This note is specifically for people on a ketogenic low carb diet and is referring to “nutritional ketosis” or the process of burning ketones for fuel/energy instead of glucose for both weight loss and health benefits.
– What IS a ketone?
– What should my blood ketone levels be on a keto diet?
– When should I test my ketone levels?
– Blood Ketone Testing vs Urine Ketone Tests
– 4 ways to increase/improve your ketone levels
– Things that affect your ketone levels
– Why should you test your blood glucose levels?
If you’ve known me for ANY amount of time, you already know I’m BIG on keeping it simple and not over-complicating the keto diet – but rather relaxing into a healthy, active low carb lifestyle and enjoying the results & benefits.
Today we’re going to talk about science though, and lack of science, what’s REALLY going on with your body, how to know – then what to do about it.
Because over the last year I’ve had some weird issues & symptoms in my own keto journey, specifically after a 4-month round of antibiotics & steroids that seemed to throw my body out of whack about a year and a half ago.
I realized two things while I was at KetoCon in June.
First, that I had just “accepted that” and allowed it to become my new norm.
I realized I needed to get proactive about my goals and my RESULTS again! Instead of just accepting “this is how it is now.”
Which is exactly what I did.
I actually stopped & dropped for a quick workout on the spot, to kick-start my exercise motivation again, even.
The second thing I realized is…
There’s a HUGE depth of information and science and personal experiences starting to bubble out of the keto community. Enough so to make your head spin after three full days at a Keto Conference – lol. 😛
I’m going to attempt to “keep this simple” in my usual fashion, and share with you what I learned by “going down the rabbit hole” myself to learn more about the role Ketones play in our body on a ketogenic diet – so you don’t have to spend hours wading through all that conflicting information yourself. 😉
This is where I had my glucose and ketone levels tested for the first time…
I signed up for their affiliate program so I could get you a discount. This link has your 15% off discount coded into it: Get 15% off the Keto Mojo Testing Meter. Their commission structure is weird/low but scoring us a discount was the big WIN! 😉
I had not eaten yet that day when she performed the glucose & ketone test on me, and the results showed pretty much what I suspected:
I was in ketosis, but on the low end with a 0.6 reading.
Or so I thought at the time…
Before we dive in, let me answer the quick question: What IS a ketone? – because as much as I thought I knew (lol) this was VERY interesting to me:
“a ketone is simply a water soluble fat that can be used for energy. The best ketones are the ones you make yourself from your fat stores and/or your diet.” –source
Meaning: not artificial ketones ingested through magic pills & potions.
What should your blood ketone levels be on a keto diet?
What I’m learning about Ketone levels is that … there are no definite answers. 🙂
There’s no perfect number or one-size-fits-all answer to the BIG question: what should MY ketone levels be? You do want to have at least 0.5 mmol/L reading which means you are IN ketosis.
Anything above that number (0.5) is where things seem to get interesting!
“The nutritional ketosis optimal zone is between 0.5 to 3.5 According to Dr’s Jeff S. Volek Phd, RD and Stephen D. Phinney MD, Phd Authors of The Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate Living.” -from the Keto Mojo site
All the different factors, all the different tests, all the different potential interpretations of the results, etc (example) can be overwhelming and complicated.
I encourage you NOT to go down that rabbit hole. 😛
The bottom line after reading endless websites and case studies, is that 0.5 or higher is ideal for weight loss and improved athletic performance. Meaning, you at least want to be IN ketosis (at 0.5 mmol/L) and everything else is a variable.
Most “experts” seem to agree that the 1-3 range is ideal, but that there is NOT enough science-based evidence to back any specific claims.
There are too many variables and no real clinical testing.
There are also cases mentioned like Sami Inkenen (a triathlon world champion) with a reading at .6 and optimal energy and health. That reading was while he was rowing between US and Hawaii – and I have no idea if the reading was before, after or during his athletic performance.
On that note:
“Your absolute ketone levels tell you nothing about how well you are a) making ketones b) using ketones, or c) retaining ketones (i.e. preventing wasting via the urine). The number you measure is just a balance of all three. So you could be running purely on ketones but using everything you make, and end up with “low” levels – Sami Inkenen is a good example.
There’s no such thing as an optimal recommendation for everyone because we just don’t know how to measure or understand all those processes as much as we’d like to think we do!” – Tommy Wood, Chief Medical Director at Nourish Balance Thrive
It’s less about what’s right and wrong, and more about what’s right for YOU personally. There are so many variables at play, such as: how long you’ve been in ketosis, how efficiently your body produces/uses ketones, whether you are active or sedentary, etc.
