The main goal of a low-carb diet is to enter a fat-burning state called ketosis, which leads to weight loss and other health benefits.
However, it can be difficult to know if you are truly in ketosis or not unless you use some form of objective feedback. Fortunately, there are different ways to test, and one convenient way to do this is with urine ketone test strips.
This guide discusses urine ketone strips – how they work, what the test results mean, other methods of testing, diabetic ketoacidosis, and ways to achieve optimal ketone levels.
What are ketone test strips? and how to use it
Ketone test strips are made of a type of paper that changes color when it reacts with urine. they measure Acetoacetate (ACAC)It is the second most abundant ketone that your body excretes through urine.
The urine test is non-invasive and is the most convenient method of testing for ketosis that provides results in seconds. If you take the test daily, you can take it in the morning or in the evening, preferably at the same hour.
Although ketogenic test strips are not necessary on a ketogenic diet, they can be extremely beneficial for those who are just starting out on keto. It allows you to stay accountable and make a connection between your food, your ketone levels, and how you actually feel about a certain level of ketosis.
And if you find yourself trying it Return to ketosis after a cheat day Or a break from the diet for a week or more, test strips are also useful for those situations.
How to use urine test strips when following a low carb diet:
Step 1: wash your hands.
Step 2: Pee into a small, clean bowl, then dip the test end of the strip into the urine sample. Alternatively, you can pass the end of the strip briefly through the urethra.
Step 3: Wait a few seconds (or as indicated on the test package) for the end of the strip to change color.
The fourth step: Compare the color with the color chart on the test package. (Skip to the next section of this article to learn more about what the test results mean.)
Fifth step: Get rid of the urine test strip. Then wash your hands.
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Urine keto test strips have a light beige color, which gets darker with high levels of ketones. The deeper the color turns out, the more ketone bodies are detected in the urine.
Here’s a color chart that serves as a reference for the different ketone levels and what they mean:
- Negative (without ketones): You are not in ketosis at all
- Trace (0.5 mmol/L): This means light food ketosis
- Small (1.5 mmol/L): This means light food ketosis
- Average (4.0 mmol/L): Ketones increase as a result of exercise or fasting
- Large (8.0 mmol/L): It is usually the result of prolonged fasting, unsustainable in the long term[*]
- Larger (16 mmol/L): It is usually the result of prolonged fasting, unsustainable in the long term[*]
Note: The term mmol/L stands for mmol per liter, and refers to the concentration of ketones in a given amount of fluid — in this case, urine.
The optimum level of ketosis is between 0.5 and 2 mmol/L due to a well-rounded ketogenic diet[*].
But, as you can see from the explanations above, higher ketones are not necessarily better for everyone. While higher ketone levels (5 mmol/L and above) can lead to greater weight loss, this can ultimately lead to nutrient deprivation and loss of muscle mass.[*].
To illustrate, the author of this article shared her ketone level below (as part of personal experience, using The perfect keto test stripsAfter cutting carbs to zero and consuming less than normal amounts of protein (about 70 grams per day for 3 days):
According to the author, when comparing the lighter and deeper levels of dietary ketosis, I felt more energetic, focused, and able to function at the level of light to moderate dietary ketosis but not with the deeper levels of dietary ketosis.
If you are following a low-carb, high-fat keto diet to achieve weight loss and improve overall metabolic health, ketone levels above the optimal range (0.5 and 2 mmol/L) will not be necessary unless prescribed by your healthcare provider. medical reasons. Possible causes of elevated target levels include ketosis as a tool for diabetes or blood pressure management.
Other factors that affect urine ketone test results
In some cases, your ketone levels may decrease or increase despite sticking to the keto diet. Here are two reasons why this might happen:
- Adaptation (leading to lower ketone levels). While maintaining a ketogenic lifestyle, your body adapts, thus becoming more efficient at using ketones as a fuel source. Meaning, ketones are less likely to leak into the urine. You may actually be in a deeper level of ketosis but it doesn’t show up in the test results.
- Dehydration (which leads to increased ketone levels). One randomized controlled trial found a direct ratio between serum ketone concentration and level of dehydration. The more dehydrated a person is, the higher their ketone levels[*]. Ensuring good hydration when testing for ketones helps produce more accurate and consistent results.
- Expired test strips (may produce undetectable ketones). Check the expiration date of the urine test strips. Strips usually expire in 3-6 months After opening the sealed bottle container. Last but not least, store the bottle in a cool, dark place out of direct sunlight to preserve its quality.
Now that you know your ketone levels as a result of following the keto diet, we need to address an important topic: diabetic ketoacidosis.
