When you first start the keto diet, your aim will be to get into ketosis, and you’ll be keen to know what your ketone level is. The next question most people nearly always ask is “What is the ideal level for ketosis?”
In other words, what is the optimum ketone reading that lets you know you’re in the fat burning state of ketosis.
To know whether you’re in ketosis and whether your body has enough ketones in your body for you to use as energy instead of glucose, you have to measure your actual ketone levels.
You’ll then need to know if they’re high enough for you to be gaining all the weight loss and health benefits of the ketogenic diet.
How to test your ketone levels
There are three main ways that you can test your ketone levels.
For more details about checking if you’re in ketosis visit:
This meter is one of the few on the market that has super affordable strips to use with the machine.
This dramatically reduces the cost of keeping tabs on your blood/ketone levels.
However, you may not want a spot on, accurate ketone reading. You may be interested in knowing only that you’re actually in ketosis.
Common signs you’re in ketosis will give you the signs to look for, and how to subjectively decide that you probably are in ketosis.
Being in ketosis is a great way of getting motivated to continue with the keto diet.
It’s the sign that your body has powered through its glycogen stores and is now using its second metabolic pathway.
That is, your body is now burning fat to fuel your body’s immediate energy needs.
Dr Stephen Phinney in his book The Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate Living states that you are in nutritional ketosis once your ketone readings reach 0.5mmol/L.
Ketone levels and their meanings
There are broadly three levels of ketosis that you will need to know about.
- 0.5mmol/L – 1mmol/L = light ketosis
- 1mmol/L – 3mmol/L = optimal ketosis
- 3mmol/L – 5mmol/L = fasting ketosis
For weight loss, a reading of between 0.5 and 1mmol/L will have you in the right zone to be seeing some great results.
Once you’re there, then you can aim for the optimal level to make sure that you’re getting the most from your keto diet.
Many people are using the keto diet for health reasons as well as a way of reaching their weight loss goals.
For these people, aiming for a level of ketosis which is considered therapeutic would be ideal.
Note that it is not necessary to reach therapeutic ketosis if you want to only lose weight.
Most people will do very well on at the optimal level.
However, if you have one or more health goals, the higher level will work best for you.
3mmol/L – 5mmol/L = therapeutic ketosis
What else apart from diet will aid ketosis?
Once you’ve got your low carb or keto eating organized , there are several other things which will help you to get into ketosis as quickly as possible.
Any aerobic exercise such as jogging, swimming, cycling or walking will cause your ketone levels to rise.
Other forms of exercise such as resistance training will make your ketone levels fall for a while.
This is due to the fact that blood/glucose levels will temporarily rise.
However, resistance training greatly enhances both the weight loss and health benefits of the keto diet.
So, ignore the temporary drop in ketone levels and go for the long view.
It is not well-known that a lack of sleep can get in the way of your weight loss goals.
By dealing with any sleep issues that you have, you will reduce your cortisol levels and blood/glucose levels.
This will raise your ketone readings, and help you to reach ketosis sooner.
Can ketone levels get to high?
Nobody should try to have ketone readings above 5mmol/L
However, a ketone level this high is a complication of type 1 diabetes and is called ketoacidosis.
This is a serious condition which needs urgent medical assistance.
If you have type 1 diabetes, this article is not for you. You should consider seeking medical advice when you start a keto diet.
Do opinions about optimal ketosis levels vary?
Yes they do, but in general it is agreed that anywhere between 0.5 mmol/L and 2mmol/L is the best range for weight loss.
Optimal ketosis would be at about 1.5mmol/L to 3mmol/L
The keto diet aims to get you into a fat burning state of ketosis.
It does this by limiting your carbohydrate intake, which in turn forces your body to use its stores of glycogen.
After a few days on the keto diet your stores of glycogen will be depleted.
It is at this point that your body will switch to using your fat stores for energy. It is this process which produces ketones.
The sweet spot for ketones varies from one expert to another.
However, generally speaking you will be at your ideal level for ketosis from 0.5mmol/L to 3mmol/L.
Levels above 3mmol/L to 5mmol/L would be considered to be therapeutic levels, and you’d be in the zone for optimum health benefits.
There is no need to go above this level.
The best way to check your ketone levels is with a blood keto meter, but it is possible to feel that you’re in ketosis.
This is especially useful if you are interested in only weight loss.
Ketone levels vary between people, even those on the same diet.
An ideal level will be slightly different for everyone, so this can be used only as a general guide.
Remember that stress, exercise and lack of sleep can alter your ketone levels, although normally only for a short amount of time.
However, there are many who advise not to get too hung up over your ketone levels.
If you want to know how to work out your own carb limit for ketosis , you will need to test.
You’ll also need to monitor the results after slowly increasing your carb intake.
Finally, knowing your level of ketosis can give you a great boost, and will let you know that you’re doing everything right.
It really all depends on your own weight loss and health goals.