This is where testing comes in. To determine your baseline numbers, comparing your results/readings to how you FEEL and perform, and finding your sweet spot with it all.
When should you test your ketone levels?
My lower blood ketone test results that I showed you in my last post, plus the one taken at KetoCon above, were both “morning results” – which I discovered is normal.
Your first blood ketone test taken an hour or two after waking up, or before eating, will be your lowest reading: the time of day when your ketone levels are lowest.
On the Keto Mojo site they say: “We like to test our ketones first thing in the morning before breakfast, as generally, they are at their lowest, and that gives you a baseline for the day. The second time for testing is just before our evening meal when generally they are at their highest.”
After reading that, I performed an evening test before dinner yesterday:
I was happy with those results.
But I’m also interested in improving them…
And in learning/experimenting more!
Blood Ketone Testing vs Urine Ketone Tests
To make all of this even MORE interesting, I have also been using urine test strips to monitor the ketone levels in my urine.
My urine ketone test shows higher levels of ketones, usually a darker reading in the moderate-to-large range.
What’s the difference?
A blood test tells you the ketone levels IN your body (in your bloodstream) right now. Urine ketone tests, the strips you pee on, only test the levels of excess acetoacetate your body is excreting.
Meaning not what your body is running on, but what your body is getting rid of (waste).
Also, the keto urine strips only measure acetoacetate levels, which is an unused ketone by the body. There are three different types of ketones in your body, and the only way to know your true ketone level is through a blood test.
There are a lot of other variables with urine strips as well such as electrolyte and hydration levels, medications and vitamins, and how efficiently your body is at USING the ketones it produces (meaning: less waste, resulting in lower urine test readings).
My Biggest Take-Aways From This So far…
I find it most interesting that my blood ketone levels are on the lower end, while my urine ketone levels are on the higher end. This doesn’t bother me or perplex me – my results are fine/good as far as saying I am indeed in ketosis.
What interests me most is improving those numbers, or experimenting with improving/changing them, and seeing how I FEEL as a result – or what the results are from those changes exactly.
It does require consistent testing to figure out your baseline numbers, because the truth is: that’s going to be different for everyone and for every BODY.
From there you can figure out IF you need to improve those numbers, with a specific goal: better/faster weight loss, higher energy levels, better athletic performance/endurance, less chronic pain/inflammation, etc.
Things that affect your ketone levels, and things ketone levels affect.
What can make your ketone levels lower or higher? This has been interesting to me! Certain foods of course, medications, exercise, fasting (intentional or not), and even GUT HEALTH.
We’ve been talking about how stress can affect your gut health, which can affect your mood & energy, all of which can also affect your ketone levels I’ve learned.
All things are leading back to the gut everywhere I look lately! 😉
Stress can affect your gut health, your gut health can cause stress/depression, gut health affects ketone levels – which can affect EVERYTHING.
4 ways to increase / improve your ketone levels
The first question that popped into MY mind was: “should you try to increase/improve this number??” I wasn’t sure. I’m still not 100% sure. But I do want my body running at optimal health, and I now have the tools to experiment and test various things for better RESULTS: improved mood, more energy, weight loss, etc.
In all my reading I learned that there are four methods for increasing your ketone levels for optimal weight loss & energy.
It boils down to what I like to call “Food, Fasting, Fake, Fit” – or:
1. Ketogenic Diet
2. Intermittent Fasting
3. Taking Exogenous Ketones
These are the four things that affect your ketone levels.
First, I had NO idea that exercise (or lack of it) would have any impact on the ketone levels in your body, so that was fascinating to study! I enjoyed this article: Optimize your exercise to burn fat and utilize ketones for example.
I’m still doing more research on the best exercises on a keto diet, and for optimal ketone production, so stay tuned as I wade through all the articles out there!
From what I’ve gathered so far it seems like a steady increased heart rate like walking, hiking and swimming are ideal as well as core/strength training – vs high intensity workouts (not ideal). But I’m still researching the effects/impacts etc, so more on that coming soon…
“Exercise has long been known to increase ketone production, even in people without diabetes. Increases in fat mobilization and increased blood flow to the liver during exercise promotes increased fat uptake to the liver and the conversion of fat first to acetyl-CoA and then to the ketone body acetoacetate. Acetoacetate can then convert to the two other ketone bodies – acetone and beta-hydroxybutyrate. These ketone bodies then leave the liver and can be used by muscle as energy.” – source
The first point above was obvious, BUT I did learn an interesting fact in my research. Something I probably should have known already. 🙂
Regarding MCT grade coconut oil (or MCT Oil) that people cook with, add to their coffee, eat by the spoonful, etc:
“MCTs are a type of saturated fat that goes straight to the liver after digestion. In the liver, these fats tend to be converted into ketones and sent to the cells in your body that need them for energy.” –source
As for Exogenous Ketones, those are highly debatable – and most of what you see on the market right now is SUPER SKETCHY. As said above, the best ketones are those your body produces itself.
