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What you need to know about ketones

by Tina Sendin March 13, 2019

What you need to know about ketones

The Keto diet is today’s version of the Atkins and South Beach diet of the early ‘00s. It’s been a massive buzzword since 2018, and the word “keto” (short-form for ketogenic) has been thrown around quite a lot these days.  

But what’s it really about and what makes it wildly popular?



Ketones – sometimes referred to as “ketone bodies” - are energy rich compounds that transport energy from the liver to other parts of the body as a result of the body breaking down fat for fuel.  [1]

To understand how ketones work, there are two things you need to know:

#1 Glucose

Our body loves glucose. It uses sugar as its main source of energy. But when glycogen levels go down – either because we fast, just finished an intense workout, eat a low-carb diet, or are plain starving to death – blood sugar and insulin go down. Our body then looks for an alternative source of fuel – fat.

#2 Ketosis

When the body decides to break down fats to get energy, a process called "beta-oxidation" takes place. This results in the production of ketones (or ketone bodies), which will eventually be used by the body and the brain. When this happens, "ketosis" comes about.

To know more about ketones and the keto diet, watch these videos: 



Many people today have decided to embark on a journey called the ketogenic diet – or simply keto diet – to: 

  • shed pounds
  • lower blood pressure
  • improve cholesterol levels
  • obtain higher energy levels, especially for athletes or people who want to improve their workouts and exercise performance
  • achieve better mental performance and cognitive functions
  • reduce symptoms of epilepsy

All by simply reducing their carbs and eating more!

Essentially, here’s what ketones do to our body: 



The following people might want to know their ketone levels: [2]

  • Those following a keto diet
  • Those suffering from Type 1 diabetes, or when blood sugar has been higher than 250 mg/dl for two days straight
  • People who have sustained an injury
  • Those who want to work out but have a blood sugar level of over 250 mg/dl
  • Pregnant women



If you want to know your ketone levels, you'll want to test for them frequently.

There various ways of testing ketone levels. Some need to be done in a laboratory, but the others can be as practical as running to the nearest drugstore or ordering a test online.

One thing you need to know about ketones? Excess ketone bodies unused by the body go to the urine, blood, and breath.

So testing for ketone levels may be done through:


Urine Test

A urine test for ketones is done by simply peeing on a strip, which reveals the level of ketones depending on the color of the strip and comparing the color to a ketone color chart.

A urine test is ideal because it can be easily found in most drugstores/pharmacies or purchased online. (Buy VALI Ketone Urinalysis Testing Strips on Amazon.) It also doesn’t cost as much as when you do a test in the lab.

 A urine test will show that you have:

  • No ketones
  • Trace amounts of ketones
  • Moderate levels of ketones
  • Large amounts of ketones


Blood Test

Using a blood glucose meter, draw a small amount of blood by pressing your fingertip onto a lancet pen. Apply the small amount of blood on the strip to find out your ketone levels.

While this test may be more expensive than a urine test ($5-10 per strip), a blood test may be a more accurate way of determining your ketone levels.

Blood test results may show:

  • Less than 0.6 = normal ketone levels
  • 0.6 - 1.0 = slightly high ketone levels
  • 1.0 - 3.0 = moderately high ketone levels
  • Higher than 3.0 = very high ketone levels


Breath Test

There are breath meters available to test your ketone levels. Just breathe into it and it’ll measure the amount of acetone in your mouth.

A ketone breathalyzer may be extremely expensive (as much as $240 a piece) but you only need to purchase it once.

Results may also not be as accurate as the other two forms of testing.


The good news is that all these tests don’t need you to go to the laboratory and can easily be done at home (or wherever you are really).



Ketone levels are measured in millimoles per liter (mmol/L).

To monitor your ketone levels, jot them down for each test throughout the day. Compare the results over time. 

This video shows the optimal ranges for ketones and how to interpret your ketone levels:



Tina Sendin
Tina Sendin


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