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What Should Ketone Levels Be?

If you are following the keto diet, chances are you’ve thought about tracking your ketone levels using keto strips. But what should ketone levels actually be?

This article is designed to answer this query as well as address other topics associated with ketones, such as ketoacidosis plus tracking ketone levels in various ways.

Let’s get started.

Ketoacidosis vs. Ketosis

As a refresher, ketosis is when your liver generates ketones at a fast rate, which shifts the metabolism of the body away from the consumption of glucose and to stored fat for energy. When ketones are present in our body, it is proof that we are in ketosis.

You want to reach a state called nutritional ketosis. This is when serum ketones range from .5 to 3.0 millimolars.

Ketosis is not dangerous, as some are led to believe. It is a great way to lose weight and can also be utilized as a management tool for Alzheimer’s, epilepsy, and cancer.

Nutritional ketosis is completely OK. But on the other hand, ketoacidosis is indicative of severe health issues. This happens in severe health concerns such as diabetes of both types and those afflicted by alcoholism and is not related to nutritional ketosis.

In this case, ketone levels are in the worst cases 5x greater than ketosis that results from doing the keto diet.

How to Measure My Ketones?

3 different ketone bodies exist, BHB (beta-hydroxybutyrate), acetone, and acetoacetate.

You can use any of these four methods to test for them:

Listen to Your Body

You can listen to the signals your body is sending to figure out whether or not you’re in ketosis. When the body enters ketosis, you might notice an odor of acetone. You can smell it in the urine, breath, or sweat. You might have heard this referred to as “keto breath” or heard other dieters call it a “fruity” smell. If you smell or sense this, it is likely you are in ketosis.

Ketone Strips for Urine

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These only measure levels of excess ketone bodies like acetoacetate, which are excess amounts of ketone bodies that are not used by your body and released through one’s urine. They can be used during the first phase of the keto diet when you want to test the number of carbohydrates to get into ketosis.

Breathalyzer or Breath Testing

One non-invasive and more sanitary method of testing for ketones is to measure the breath acetone concentration. Acetone is a ketone body that comes about when acetoacetate breaks down. This level of acetone is a reflection of the metabolizing of ketones and how they are being used.

Blood Ketone Measurement Meter

This is the best when it comes to BHB ketone body measurements. It is the most spot-on method we know: to use a blood ketone meter. The BHB levels present in the bloodstream will advise you of how much is in your “gas tank,” but it will not measure out the metabolic utilization of ketones.

This occurs when you’ve begun following the keto lifestyle but aren’t completely adapted to the lifestyle just yet. These meters are precise determinants of ketone levels in the blood and are very expensive.

You can expect to pay about $40 for the meter and $5 for strips that go with it. So, if you were to test ketones each day, the price of keto strips and the meter ring in at about $150, and that’s not including taxes and shipping.

It’s one of those things that’s “nice to have,” but I don’t think it’s totally necessary unless you feel strongly about it.

If you’re a strict keto dieter and you want to have it or HAVE to have it, this is the most accurate method to measure those ketones.

Don’t More Ketones Mean More Fat Loss?

Most people think that in order to lose all that excess body fat, they have to restrict carbs to the absolute limit.

It’s not bad to do this; I’ve known plenty of dieters, including myself, who managed 20g of carbs a day or less and were all OK.

And one of the most famous low-carb diet sellers out there, Atkins, even indicated that having more ketones equaled more weight loss.

Their reasoning? Ketones were calories that were created out of a fat breakdown in the liver.

Some fat loss could show up as the result of metabolism at work- for example, more ketones produced means more calories released- but the most effective method for fat loss is controlling one’s appetite.

Sure, urinary strips for ketones can tell us that calories are being expelled through ketones, but the effect is not as vast as you think- we’re talking 100cal or less.

And everybody is going to react differently. Some folks will tolerate higher carb intake but still stay in ketosis as compared to others. High ketone levels don’t mean that you’re going to burn more calories.

Just remember to stay at optimal levels of nutritional ketosis, and so long as you stay there, you can certainly add healthy amounts of carbs to your food.

What Should Ketone Levels Be

Don’t Get Crazy with It

It’s OK to want to test your ketones. But once you get into the diet and you see results, you’ve likely done the best you can. By the time you hit week 4, and you’ve lost a few lbs., enjoyed greater energy, and generally feel great, you’ve already figured it out!

You know what to eat and what to avoid. You know how many carbs you can have. You are still enjoying results even if you don’t carefully track every little thing.

My point? Find the balance between testing ketone levels every now and again and eating well. So long as you feel good and you’re getting results, that’s what counts.


Thanks for reading about optimal ketone levels. It’s not rocket science, and the goal is to get into nutritional ketosis. Don’t spend a bundle on testing for this stuff, either, unless you REALLY care about it. So long as you are getting the results you want, you are winning!