There’s no doubt that it’s convenient to measure your state of ketosis with medical tools like blood ketone meter strips, breath ketone meters, and urine sticks – but as handy as these tools are, they are either super expensive or imprecise. So how can you tell if you’re in ketosis without the strips? Read on to find out.
Quick Review: What is Ketosis?
Ketosis is a metabolic process that occurs when you deprive your body of the glucose it normally heads for to find energy. That’s why on a keto diet, simple carbohydrates (which act similarly to sugars once ingested) are pretty much a no-go, and food sources high in healthy fats are preferred.
Because your body has to turn to stored fat to function in the absence of glucose, the liver will begin to produce acidic substances from these broken-down fatty acids called ketones. Point being, when you have achieved a state of “ketosis” your muscles and tissues will use this substance for fuel instead of the storage of glycogen that your liver would normally have sitting pretty for your tissues to scoop up.
Existing in a state of ketosis seem to be super helpful for your health, whether you’re battling with neurogenerative disorders or a weight issue, but if a keto diet is practiced incorrectly it can have some negative impacts. Studies are not clear, so as always, listen to your body.
How to Tell if You Might be in Ketosis
If you’ve been practicing a keto diet and are having some doubts as to whether or not you’re actually achieving ketosis, here are some natural markers you can look for to see if you’re in ketosis without the strips.
- Bad Breath
Acetone is a ketone that, once upped in circulation, will favour exiting your system through your urine and through your breath. It can be differentiated between other possible reasons for bad breath, like poor dental hygiene or gingivitis, due to the slightly sweet, sometimes metallic taste it can incur. It happens because if your body isn’t used to being in ketosis, it will try to find a way to expel what it deems as “excess” ketones. Although the effect itself is unpleasant, it’s a good indication that you’ve reached ketosis.
- “Keto Flu”
If you’re first attempting ketosis it will take your body a minute to figure out why and how to adapt to the new rules. Initially it might think it is experiencing dehydration, and potentially might actually be undergoing a loss of minerals. Keto flu can be described as feeling lethargic, nauseous, and a little sore – very similar symptoms to the actual influenza virus (hence its nickname). The effects can be mitigated by making sure you’re taking in enough salts and electrolytes, but at the same time these feelings of distress can indicate you’ve entered ketosis.
- Not Really Being That Hungry
Not to say that this phenomenon will happen the first day, or even week of attempting to enter ketosis; as a matter of fact, you may feel that you’re starving at the onset. Gradually, however, your body will get used to being without constant glucose and be happier to use the fat stores and ketones at its disposal. Because fat takes much longer to break down than sugar and your body is getting used to using it, cravings for quick-digesting (and blood sugar spiking) carbohydrates will most likely disappear; it’s another sign you’re in ketosis.
- Insomnia (and General Sleep Troubles)
Are you detecting an unfortunate pattern yet? Entering ketosis can be uncomfortable, but once in the rhythm you’ll potentially feel so much better. There are a number of reasons sleep issues can occur as a result of switching into keto. General stress, mentally and physically due to your new lifestyle shift can be a contributor, as well as your body finding that its new source of fuel (fat) is plentiful so it “gets excited” so to speak, then decides to wake you up at 3 am to get the day started. While it can be annoying at first, if you’re experiencing one or more of these symptoms, you’re most likely in an adaptation phase, and yep, probably entering ketosis.
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Uncomfortable Transitioning Vs. Actual Warning Signs
So, you’ve totally cut back on carbs and have loaded up on healthy fats and moderate levels of protein. You feel sick, tired, achy, are having random spurts of energy at strange times, and your breath sucks. How can you be sure that it’s time to get excited you’re entering ketosis and that you’re not actually just queasy and cranky? Some things to note:
- People with digestive disorders (like Irritable Bowel Syndrome) might find keto upsets their gut microbiome. Everyone is different, and a high fat diet without an adequate amount of roughage could definitely mess up someone with a compromised digestive system, and in turn harm their immune system. Take caution if you have any pre-existing digestive issues or are feeling ill-effects for longer than a week or two.
- Those with a history of restrictive eating might find their mental state suffers due to entering such a limiting diet. While temporary feelings of lethargy and moodiness can be a sign of entering ketosis it’s important to differentiate between natural hormonal swings and an eating or depressive disorder. If you find yourself deeply saddened and distraught over your new choice in diet, it’s probably time to back off.
- If you are at risk or have osteoporosis, the keto diet is probably not the one for you. There are limited findings to do with bone density and ketosis, but some studies on rats and mice have indicated a mineral and bone density loss. There was one human trial that examined children with epilepsy that were put on the ketogenic diet ; it showed a gradual mineral density loss in the bones, but there were too many variables to be of any real significance. While scientists are still tackling the ins and outs of the ketogenic state, it’s better to err on the side of caution.
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