CHECKING FOR KETONES
People ask us all the time if they need to test for ketones.
The short answer is NO. If you keep your net carbohydrates under 20 grams and your total carbs under 50 grams, you will get yourself into ketosis. Like most people, when we started keto we ran out and purchased ketone urine strips. It was so awesome around day 3 to see that little stick turn from white to dark purple. Then came week 4 and that little stick was hardly changing color. We were keeping our net carbs under 20 so what were we doing wrong? The answer is nothing. Urine ketone strips only test for acetone and sometimes acetoacetate but not for Beta-hydroxybutyrate, which are the ketones that are the most active. When your body makes more ketones than it can use, it gets rid of them through the urine and breath and thats what the pee strips are measuring. Once you get into ketosis and your body begins utilizing them, very few, if any, will appear in your urine. When we realized that, we purchased a blood ketone meter. The problem with blood meters is they are expensive to use. The cheapest one on the market is the Keto Coach and it costs 65 cents a test plus the initial cost of the meter. Even the blood tests can be inaccurate with your level of ketosis. The blood meters test for the Beta-hydroxybutyrate that is floating in your blood, not the ones in your body mass. Basically, the more body mass you have, the lower the ketones in your blood may be since you’re utilizing them. For example, Joe has more muscle and more mass than Rachel. He consistently keeps his carbs under 20 net carbs yet usually only registers between .5 and 1.0 on the blood meter. Rachel on the other hand, usually measures ketones around 1.0-1.8. The other thing to consider is that the longer you do keto, the better your body gets at utilizing the ketones.
A third way to check for ketones is with a breath meter. You need to be careful with these though. There’s a huge difference between the cheap $25 meters on amazon and the more expensive ones like Ketonix. Let’s start with this. Breath meters check for acetone in your breath. When you body burns fat, it produces acetone, which is a ketone. The higher the level of acetone in your breath, the more fat you’re burning. The cheaper meters just check if there is acetone present whereas the better meters check the level of acetone. The other difference is that the better meters like Ketonix have calibration tools built in to make sure that you are getting a proper reading. A big upside to breath testing is that you purchase the meter once and then there’s no more cost but the better meters are upwards of $200. There are some cons to breath testing though. They can be finicky. You can’t test for about 30 minutes to an hour after eating, drinking anything but water, brushing your teeth or consuming alcohol. Doing so will give you false readings. When it comes to alcohol, it’s best to wait at least 24 hours. In addition, there’s a certain way to breath into the meter. Acetone is in the bottom of your lungs so you need to breath all the air out to get to it. If you dont do it properly, you won’t get the correct reading. There’s definitely a learning curve to it.
There are times when you may want to measure ketones. Keto is one of the few diets where you can check to see if you’re doing it right. If you have been doing keto for a while and not feeling optimum, you may want to test your blood. Testing your blood will at least give you an idea of whats going on. If you are seeing really low numbers, you want to consider a fast to reset your body or analyze your diet. You may be consuming too many hidden carbs. We like to use the Keto-mojo for experiments like what a fast does to our body or changing the amount of fat we consume. For the most part though, we don’t check our ketone levels.
In the end, you don’t really need to test for ketones. If you are strapped for cash and trying to do keto on a budget, the better thing to test is your blood glucose. You can pick up a blood glucose meter at Wal-Mart for about $8 and the test strips can be purchased for as little as 3 cents. Measuring your glucose level will give you an accurate idea of whats going on with your body. It’s also a great way to see if you should eat a particular food or steer away from it. Just test in the morning to see your fasting glucose level and then test about 1-2 hours after eating. The bigger the spike, the more that particular food is affecting your glucose.