What are Ketone Test Strips and How to Measure Ketosis

With so many 8fitters asking about – and trying – the ketogenic diet, we want to make sure have all of the resources at hand before you give this restrictive diet a go. The ketogenic (or keto) diet is a low-carb, high-fat (LCHF) diet that sends your body into a state of ketosis. In this state, your body begins to use dietary fat and body fat as fuel because it doesn’t have carbohydrates to burn. This metabolism of fat creates molecules called ketones – something you can measure for with ketone test strips.

That’s a lot of keto-this and keto-that. Let’s break it down:

  • Ketogenic diet: The low-carb, high-fat and moderate-protein diet that brings your body into a state of ketosis
  • Ketosis: The state when your body starts burning fat for energy instead of carbohydrates which is brought on by a ketogenic diet
  • Ketones: The molecules produced when the body metabolizes fat (i.e. breaks fat down for energy); the more fat metabolized, the greater number of ketones created

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How to test ketones

There are a few ways to detect whether or not your body has entered a state of ketosis. First, you’ll likely experience what they call the “keto flu” – an one to three-day adjustment period when your body transitions to burning fat for fuel. Other changes you might observe in your body are:

  • Keto breath: The smell of your breath changes as you enter a state of ketosis. It might smell fruity or metallic, but the scent will diminish after a few weeks. If you don’t notice the change, ask someone close to you or consider purchasing a reusable keto breath meter. Typically priced at about $200, these meters measure acetone levels in the breath – which is what’s causing the change in smell.
  • Increase thirst: In the beginning, your body starts to use up excess glycogen stores, increasing the need for urination. As the body expels excess sodium and water, it’s recommended to balance electrolytes with 2-4 extra grams of sodium per day (thats about ½ to ¾ teaspoons).

Keto test strips

Another more reliable way to test ketones is using keto test strips. There are two main types of keto strips – ketone urine test strips and ketone blood test strips. We’ll go through how to use them both.

Ketone urine test strips

More accurate than tuning into your the smell of your breath or your thirst level, keto urine strips are a quick and relatively inexpensive way to measure ketones. You can buy these at almost any pharmacy, drug store or even the supermarket. Look for the brand name Ketostix. To use the strips, simply pass the test end through your urine stream or collect your urine in a clean, dry container and dip the end of the strip into it. Wait 15 seconds.

Now, let’s talk about how to read ketone test strips. The urine strips have a color chart that measures ketone bodies from trace amounts all the way to large amounts. Deep purple generally indicates higher levels of ketones. But, high amounts of ketones doesn’t mean you’re in a more desirable state. A low-to-mid level is often linked  better overall well-being.

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Some notable keto urine test strip brands include:

Ketone blood test strips

More accurate than breath, thirst and urine tests are blood tests. While they the most accurate, they are also the most expensive method for measuring ketones and are typically executed under medical supervision and reserved for diabetics or prediabetics.  To test ketone levels this way, you need a blood ketone meter and a kit that includes a lancet pen and ketone blood test strips. The body is typically in ketosis when the blood ketone meter measures between 0.5 and 3 mml/L.

Ketone test best practices

Now that you know how to detect whether your body has entered a state of ketosis, let’s fine-tune your method with these best practices. Remember, you can often feel if your body is producing a higher volume of ketones because you may experience the keto flu, a change in breath smell or increased thirst. To double check, purchase some at-home urine test strips and follow these tips:

  • Use strips regularly during the beginning phases of a ketogenic diet
  • Test your ketone levels a few times per day; fluctuations might occur after waking up, following a meal or exercising
  • Keep a food journal and include glasses of water as both meals and hydration impact ketone levels
  • Aim to maintain blood ketone levels between 0.5 and 3 mml/L (.05-1.5 mml/L being a state of nutritional ketosis, closer to 3 mml/L being a state of post-exercise ketosis)
  • Avoid paying for ketone blood test or blood test strip kits until you understand how your body responds to the ketogenic diet

Get help with your ketogenic diet with our comprehensive keto guide below. If you’re interested in a personalized meal plan — which you can customize to be low-carb, sign up for 8fit.

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