It is important not to confuse ketosis with ketoacidosis, a serious complication that can occur in poorly managed type 1 diabetes and, in rare cases, type 2 diabetes, characterized by abnormally high ketone concentrations greater than 20 mmol/liter[*]. Blood sugar levels also tend to be unusually high, exceeding 250 mg/dL[*].
The good news: As long as your keto diet is well prepared, it will definitely not lead to ketoacidosis. Meaning, you’re sticking to the right macro ratios, meeting your electrolyte needs, not restricting calories, and getting healthcare supervision if you’re on keto to manage or reverse a condition like diabetes or high blood pressure.[*].
The bottom line is that while people sometimes confuse healthy dietary ketosis with diabetic ketoacidosis, one does not lead to the other. And for everyone who suffers from diabetes and is afraid of ketoacidosis, urine test strips It is actually a useful tool to make sure that you not In ketoacidosis (whether you are on a keto diet or not).
Three other ways to test ketosis
Ketones appear not only in urine but also in blood and breath. Below, we explore the following methods for testing ketosis — the blood ketone test and the breath ketone test — and some of their pros and cons.
blood ketone scale
This test method measures ketone levels in the blood Beta-hydroxybutyrate (BHB)The most abundant ketone body. It’s the most accurate way to confirm that you’re in ketosis, especially when you’ve been on keto for a long time now.
However, the downside is that the ketone blood test is more expensive, not to mention more intrusive. You will have to prick your finger with a lancet to get a small blood sample, place it on the test strip attached to the ketone meter, and wait for the result.
A blood ketone test is not appropriate for you if you fear having blood drawn or find it troublesome. But should you choose to, a ketone scale like Keto-Mojo is great for reading both ketone levels and blood glucose (particularly useful for people with diabetes).
Ketosis can also be measured with a handheld device called a spirometer or analyzer. Again, no test strips are needed for this, and you simply have to blow into the tube attached to the device to get a quick reading.
What does this measure? Acetone (ACE)the third and least abundant ketone released by respiration.
Like the urine test, the breath test is affordable, although it has a drawback that it is less accurate. However, if you are new to keto and want a non-invasive and convenient method of testing no matter where and when, a breath test is a viable option.
Laboratory tests are the most expensive and most accurate way to measure ketones in serum or plasma (from a venous blood sample). It is usually ordered by a health care provider to closely monitor diabetic ketoacidosis in emergency room patients.
As keto dieters, this ketogenic monitoring method is not practical because you can’t go to the lab or doctor’s office every day. Home ketone meter kits and urine strips can actually provide good results as long as you follow the instructions specified in the test kit.
What to expect during ketosis
When you restrict carbohydrates in your diet, your body finds an alternative fuel source, so it breaks down its stored fat to make ketones (BHB, AcAc, and Ace).
Running in state of ketosis Signs and symptoms such as weight loss (usually water weight), bad breath, low energy, frequent urination, irritability, and digestive problems can occur.
These effects subside once your body gets used to using ketones for fuel, after which you’ll experience continued fat loss, reduced cravings, more stable energy, and increased mental clarity.
While these are all suggestive of nutritional ketosis, the best way to find out is to test with Perfect Urine Keto Test Strips Or a blood or respiration ketone meter of your choice.
How to achieve optimal ketone levels
To get into ketosis and reach an optimal ketone level of 0.5 and 2 mmol/L, you must Limit your dietary carbohydrates to 30-50 grams (or less) per day. Doing so will deplete stored glycogen and force your body to start burning fatty acids and creating ketones.
At the same time, you should eat more healthy fats To curb your hunger and support your hormones, and Moderate amounts of protein For cell repair and growth.
intermittent fasting And exercise is also effective ways to get into ketosis early, plus Starting a good keto diet or do keto reset (If you have been off the diet for a while.)
Overall, monitoring your carbohydrate intake helps you keep your diet on track Dial in other macros Useful for improving your results.
As long as you are consistent, the result will be nutritional ketosis, and you can use urine strips to confirm that you are on the right track.
If you’re on a low-carb diet, there’s no easier way to tell if you’re in ketosis than using ketogenic strips. It’s affordable and ideal for new keto dieters as well as those who have taken a break from the diet and want to get back into ketosis.
For optimal ketosis, ketone levels 0.5-2 mmol/L is a good range for weight loss and general health. However, exceeding this range is often not sustainable or necessary (unless prescribed and closely supervised by your healthcare provider for medical reasons).
Here’s all you need to know about the urine test to detect ketosis. Are you ready to try it out? Holding yourself accountable becomes a lot easier with High quality ketone strips At your disposal.