That said, Ketologie came out with a brand new Ketones + Probiotics Pineapple Drink that is both for gut health (!) and to increase your ketone levels – plus focus, energy & electrolyte levels.
I have some of this, so I’m going to try it along with the rest of my experiments!
That ^ is the ONLY exogenous ketone type product I would TRUST – period.
Going back to point #1, obviously one of the bigger factors to your ketone levels will be the foods you are eating. Different foods affect different people in different ways…
Why should you test your blood glucose levels?
I was told that a glucose reading of about 83 is ideal. But the real key to the Blood Glucose Testing part of the KetoMojo test meter is that it allows you to find out which foods spike your glucose – which in turn lowers your ketone levels.
From the Keto Mojo site:
“Testing your glucose is a good indicator of a food trigger, as blood sugar changes far more rapidly than ketones. Ketones are slow to move and sometimes its what happened the day before that matters most.
Also, some people see a spike in glucose when using artificial sweeteners, while others don’t. Knowing if an artificial sweetener, or almond flour, or some other “substitute” ingredient is causing glucose spikes is important. These spikes can sabotage your keto scores.
In such when investigating foods our sleuthing tool is the glucose test.”
Having the blood glucose testing option with your KetoMojo Ketone Meter is ideal so you can identify your own food culprits, and how things affect YOU personally.
Are There Any TRUE Answers?!
I personally found it frustrating that there weren’t any cold hard facts or “true numbers” to base things on, but the fact is there simply isn’t any real scientific or clinical data available yet.
So the best thing we have is the tools to learn more about our own bodies, and tools that allow us to improve the performance and results.
The only REAL thing you need to know is if you are IN ketosis, which a blood ketone reading of 0.5 or higher – or any positive reading on a urine strip, which is way less accurate but a start at least.
From there, if you aren’t experiencing any health issues or long-term weight loss stalls/gains, my advice is: don’t worry about it! Keep it simple. 😉
If you ARE experiencing problems or weird issues/symptoms, like I have been over the last year, then it’s time to dig in and figure out what’s going on – and how you can fix that problem.
What Should I Test First?
I’m excited to dig in and do some serious testing now that I’ve figured out my base levels. Keep in mind that I have been eating low carb (or “eating keto”) for a VERY long time – more than 7 years now.
I wasn’t always as consistent as I am now, but for the last few years I’ve been consistently in ketosis – outside of the 2 or maybe 3 times a year I knock myself out of ketosis intentionally for testing purposes, and still with a low carb / paleo meal (a whole-food carb-up).
Anyway, armed with all this cool & interesting new information, I’m anxious to start testing a few things!
On my list of things to test are:
* MCT coconut oil
* The Ketologie pineapple drink
* Different types of exercise
* A keto carnivore diet (meat only, maybe 3 day experiment)
* And of course: Keto Products. 🙂
I would love to hear what YOU most want to see me test first, or what you’ve tested on yourself and what YOUR results were.
I think it would be easiest to start with the coconut oil and simply adding a TBSP a day for three straight days and monitoring the results.
From there I would love to test higher levels of MCT, and whether that impacts the results. Testing the keto products I love will be FUN of course (smile!) and I think I’m highly interested in the results of a Zero Carb / Carnivore experiment.
* If you want to learn more about Blood Ketone Testing and Glucose Testing, or the KetoMojo Testing Meter I’m using myself, check out the Keto Mojo Videos & Guides on their website.
Those are VERY helpful!
Thoughts / Questions?
I’m curious if you test for ketosis, test ketone levels, what you use – and what your thoughts / questions / experiences are on the topic?
Let’s discuss! 🙂
p.s. I got us a 15% discount on the Blood Glucose & Ketone Meter I’m using myself. The discount is coded into that link, so you’ll get 15% off automatically.
It’s already the most affordable and most accurate ketone/glucose testing kit available for the keto community, so another 15% off is a sweet deal!
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