The ketogenic diet is a very popular and effective diet, but it is one which needs to be followed correctly, in order for it to work.
You can certainly be sure to grab plenty of health benefits, including guaranteed weight loss, by following the ketogenic diet properly and making sure that you are eating enough of the good stuff, avoiding the bad stuff, drinking plenty of water, and getting your share of exercise.
By reading this article, we’re going to assume that you already know about the ketogenic diet. Of course, it is a low carbohydrate, high fat content diet, which causes you to burn fat for energy, rather than carbs (glucose), as you would do in the normal run of things. Whilst following the ketogenic diet, the number one aim is to reach a particular metabolic state, in order to turn that fat burning switch on. This metabolic state is called ketosis.
When you are in a ketosis state, your body creates ketones, and these are burnt for energy. The thing is, how do you know you’re actually in ketosis properly?
You will probably experience a few side effects in the first few weeks, whilst your body gets used to the change and establishes ketosis, such as the potential Keto flu, headaches, and possible constipation, but these should settle down after that period. From there, you are you supposed to know whether your body is maintaining ketosis? Keto strips, that’s how.
What Are Keto Strips?
Keto strips are also called ketone strips, or ketone test strips, and they are designed to basically give you a definitive ‘yes’ or ‘no’ in terms of whether your body is firmly in ketosis or not. The first step is to make sure that you are getting your keto macros right, i.e. you’re eating the right foods and the right amounts, and from there, you should give your body a little time to adjust.
These strips measure the amount of ketones in your urine, so in many ways they’re like a pregnancy test! That is the single best way to describe them. These aren’t expensive and they are a very quick and easy way to give you the reassurance you need whilst following the ketogenic diet. Once you know you are in ketosis, you can simply continue to follow the diet properly, and be sure of benefits and weight loss aplenty.
Of course, in order to understand how a keto strip works, you need to know about the very thing they’re measuring – ketones.
Why Does The Body Produce Ketones in Ketosis?
Ketones are molecules which are water-soluble and are created by the liver when your body is indeed in ketosis. This is because your body isn’t getting enough glucose (from carbs, as you are limiting the amount you’re consuming). There are three main types of ketones – acetoacetate, beta-hydroxybutyrate, and acetone.
When the body switches to ketosis, a metabolic state, it is doing so because it has detected a change in your diet. It thinks, falsely, that it is going to starve, so it switches to this alternative way of getting fuel for the body to function correctly. You could call it panic mode, but you are of course tricking your body in many ways.
When you are on what could be classed as a ‘normal’ diet, your body uses glucose for fuel, i.e. the carbs and sugars you eat in your diet. These are burnt for fuel and they give your organs the food they need, as well as giving you energy to go about your day.
When you suddenly limit the amount of carbs you are consuming, there isn’t enough glucose to go around, so your body thinks ‘hang on a minute’, and switches to producing ketones in the liver instead.
The primary reason for this is because your brain can’t process fat for energy, it simply doesn’t work in that way. Your brain requires ketones for fuel otherwise it’s not going to function. So again, your body is in panic, survival mode.
When you body produces more ketones, many of these are excreted in your urine, hence why you can use a test strip to find out if your body has a high amount of ketones with in it.
Where Can You Find Keto Strips?
Keto strips are quite widely available, and very quick and easy to use. You’ll get a quick answer to your question too. Ketones are detectable not only in your urine, but also in breath and blood. You might have slightly odd-smelling breath whilst you are on the Keto Diet, especially at the very start, and this is due to a higher amount of ketones within your body.
Of course, you’re not going to go around testing your blood and smelling your breath, so checking the amount of ketones in your urine is the single best way to know whether or not your body is firmly in ketosis.
You can find keto strips in most drug stores and health shops, or you can shop for them online. They are often sold in large bulk packs and are quite cheap. These strips will usually give you a certain colour for high ketones and a certain colour for low ketones, but if you were to go to the doctors and have a test for ketones, these would be much more carefully monitored. In this case, the following results would indicate ketone levels in the urine as:
- Under 0.5mml/l – normal ketone levels, e.g. not in ketosis and the body is using glucose for energy
- A range of 0.5 – 3 mmol/l – ketosis is present, i.e. this is the level you would be aiming for on the ketogenic diet
- In excess of 3 mmol/l – ketone levels are too high, and anything over 5 mmol/l shows a danger to health, e.g. the possibility of ketoacidosis. In this case, you would need to seek medical advice as a matter of urgency
How to Test Urine For Ketosis, Using a Keto Strip
Of course, every product works differently so always go with the instructions on the pack. Generally speaking however, most keto strips have an absorbent section on one end, which absorbs the urine and processes the result.
