.
However, there are symptoms you can look for (which will be described further below) that can give you a good reference as to how well your body is adjusting to using ketones for energy instead of blood sugar.
If you are further along in your keto diet, methods for how to test for ketosis can be accomplished in three methods, which will also be described further below.
It's worth mentioning that you are encouraged by the keto community to always first check your visible symptoms before resorting to meters and ketone tests.
By staying actively aware of external symptoms, you will become quick to notice any irregularities before you even need to use another method.
Pros and Cons:
Methods on how to test for ketosis come with multiple positive aspects. Many people on the keto diet believe they are in a state of ketosis because they are eating fewer carbs on a daily basis, but accurately measuring your ketones will give you a definite answer.
When you read your ketone level, you can make corrections to your diet to improve your energy, weight loss, and your level of satiation.
- Learning if you are genuinely in ketosis or not
- Ability to correct your diet before your ketones dip too low
- Multiple subjective and objective tools of measurement
- Removes the guesswork
Since there are so many methods for how to test for ketosis, it is possible to get mixed readings.
Judging by your symptoms is helpful, but it’s also the least accurate way to know your real-time ketone level.
Purchasing a meter can be expensive, but learning how to use your meter with regularity can outweigh the price.
- Insurance may not cover costs of meters and can be expensive
- Some methods require pricking your finger
- Not all methods have the same accuracy
What Does Ketosis Feel Like?
If you have correctly followed your ketogenic diet, you will feel the positive effects of ketosis. By lowering your carbohydrates, you are also reducing your blood sugar level.
When your blood sugar level is low, your body has less need to release insulin to regulate it.
Ketosis is when the body breaks down the higher level of fat you have been consuming into ketones.
Ketones provide energy for the brain and the rest of your body (instead of using blood glucose), and they are the fire behind your weight loss.
Aside from weight loss, you should notice other positive symptoms as well:
- You’ll feel fuller for more extended periods of time and won’t feel the need to eat as frequently
- You will have a higher level of energy throughout the day - no more mid-afternoon crashes
- Your ability to focus will become much stronger and last long periods of time
These are all positive effects of the mainstream ketogenic diet, which most people who follow the diet properly should experience.
The medical use of the keto diet has been proven to reduce epileptic seizures, especially in children.
Although there have yet to be any other proven medical benefits of the keto diet, there are studies that suggest it could be used in the future to combat conditions such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, autism, multiple sclerosis, and certain cancers.
Before you experience the positive side effects of ketosis, you may experience some symptoms that don’t feel as good. This is known as the “keto flu.”
The keto flu typically comes with short-term feelings of sluggishness, nausea, constipation, and trouble sleeping. Fear not! If you stick to your keto regime, these symptoms will pass.
Often, the symptoms of keto flu are misinterpreted as the diet not working. This is a sign that your body is transitioning from using ketones for energy instead of blood glucose.
Just like all adjustments in life, a new diet takes time to work correctly.
Many people who suggest that the ketogenic diet does not work, have not given their body the proper amount of time to adjust from a higher blood glucose level to a lower one.
Everybody’s body takes a different amount of time to adjust.
It depends on how high your carbohydrate-intake was before you started the keto diet and how drastic the adjustment is to relying on healthy fats and ketones.
Symptoms you don’t need to test for ketosis:
Perhaps you are not sure if certain feelings you are experiencing are symptoms of the keto flu. If you are still in the first few weeks of your keto diet, you can monitor your body’s transition into ketosis without using any meters.
Below is a more detailed list of how to test for ketosis based on symptoms:
- Bad Breath - Your breath may begin to smell more pungent in the mornings. Many have compared the smell to fruit. This is an effect from the body producing higher amounts of acetone. You may also smell this in your urine. At the very least, it will be easier to remember to brush your teeth!
- Constipation or Diarrhea - Making significant adjustments to your diet can cause toilet problems! Temporary constipation can be relieved by adding more fiber to your diet through a supplement or fresh vegetables. Staying hydrated is also essential! The increase in fat may cause diarrhea. This symptom will go away on its own, but extra fiber will help alleviate this problem as well.
- Loss of Appetite - Unlike the other symptoms, this one should be more enjoyable! Replacing carbohydrates with healthy fats leaves your body satiated through longer periods of the day. You’ll notice you won’t need to eat large portions to feel full, thanks to the nutrient-dense foods in the keto diet.
