The keto diet is structured to move your body into a natural metabolic state called ketosis. Ketosis occurs when there isn’t enough sugar from carbohydrates in the body so fat stores are tapped for energy. This metabolic process results in unused or excess ketone bodies being released, causing ketones in urine, not diabetic related.
If you are still wondering what are ketones in urine and why you should care, let’s dive a bit deeper into the metabolic process. The human body taps the most readily available energy source. If you eat a carbohydrate-rich diet, your primary energy comes from the glucose, or sugar, in the carbs.
When you eat low-carb, especially a diet that drastically limits carbs like the keto diet, there isn’t enough glucose to power your mind and body so fat stores are used as the primary energy source. This causes the liver to release ketones in urine resulting in the weight-loss nirvana—ketosis.
Ketone bodies are water-soluble molecules produced by the liver and used as an energy source for the brain, muscle tissue, and heart when glucose isn’t available. When ketone bodies are produced the result is the state of ketogenesis. There are three recognized ketone bodies:
Ketosis is caused by large amounts of ketone bodies accumulating. Ketosis is a safe metabolic process that spurs weight loss and belly fat loss. However, ketosis and ketoacidosis are not interchangeable terms. Ketoacidosis occurs when there are too many ketone bodies accumulating in the body, causing dangerous levels of acid in the bloodstream.
Ketones and weight loss are directly linked. When aiming for optimal ketosis, it is essential to test your level of ketones in urine to make sure you have cut enough carbs from your diet to be effective. Ketone urine testing can also alert you if you’ve cut too many carbs and are edging towards ketoacidosis.
Fortunately, ketone urine test strips are readily available at pharmacies and most grocery stores. Urine test strips are the easiest and one of the most effective ways to test ketone levels in urine samples. All you have to do to test for ketones in urine is hold the test strip in your urine stream and wait a few seconds for the result.
When selecting a ketone test kit read the package carefully and see the level of information the test provides. While most ketone test strips do include a chart with graduated colors and corresponding numbers, not all kits will provide you with the concentration of ketones in real numbers. In fact, some test kits will only provide statements such as “trace ketones in urine.”
The keto diet was developed nearly 100 years ago as a way to help children with epilepsy. The main tenets of the diet have remained unchanged—the keto diet drastically restricts carbohydrates to 20-50 grams a day.
The benefits of having ketones in your urine register through a ketone urine test are:
There is significant debate as to whether following the keto diet during pregnancy is safe. There aren’t any long-term studies that tell us one way or another. Many physicians are concerned that elevated levels of ketones in the urine of pregnant women could lead to complications and possible birth defects. Ketones in urine during pregnancy can be caused by:
If you have type 1 or type 2 diabetes, drink alcohol excessively, have a thyroid disorder, or use illegal drugs, you have an increased risk of ketoacidosis. If you are in one of these high-risk groups, it is imperative that you test for high ketones in urine when following a keto diet, especially if symptoms of ketoacidosis arise.