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Back to A Beginner's Guide to Low Carbing

Everything You Wanted To Know About Ketosis And Keytone Testing Strips

Cheri received permission from The Atkins Center to re-print this text.

Ketosis is really a shortening of the term lipolysis/ketosis. Lipolysis simply means that you're burning your fat stores and using them as the source of fuel they were meant to be. The by-products of burning fat are ketones, so ketosis is a secondary process of lipolysis. When your body releases ketones in your urine, it is chemical proof that you’re consuming your own stored fat. And the more ketones you release, the more fat you have dissolved.

If you are restricting the amount of carbohydrates you eat, your body turns to fat as its alternative source of energy. In effect, lipolysis/ketosis has replaced the alternative of burning glucose for energy. Both are perfectly normal processes.

People (and even some ill-informed doctors) often confuse ketosis, which is a perfectly normal metabolic process, with ketoacidosis, which is a life-threatening condition. The latter is the consequence of insulin-deficient subjects having out-of-control blood sugar levels, a condition that can occur as well in alcoholics and people in a state of extreme starvation. Ketosis and ketoacidosis may sound vaguely alike, but the two conditions are virtually polar opposites and can always be distinguished from each other by the fact that the diabetic has been consuming excessive carbohydrates and has high blood sugar, in sharp contrast to the fortunate person who is doing Atkins.

Why Does Lipolysis / Ketosis Work?

One of insulin's jobs is to convert all your excess carbohydrate into stores of body fat. In a normally functioning body, fatty acids and ketones are readily converted from fat tissue to fuel. But in overweight people, high insulin levels prevent this from happening.

Most obese people become so adept at releasing insulin that their blood is never really free of it and they’re never able to use up their fat stores. By primarily burning fat instead of carbohydrates, lipolysis breaks the cycle of excess insulin and resultant stored fat. So by following a fat containing, controlled carbohydrate regimen, you bypass the process of converting large amounts of carbohydrate into glucose. When your carbohydrate intake drops low enough to induce fat burning, abnormal insulin levels return to normal—perhaps for the first time in years or decades.

How Will Ketosis Help Me Lose Weight?

Most reducing diets restrict calorie intake, so you lose weight but some of that is fat and some of it is lean muscle tissue as well. Less muscle means slowed metabolism, which makes losing weight more difficult and gaining it back all too easy. Ketosis will help you to lose FAT.

Being in ketosis means that your body's primary source of energy is fat (in the form of ketones). When you consume adequate protein as well, there's no need for the body to break down its muscle tissue. Ketosis also tends to accelerate fat loss --- once the liver converts fat to ketones, it can't be converted back to fat, and so is excreted.

But, Isn't Ketosis Dangerous?

Being in ketosis by following a low carbohydrate diet is NOT dangerous. The human body was designed to use ketones very efficiently as fuel in the absence of glucose.

However, the word ketosis is often confused with a similar word, ketoacidosis.

Ketoacidosis is a dangerous condition for diabetics, and the main element is ACID not ketones. The blood pH becomes dangerously acidic because of an extremely high blood SUGAR level (the diabetic has no insulin, or doesn't respond to insulin .... so blood sugar rises ... ketones are produced by the body to provide the fuel necessary for life, since the cells can't use the sugar). It's the high blood sugar, and the acid condition that is so dangerous. Ketones just happen to be a part of the picture, and are a RESULT of the condition, not the CAUSE. Diabetics can safely follow a ketogenic diet to lose fat weight ... but they must be closely monitored by their health care provider, and blood sugars need to be kept low, and stable.

Doesn't Ketosis Lead To Loss of Muscle Mass?

The notion that the Atkins Nutritional Approach—high in protein, which builds muscle, and fat, which is used for energy—will force your body to break down muscle is incorrect. Only individuals on very low-calorie diets can lose muscle mass, because they have an inadequate protein intake. Atkins, however, is not calorie restricted (this isn't an invitation for gorging, but a recommendation to eat until you are no longer hungry) and the high protein intake required offsets any possible loss of body mass.

How Do the Ketone Test Strips Work, And Where Can I Get Them?

Ketone urine-testing strips, also called Ketostix or just ketone sticks ... are small plastic strips that have a little absorptive pad on the end. This contains a special chemical that will change colour in the presence of ketones in the urine. The strips may change varying shades of pink to purple, or may not change color at all. The container will have a scale on the label, with blocks of colour for you to compare the strip after a certain time lapse, usually 15 seconds. Most folks simply hold a strip in the flow of urine. Other folks argue that the force of the flow can "wash" some of the chemical away, and advise that a sample of urine be obtained in a cup or other container, then the strip dipped into it.

The chemical reagent is very sensitive to moisture, including what's in the air. It's important to keep the lid of the container tightly closed at all times, except for when you're getting a strip to take a reading. Make sure your fingers are dry before you go digging in! They also have an expiry date, so make note of this when you purchase the strips ... that's for the UNopened package. Once opened, they have a shelf-life of about 6 months -- you may wish to write the date you opened on the label for future reference.

Ketone test strips can be purchased at any pharmacy, and are usually kept with the diabetic supplies. In some stores they're kept behind the counter, so if you don't see them on the shelf, just ask the pharmacist; you don't need a prescription to buy them. You can also buy Ketone Test Strips at Netrition.com.

How Long Does It Usually Take To Get Into Ketosis?

