Are you taking exogenous ketones and wondering if they’re working for you? If so, the first question to ask yourself is: am I actually testing my ketone levels? And are you doing so regularly? Testing your ketone levels after taking exogenous ketones is imperative in order to know if they are working for you. I (and many other Ketonians) made this mistake for a long time before realizing that it’s the best way to honestly learn if we need to make adjustments.
There’s an underlying reason we don’t want to test ourselves. We might not get the answer we want. Pride and shame conspire to tell us we don’t need to check our results. The key is to not take yourself so seriously and just go for it. 🙂 The two possible outcomes are
- We are in ketosis. Great!
- We aren’t in ketosis. It’s great to know that! Now we can make adjustments.
There’s a lot of confusion around the whys and hows of ketone testing when you’re trying to enter and maintain ketosis, especially if you’re using exogenous ketones to raise your ketone levels. So, let’s first talk about the main methods of testing and what’s most important here:
Testing Ketone Levels
There are three main methods people use to test their ketone levels:
While these can all have their uses, urine and breath testing are pretty weak compared with blood testing if you want an accurate view of your ketone levels. Let’s break down why:
Urine Ketone Testing
Urine ketone testing is simple. You pee on the stick, tap off any excess urine, wait just a bit, and read the strip to see if any levels of ketones have been detected in your urine.
So, what’s the problem? Pee tests are unreliable because they measure the unused ketones in your body that are spilling over into your urine. Sounds simple enough, right? Well, the problem here is that your body becomes more adapted to ketosis the longer you’re on keto and will be using the ketones. So, they might not show up as much on a urine test — even if you’re deeply into ketosis.
For example, there have been plenty of times my blood levels have shown ketosis but there’s been nothing on my pee strip.
Moral of the story: urine testing can be a good option at the beginning of your journey into ketosis — but not so much the longer you stay keto.
Breath Ketone Tests
You can test ketones on your breathe by using a Ketonix meter. You blow into and it shows a reading based on the detected level of acetone, which is the ketone that shows up on your breath.
Breathe testing is more reliable than pee testing, but still not really the best for clearly knowing your level of ketosis. That’s because, as mentioned above, the ketones that show up on your breath are acetone, and what we care about most is beta-hydroxybutyrate, or BHB (which is measured in the blood — see below).
Here’s the best analogy I can come up with for this form of testing. In this analogy let’s let a hospital represent the ketone beta-hydroxybutyrate, and a jail represent the ketone, acetone. Bear with me here:
Pretend you wanted to know how many hospitals (BHB) are located in a specific geographic state. You happen to know that the number of hospitals per state increases with the number jails (acetone) per state. So instead of looking at the number of hospitals (BHB) directly, you look at the number of jails (acetone) and then make a reasonable assumption about the number of hospitals based on that number.
So, obviously, the best method for truly knowing your ketone levels after taking exogenous ketones is…
Blood Ketone Tests
The method for blood testing is simple and the most accurate way to best your levels of BHB — which is the primary ketone your body can make and ultimately convert to energy. BHB is also what provides the “clean” energy ketones in our Perfect Keto products.
Blood testing involves a small prick of the finger with a blood meter, which measures BHB levels in the blood. Testing your ketone levels through blood is more accurate because there aren’t factors that can dilute the results, such as, for example, how drinking water could dilute urine results.
Analyzing You Ketone Levels
Another reason to track your ketone levels diligently after taking exogenous ketones is because different things can affect how you react on a ketogenic diet.
Non-Supplement Factors That Affect Ketone Levels
The type of foods you eat, and the amount you eat, and even amount of exercise can change your ketone levels — and you want to get a good sense of how you react to these things day-to-day, especially when you’re still getting used to your keto diet. This can help you gauge the level of exogenous ketones that is right for you, and when it’s best to take them for optimal results.
Testing Ketone Levels Often
Let’s make this clear right now: you MUST regularly test if you want to get the most out of taking exogenous ketones and truly raise your ketone levels.
Every single method mentioned here can be done in the privacy of your own home, so there’s no need to go to a clinic or any place with fancy pants equipment to get them done. Taking ketones and then not testing your levels is literally a shot in the dark, and it’s a waste.
Think about, say, basketball practice. You wouldn’t shoot the ball towards the hoop but then walk away immediately, failing to wait and see if it actually goes in. Or… you wouldn’t get in your car and drive somewhere new without checking the GPS to make sure you’re headed in the right direction. Right? Same deal here.
Patience is a virtue, too. It might take some time to get used to testing your ketone levels regularly, and it might take a bit before you find the right balance of macros, exercise, etc. that’s just right for you to get into and stay in ketosis. (And make sure you account for these ketosis mistakes.)
Just know that exogenous ketones can help you get there faster. AND to get the most out of them, you gotta test, test, test.
Plus, the amount of ketones that are right for you depends on your specific goals — and the only way to make sure you’re hitting that amount consistently and seeing real and accurate results over time is by testing regularly.
When to Take Exogenous Ketones
To optimize your use of exogenous ketones, here are some of the best times to take them:
- Before you do a workout
- When you wake up in the morning
- After a more carb-heavy meal when you’re trying to get back into ketosis
- When needing to suppress hunger during a fast or on an empty stomach
- Every day to enhance ketone levels
So, if you’re worried your ketone levels aren’t raised after taking exogenous ketones, be sure you’re using a reliable method for testing as well as testing often. Don’t just rely on a feeling or the assumption you’re in ketosis because you’re following a ketogenic diet or simply taking ketone supplements.
It’s not just about following the diet and using the products, but also about being smart with your testing and monitoring. Stay in-the-know with the right facts and testing methods, and you’ll get the results you desire.
Dr. Anthony Gustin is a board-certified sports chiropractor, functional medicine practitioner, entrepreneur, podcast host, and founder of Perfect Keto.
Over the last few years, he has treated thousands of patients with movement rehab, internal diagnostics, and natural interventions, including NFL, MLB and NBA champions. After growing his sports rehab and functional medicine clinics to six locations in San Francisco, he shifted his mission to help as many people as possible achieve optimal health and well-being.