Ketone bodies can be measured through your breath, urine, or blood. You can buy most of these tests at your local pharmacy, making it convenient and easy to measure your ketone levels at home.
Use this guide to learn about different ways to test your ketone levels, and how you can use these tests to help reach your goals.
Here’s how it works: When you have excessive carbohydrate levels in your bloodstream, your body secretes insulin and then converts it to fat. On a ketogenic diet, you minimize carbohydrate intake while increasing protein and fat intake, boosting your ketone levels[*].
As you begin producing more ketone bodies, your body will need to get rid of the excess, which is excreted in your urine stream. You’ll use ketosis strips just as you would a pregnancy test: The excess ketones spill over in your urine, which can be detected on a ketone test strip.
Keep in mind these ketone strip test results aren’t the most accurate way to test your ketone levels. The longer you are in a “keto-adapted” state, your body adjusts to high levels of ketones. Your body will optimize how it uses excess ketone bodies and they may not register accurately on a urine test strip, even if you are clearly in ketosis.
But using urine keto strips during the beginning phases of a keto diet can get you off to a great start. Key advantages of using a urine strip for testing high urine ketone levels include:
- Ease of use: Simply urinate on the test strip, tap off any excess urine, and wait 45-60 seconds for your test results.
- Affordability: You can purchase a pack of Perfect Keto ketone testing strips for less than $10.
- Availability: You don’t have to visit a lab or healthcare provider to test your level of ketones. You can collect a urine sample by purchasing a urine test kit at a drug store or online through Amazon.
Blood ketone testing is the most accurate method for measuring your BHB ketone bodies — the most abundant ketone in your blood[*]. BHB is also what provides the “clean” energy ketones in Perfect Keto products.
This testing method is similar to how people with diabetes test their blood glucose levels for high blood sugar. Prick your finger, squeeze a drop of blood out, tap it on a testing strip, and the blood meter detects your blood ketone levels.
Measuring ketone levels in your bloodstream provides the most reliable test results. Your blood composition is highly regulated, and shouldn’t be affected by factors such as hydration, food consumption, or becoming keto-adapted when you’ve been in ketosis for a long period of time.
If the idea of sticking yourself with a needle makes you queasy, this might not be the best ketone test for you. Also, the strips are rather expensive, costing $5-$10 per test. This can add up, depending on how often you test your ketone levels.
How to Read Your Blood Ketone Levels
To accurately gauge your level of ketosis, purchase a high-quality blood ketone meter for measuring blood ketone levels, such as the Precision Xtra meter.
Before you draw blood, use an alcohol swab to cleanse your finger and minimize the chance of infection. Use a fresh lancet every time and the included spring-loaded mechanism to draw a drop of blood. Place your blood onto the test strip and wait 10 seconds for a reading.
This is the same type of meter people with diabetes use, so you can also test your blood glucose or blood sugar levels with different test strips to measure your Glucose-Ketone Index (GKI). It combines your blood glucose and blood ketone levels for a precise measurement of your metabolic health.
Blood ketone levels are measured in mmol/L. For most people, optimal ranges of BHB levels are between 1.5-3.0 mmol/L.
Blood glucose levels are measured in mg/dl. To get your GKI number, divide your glucose level number by 18 to convert it to mmol/L. Then, divide your blood glucose level number by your blood ketone level. A GKI number between 3 and 8 is ideal, depending on your goals.
Acetone or acetate is another ketone body that is produced when your body metabolizes BHB. While not directly responsible for ketone metabolism, acetate correlates closely with ketone levels in your bloodstream. Some people use a breath meter to help compare and confirm urine or blood test results.
Acetone is measured through your breath with a device by breath acetone. Typically, the more acetone detected in your breath, the further you are into ketosis. You can measure acetone on your breath using breath monitor, such as a Ketonix meter, which measures how much of the ketone is exhaled on your breath.
How to Read Your Breath Ketone Levels
To read your ketone levels through breath testing, plug the Ketonix meter into a USB port or into the included battery pack. Once the unit is warmed up, blow your breath into it until it starts flashing. This indicates it is measuring your breath acetone levels. Typically, a reading of between 40 and 80 indicates you are in ketosis.
The high cost is one disadvantage to monitoring ketone levels with a breath meter. But, they are reusable so it’s a one-time investment.
Breath testing is considered less accurate than blood testing or ketosis strips, but it can be the best option if you don’t want to deal with bodily fluids or keep buying testing strips.
Finally, you can gauge whether or not you’re in a state of ketosis by listening to your body. There are several signs and symptoms you should pay attention to. While not accurate enough to determine your specific ketone levels, they are a good gauge if you don’t have access to a blood, urine, or breath ketone test.
There are several symptoms that can help you determine whether or not you’re in ketosis.
Clear Mental State
Your brain constantly uses a significant amount of energy. When you are eating carbs, you may notice energy dips, causing mental performance swings. When you are in a fat-burning state, your brain rapidly uses ketones for fuel by utilizing your fat stores. If you’re following the ketogenic diet properly, you’ll be consuming plenty of healthy, high-fat foods, keeping your fat stores full and allowing you to think clearly[*].
When your body becomes adapted to increased ketone levels, you begin using fatty acids to break down ketones to use as your primary fuel source. Because your body has a constant supply of energy, you won’t crave food the way you do when your energy relies on carbohydrate stores[*].
Approximately 90-120 minutes after you eat carbs, your body has used up the available energy from the mitochondria in your cells. When you are in ketosis, your body can perform well off your body fat, which is essentially a limitless source of fuel, preventing a dip in energy levels[*].
Increased Thirst and Dry Tissues
When you’re adapting to a ketogenic diet, your body will be using up excess glycogen and you may experience frequent urination. If you’re not adding salt or electrolytes to your diet, you will probably experience some excess thirst and dry mucous membranes due to lower hydration levels[*].
Some people have heard that if your breath is fruity smelling, it’s a good indication that you are in ketosis. This is not accurate — this may be a sign of ketoacidosis, which is not to be confused with nutritional ketosis.
Ketoacidosis, or DKA, is a dangerous, even life-threatening medical condition requiring immediate medical attention. This most often occurs when people with type 1 diabetes (and sometimes type 2 diabetes) don’t get enough insulin.
With ketoacidosis, there are such large amounts of ketones in your body that your blood becomes acidic. If you experience nausea, vomiting, dry mouth, are diabetic or at risk for diabetes, consider it a medical emergency and seek help immediately.
The goal of the keto diet is to enter a state of ketosis, where your body burns fat, rather than glucose, for fuel. While you can usually guess whether or not you’re in ketosis by paying attention to your body’s symptoms, keto dieters should test their ketone levels to know for sure.
You can test your ketone levels through blood, breath, or urine testing. Urine testing through the use of ketosis strips is the most convenient method, but blood testing will deliver the most accurate results.
Now that you know how to properly assess your ketone levels and stay in ketosis, shop for products that will set you up for success, and browse helpful resources and keto diet guides that will help you get the most out of this healthy lifestyle.