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If you’ve ever spent time browsing the #keto hashtag on Instagram (what? I like to get meal ideas!), you’ve likely seen pictures of ketostix, proudly displaying their pinkish purple results. It’s exciting! It’s an almost instant way to tell if you’re in ketosis…sort of. Either way, the concentration of keto strip pictures on social media would seem to indicate that they’re necessary. After all, don’t you want to know you’re in ketosis?
So, what’s the deal with ketostix? Do we really need keto strips to know we’re in ketosis?
What Are Ketostix?
Basically, ketostix (or keto strips) are used to detect ketones in your urine or blood. If you’re in ketosis, your body will excrete a measurable amount of ketones. This is a fairly good indicator of whether or not you were recently in ketosis. I say recently because if you have literally just eaten a piece of chocolate cake, and then go to test to see if you got knocked out of ketosis (spoiler alert: you did), it might not register for a little while.
There are typically two types of keto strips. One is the type that you pee on, and the other is a blood test. For the latter, you use the same type of testing kit that diabetics use to test blood sugar levels, only with a different type of strip. The strips for the blood meters are actually really expensive, so most people tend to go with the first type mentioned.
Alternatively, you could use a ketone monitor that checks for ketone levels in your breath. This is the most accurate way to check ketone levels, as it’s a snapshot of your body’s current state. These are disposable, but still more costly than just peeing on a strip.
So… Do I Need Ketostix to Know I’m in Ketosis?
Maybe, this one’s kind of relative. When you’re just starting out on a ketogenic diet, odds are, you don’t know what ketosis feels like. I definitely recommend picking up a package at least at the start. While it’s not a completely accurate way to determine whether or not you’re currently in ketosis, it’s certainly a good baseline.
Using Ketostix at the beginning of starting keto can also help you in looking for the other determining factors. Pay close attention to what your body is doing at this point in time – how do you feel? What “side effects” do you notice? Write it down if it helps you remember, and soon you’ll be able to tell without an external test.
How Often Should I Test?
We love data. I know so many people who weigh themselves multiple times daily, checking for minor fluctuations. Similarly, many new ketoers overdo the Ketostix just a tad. There’s no need to test every few hours, or after every meal, or every time you hear the word “banana.” Unless you’re specifically aiming to see how various foods impact your state of ketosis, or checking the pattern of how many ketones you excrete at various times during the day (if you do this, I’d love to see the data!), then you can probably just test once daily.
Pick a time that you can test consistently throughout the week. It doesn’t have to be perfect, but it’s nice to have some constant. If you think 3pm every day works, go for it. 6pm is better? Do it up! Be sure that you’ve eaten that day, and that at least an hour has passed since you last had food. Again, at the beginning, you’ll want to keep track of this. If you’re keeping a food diary, then just add the ketone data there. If not, a google document, or note on your phone will work fine, too!
Why All the Ketosis Data?
Mostly just to help you out along the way. If you track your food, and the level of ketosis you’re experiencing, you’ll start to see patterns emerge. You’ll be able to better determine how various foods impact you, and see what works best for your body.
It should be noted that once you’ve become ketoadapted (basically, once you’ve been on a ketogenic diet for long enough for your body to adapt), your levels of ketones will decline. So, after a few weeks, the test strips will likely give lower readings. This is actually a really cool phenomena, and can be read about in more detail here (with graphs!).
Of course, if you carb cycle, or knock yourself out of ketosis for a period of time, you may want to test to find out when you’re back in ketosis.
So, How Can I Tell I’m In Ketosis Without Ketostix?
There are plenty of ways to tell you’re in ketosis without keto strips, if you don’t want to go that route. In order to really have a good idea, you’re going to want to pay close attention to your body and the signals it’s sending. Because we’re all unique and lovely snowflakes, you’re body may feel slightly different than someone else’s while in ketosis, but there are some signs that are pretty universal.
I wrote about this before, if you’re curious to know more, if not… there’s always the ketostix!