I bit the bullet yesterday and bought some cheap ketone test strips. These are strips you stick in your urine to measure the ketone levels. I’ve never done this before, even though I’ve experimented with ketogenic diet concepts in the past. Definitely excited to try!
So excited that I stopped at a Target on the way to work. That was an adventure. First, I forgot my phone in my car, which meant having to try to find what I was looking for without so much of a clue. After about 10 minutes of wandering around I reluctantly went back to the car. And while I knew that items on the Target website gave store locations, in my frustration I forgot that store location was there, and no doubt seemed like a dope when I asked the Target employee for help.
To make matters worse, we got to the aisle where I had already been frustratingly looking for the strips with no success, only to discover that the online amount in stock hadn’t been updated. Target was sold out of ketone test strips!
Fortunately, Walgreens had them! For about $10 I got 50 of these little strips. Also fortunately I was not late to work, despite the Target ordeal.
So as you can see, a little more pink than purple…
What does it all mean, man?
Well, for a quick review, ketosis is a state in the body where the body is using fat for energy instead of glucose. You gotta be pretty starved of glucose to get into this state, hence the restriction of carbohydrates. And the fuel used for the body is known as ketones. What I’m doing here is measuring the excess ketone level in my urine.
I’m going to say that this first test was in the 5-15 mg/dL range, and the photo doesn’t totally do it justice. It certainly seemed darker than lighter in person. For conversation’s sake, let’s say it’s 10 mg/dL.
Here’s a little handy chart stolen from http://ketodietapp.com, stolen from a book called, The Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate Performance (page 91).
The range this chart wants you to be in is 1-3 millimolars. They consider this range both optimal and safe. Why else would it be green?
Since I don’t know what millimolars are, nor do I know what mg/dL means, I had to consult my Google machine!
millimolar – 1 millimole per liter, with a millimole being 1 thousandth of a gram – it’s a unit common to the study of chemistry and chemical composition (http://medical-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/)
mg/dL – milligrams per deciliter (same website)
Lots of zeros floating around in that calculation. More googling turned up a convenient way to convert. Take the mg/dL and divide it by 18 to get the millimolar value (lost citation). My first test therefore corresponds to a level of between 0.5 and 0.6 millimolars of blood ketones.
…a little disappointing? A lot of work for just a few ketones!
Turns out that urine strips can be variable, since the result of the test is more of a snapshot in excess than a test of the availability in the blood. That’s why the blood test is more reliable. There’s also a breath test that’s a little more convenient, but neither method is exactly recreational. My $10 test is variable, but I’m not shelling out $50 for a more accurate test, at least not yet.
Ketones in the urine can vary based on exercise and water consumption, and I had just recently exercised and drank a ton of water. If the body is burning those ketones as fuel, they may not show up in the urine as well, because they’ve been used and not wasted, and all that water can dilute the reading. More accuracy is possible first thing in the morning, while the body is in a fasting state. So I waited until this morning for my next test, prior to my first glass of water and workout.
Decidedly a darker and redder pink. Again, maybe a little darker in person than the photo shows. If I give myself a 25 mg/dL reading there, then the conversion takes me into the 1.3 – 1.4 millimolars of blood ketones range.
Definitely closer if not right in that lower end of optimal ketone zone.
Maybe this all is pretty inaccurate, but it’s a cheap way to measure what I’m doing and keep me on the straight and narrow. With a urine test, it might even be better to show a lower amount of excess ketones, because that could mean some serious ketone burning. Obviously a very low or non-existent color on the strip would probably indicate that I’m not in ketosis, and I’m burning excess glucose, likely due to taking in more carbohydrates.
Starting out any new lifestyle can be hard, but it’s nice to play around and stay curious. Besides…
Science is neat!