Within this section, there is a chemical which allows the pad to change colour, giving you your final result. This works by a chemical reaction between the acids within ketones and the absorbent chemical in the strip.
The deeper the colour, the higher the ketone concentration in your urine. Usually, a pale pink colour means there are ketones in your urine but only a very small amount. You’re usually looking for a dark purple shade, to give you confirmation of a full ketosis process.
Keto strips won’t normally pick up beta-hydroxybutyrate (a type of ketone) in urine, as this is more commonly found in blood tests. What a keto strip will pick up however are the other two, e.g. acetoacetic, and certainly acetone. When both are present in your urine, that is a definite confirmation of the ketosis process.
So, how do you use a keto strip? It’s quite easy:
- Pee on the strip directly (the absorbent part), or collect a urine sample and immediately dip the absorbent part of the strip into the pot for a few seconds
- Set the strip down and wait for this result. This can take anything from 15 seconds to 1 minute
- The test strip will slowly change colour
- Pick up the charge you will receive with the test strip and compare the colour of your result to the chart. This will give you the answer you need, and tell you whether you are borderline ketosis, or whether you are in full ketosis
How Accurate Are Keto Strips?
Nothing is 100% accurate, but when you use keto strips in the first week or two after starting the diet, they do have a very high accuracy rate. This is because the quick rise of ketones within your urine is unmistakable at this point.
Your body is also still in the transitional period at this point, and it hasn’t adapted to the new normal it is going to be running in, e.g. it hasn’t adapted to being in ketosis for the longer term.
As you stay in ketosis for longer, your body becomes adapted and it starts to use the ketones it doesn’t require in other ways, e.g. to feed muscles. This means less will be excreted through your urine (if any at all) and your result won’t be as accurate.
The plus point is that keto strips are a cheap way to give you reassurance during the first stage of the ketogenic diet, when you want to know that your efforts are paying off, and that you are doing with your health, exactly what you intend to do.
Of course, the ketogenic diet is safe, but only if followed properly, in order to avoid disruption to key bodily functions, and to avoid severe side effects. Keto strips help you to know that you’re not moving untoward the unhealthy.
Are There Other Ways to Know Whether or Not You Are in Ketosis?
There are signs you are in ketosis, e.g. slightly bad breath, and the presence of a few side effects in the first few weeks, such as headaches, muscle cramps, constipation, Keto flu etc.
There are also a few other options you can try in terms of finding out whether you’re in ketosis or not. These include:
- Blood test metres
Both of these will measure the amount of ketones in your system, but in different ways; the blood test will measure the amount of ketones in your blood, and the breathalyser will measure the ketone level shown in your breath. As you can imagine, these are two pieces of equipment which are more expensive than regular strips, and the other downside is that they aren’t as accurate either. Perhaps for that reason you should stick with testing your urine instead.
We mentioned smelling your breath, and when you do that, you will notice a slightly chemically tinge to it. This is because you are smelling acetone, most likely. Acetone is a ketone, but it is a byproduct of another ketone too, betahydroxybutyrate.
Acteone is of course contained within nail varnish remover, so you know already the type of smell that it has. Some people also say that it can smell a little like unpleasant fruit.
We’re not painting the most wonderful of pictures here, but if you’re noticing a funky smell to your breath, that could be a key sign that you are indeed in ketosis.
Is Ketone Testing Really Necessary on The Keto Diet?
There is no hard and fast rule to say that you have to test your urine for ketones when you are on the Keto Diet. It is an optional thing which gives you peace of mind, that you are following the diet correctly and that your body is in the right metabolic state for what you’re trying to achieve.
If you don’t want to go down the line of testing your urine, simply make sure that you are following the diet correctly, and you should be good to go. If you consume less than 50g of carbohydrates every day, then within two weeks for sure, you will be in ketosis. You will also notice the common Keto Diet side effects coming your way, as well as the smell of your breath, to give you confirmation.
The reason most people choose to test for ketones in their urine is again for peace of mind, but there is no research to suggest that you have to do this as part of your Keto Diet endeavours.
If you want to test, it’s a good idea to do it first thing in the morning, or to test a few hours after you have eaten. These are the best times in terms of testing accuracy. We should point out that if you have any specific kidney problems, your results might not be 100% accurate, but in this case, you should also speak to your doctor before you begin the Keto Diet also.
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