As with all diets, an important rule of thumb is to stay hydrated! Drinking regular amounts of water every day is one of the best ways you can combat any less-desirable symptoms of keto flu.
Another tip for combating symptoms is to increase your sodium level. You can take a sodium supplement, or you can add more salt to your food.
Water with electrolytes is another way to increase your sodium level, and you will stay hydrated! It’s like killing two birds with one stone!
How to Accurately Test for Ketosis
If you have the ketosis symptoms described above, but you still are not sure if your ketone level is at a healthy reading, you may want to use a meter.
How to test for ketosis using a meter can be accomplished in three ways.
Each of these meters measures your ketones differently:
- Acetoacetate is measured using urine strips
- Acetate is measured using a breath meter
- Beta-hydroxybutyrate is measured with a blood meter
Once your body has fully transitioned to ketosis, you will still want to measure your ketones on a regular basis.
Knowing what your ketone level is when you feel your healthiest is the smartest way to maintain all the benefits that come with the keto diet.
For some, a regular basis of measurement may be every morning, once a week, or even bi-weekly.
Method 1: Urine Strips
Urine strips are one of the least-invasive ways for how to test for ketosis and are best for anyone measuring their ketones for the first time. You can use urine strips to confirm any symptoms of ketosis you may have logged earlier.
As the body transitions from using blood glucose to ketones for energy, the excess ketones get excreted just like all other excess nutrients get eliminated - through your urine!
The urine strips will inform you if your body is producing extra ketones and to what extent by measuring the acetoacetate in your urine.
When you are in the first few weeks of your keto diet, you will likely have excess ketones excreted from the body, so this is an excellent time to utilize the urine strip method.
If you have been on the keto diet for more than a few weeks, your body will be adjusted to the number of ketones it is producing.
This means the urine strips may no longer give an accurate illustration of your ketone level since your body is not excreting as much excess as it did at the beginning of your keto diet.
You may want to learn how to test for ketosis with the other meters described.
Benefits of using urine strips are:
- Easy to use
- Lowest cost of all measurement tools
- Can be purchased anywhere available without a prescription or doctor visit
Method 2: Breath Meter
A breath meter is used similarly for how to test for ketosis, like the urine strips. The breath meter is a backup method for measuring ketones during your transition into ketosis.
As mentioned before, one symptom of “keto flu” is bad breath caused by a higher level of acetate (1).
Acetate is produced when Beta-Hydroxybutyrate (BHB) is metabolized, and it can be measured with a breath meter such as a Ketonix meter.
It’s important to know that, also much like the urine strips, a breath meter is not a direct reading.
To use a breath meter, you must first charge it with a USB portal or battery back. Blow into the meter so it can read your acetate level.
Then, it will signal through different colored lights and frequencies of flashing to indicate whether you have a high or low level of ketones in your body.
Benefits of using a breath meter are:
- More than one use and doesn’t have to be replaced
- Non-invasive, unlike a blood meter
- No mess with bodily fluids
Method 3: Blood Meter
The final way for how to test for ketosis is through the use of a blood meter. A blood meter is the most accurate way to test for ketosis and monitor your ketone level during any stage of your diet.
While you do have to prick your finger to use a blood meter, this tool will give you a direct reading of your BHB production.
Your results won’t be altered by drinking too much water, your stage of the keto diet, or what you have eaten recently (as long as what you’ve eaten is ketogenic).
The unit of measurement used with blood meters is millimolar concentration (mmol). The ideal BHB level suggested by doctors is 1.5-3.0 mmol, which varies from person to person.
Aside from having to prick your finger, one other thing worth noting is the price. While blood meters can be reused, the test strips cost $5-$10 per strip.
A blood meter is probably not the most cost-conscious choice for daily use, but using it weekly can be very helpful in monitoring your ketone level.
Benefits of using a blood meter:
- The most accurate BHB reading
- Other bodily factors won’t interfere with reading
- Can be used during any stage of the keto diet
The most important thing to remember for anyone on the keto diet is to stay self-aware of what your body needs.
By regularly checking your symptoms, and then confirming with a meter, you will become skilled at detecting what your body needs to feel healthy and combat the “keto flu.”
Whether you are a newcomer to the keto diet, or you’re more than three weeks into it, keep this guide for how to test for ketosis handy.
Everyone’s lifestyles are different, so using one method to test for ketosis may not be the ideal way for another person.
Discover the tools that best suit you!