The body can only store a two-day supply of glucose in the form of glycogen, so after two days of consuming no more than 20 grams of carbohydrates, most people go into lipolysis/ketosis.

What Shade Of Purple Should My Lipolysis Testing Strips Be? Will They Show Different Levels At Different Times Of The Day?

Because every person's metabolism is different, the sticks turn different shades of purple or pink for different people. And, yes, results vary depending upon the time of the day, whether or not you exercise and what you last ate. It doesn’t matter whether your strips turn a dark or light color. Some people never even get into ketosis, but still lose weight easily. So don’t worry about the exact level of ketosis shown on your test strips; what is more important is how your clothes are fitting, what the scale says and how you feel.

I'm Following Induction Strictly; Why Won't My Strips Turn Purple?

Ketones will spill into the urine ONLY when there is more in the blood than is being used as fuel by the body at that particular moment.

You may have exercised or worked a few hours previously, so your muscles would have used up the ketones as fuel, thus there will be no excess. You may have had a lot of liquids to drink, so the urine is more diluted. Perhaps the strips are not fresh, or the lid was not on tight and some moisture from the atmosphere got in.

Some low carbers NEVER show above trace or negative even ... yet they burn fat and lose weight just fine. If you're losing weight, and your clothes are getting looser, you're feeling well and not hungry all the time .. then you are successfully in ketosis. Don't get hung up on the strips; they're just a guide, nothing more.

Will I Lose Weight Faster If The Strips Show Dark Purple All The Time?

It is true that, "The liver will make ketones from body fat, the fat you EAT, and from alcohol --- the ketone strips have no way of distinguishing the source of the ketones. So, if you test every day after dinner, and dinner usually contains a lot of fat, then you may very well test for large amounts of ketones all the time."This is why we recommend testing at the same time every day. The morning, before breakfast ,is the best time because it will reflect what your body is doing, and not the previous meal. Unless someone tests negative in the morning, then we will recommend testing before bed.

It is also true that, "The strips only indicate what's happening in the urine. Ketosis happens in the blood and body tissues. If you're showing even a small amount, then you are in ketosis, and fat-burning is taking place. Don't get hung up on the ketone sticks."

Does The Dark Purple Stick Mean You Are Dehydrated?

You need to drink more water to dilute ketones, and keep the kidneys flushed, but if someone is drinking 8 glasses of water daily as recommended, they will not be dehydrated, So the statement that dark purple indicates dehydration is not accurate.

I Am Unable To Get Into Ketosis Even When I Consume No Carbohydrates.  What Should I Do?

Some people do not produce enough ketones to show up in their urine. If you are experiencing a reduction in your appetite and an improvement in well-being and are losing weight or your clothes are feeling looser, there is no need to do anything differently. Remember, the lipolysis testing strips (LTS) are tools; making them change color is not the sole object of the game. If you are not losing weight, you either have a strong metabolic resistance to weight loss or you are consuming "hidden" carbohydrates in the form of sweetened salad dressing, breading, etc. Then follow Induction strictly for five days. If the LTS still haven’t changed even slightly, make sure you are not consuming excess protein and measure your salads to make sure you are not eating too many veggies. Still no change? Try cutting out tomatoes and onions, which are relatively high on the glycemic index. You may also benefit from nutritional supplements such as L-carnitine, hydroxycitric acid (HCA), and chromium—all of which aid in hunger reduction or weight loss. You may also need to step up the frequency and intensity of your exercise program.

Does Caffeine Affect Ketosis?

This is questionable. There ARE a few studies that suggest caffeine may cause blood sugar to rise, with consequent effect on insulin ... The studies involve consuming 50 gm glucose orally, followed by a dose of caffeine. This is quite different from a low carber, who is consuming only 20 gm carbs, in the form of high-fiber vegetables, spread throughout the day.

Many low carbers continue to enjoy caffeine-containing beverages with no serious impact on their weight-loss efforts. However, there are some sensitive individuals ... and persons who are extremely insulin resistant may need to restrict or even eliminate all caffeine. If you have been losing successfully then find your weight loss stalled for a month or two, and you are following your program to the letter, you might consider stopping all caffeine for a while, to see if that will get things started again.

Will Drinking Alcohol Affect Ketosis?

No and yes. The liver can make ketones out of alcohol, so technically, when you drink you'll continue to produce ketones and so will remain in ketosis. The problem is ... alcohol converts more easily to ketones than fatty acids, so your liver will use the alcohol first, in preference to fat. Thus, when you drink, basically your FAT burning is put on hold until all the alcohol is out of your system.

This rapid breakdown of alcohol into ketones and acetaldehyde (the intoxicating by-product) ... tends to put low carbers at risk for quicker intoxication ... especially if no other food is consumed to slow absorption.

Where to Purchase Ketone Strips



Disclaimer: All content found on "A Beginner's Guide to Low Carbing" is the opinion or suggestion of Cheri and therefore is not necessarily that of Netrition. Cheri received permission to reproduce and distribute any content that was not written by her. Netrition is not responsible for any consequences incurred by anyone following directions or instructions found on these pages. Netrition and Cheri do not claim to be health experts, physicians or dietitians. We encourage you to consult your physician if you have any questions or concerns of a medical nature. Netrition is not responsible for the information on these pages and is not responsible for any typographical errors. The material on this site may not be reproduced, distributed, or otherwise used, without written permission of content owners.

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