Measuring progress

In my previous post I told you about some of the physical, emotional and mental effects of eating a diet that is high in healthy fats and low in carbohydrates. This can be very subjective and one could argue that they experience the same without having to lower their carb consumption. If that’s you, more power to you – I’m not here to change everybody’s WOE. I’m here to show you what works for me.

Aside from the feel good aspects of this diet I am also experiencing more tangible and measurable effects of having reduced my carb intake to about 30-50g a day and increasing my fat consumption. I’ve started measuring the production of ketones in my body. What are ketones you ask? Let me explain…

When you switch your fuel from carbohydrates to fat by consuming below 50g of carbohydrates per day and increasing your intake of fat to meet your expenditure goals, your body will no longer have the ability to breakdown carbs to create glucose for energy. Instead, your body will start breaking down fats for energy and the byproduct of this breakdown is what’s called ketone bodies. There are 3 ways of measuring your ketone production:

Urine Ketone Strips ( measure acetoacetate )
Blood Ketone Monitor (measures beta-bydroxybutryate (BHB))
Breath Ketone Analyser (Ketonix) (measures acetone which is made from a breakdown of acetoacetate)

Urine Ketone Strips in my experience have proven useless as they barely registered any ketones in my urine at all. I only started using them about 2 months into my diet and there is a possibility that if I had used them at an earlier stage of my ketosis I might have been able to register some ketone production. The reason for this is the fact that the type of ketones (acetoacetate) that one can measure in urine are the ones that the body has no need for so it excretes them – so called  “wasted” ketones. In other words, if ones diet is extremely high in fat and the body breaks down that fat to produce ketones some of them will be used by the body for brain function and energy, but if there is too much of them (ie. more than needed to fuel your body) they will be eliminated via urine. Moreover, if one has been following the LCFH diet for an extended period of time the body becomes very efficient at using its ketones and does not have an abundance of “wasted ketones” to release. Hence, my poor results with measuring urine ketones.

Blood Ketone Monitor has given me a better result as I have registered 0.6 mmol/L of blood ketones. However, I am not able to do any type of analysis of my blood ketones because I’ve only measured one time so far. The trouble with measuring blood ketones is that, while it is the gold standard for accurately measuring ketone levels, it is also the most expensive. Or maybe we are seeing some sort of cause and effect here – because it is a gold standard it is also the most expensive (after all Big Pharma is after your money). The monitor itself is not very expensive, in fact if you live in Canada most manufacturers will send it to you for free (I got mine free from Abbott), but what will drain your wallet if you want to measure regularly are the strips. The cheapest I have been able to find them was on Well.ca  – a box of 10 will run you 25.99$ + economy shipping of 5.95$ or express shipping of 14.99$ (free shipping only starts at 29$) – so one test will cost you 3.30$. Helpful hint to save money is to buy 2 in one order and you will shave off the cost of shipping and one test goes down to 2.59$ – still pretty steep. So personally I will not be measuring blood ketones regularly, but only at times when I know I have been 100% adherent to the diet and have not been using any sweeteners in my food. But here is my result:

This is my one and only ketone and glucose measurement to date. As you can see from the picture below, the ketone reading of 0.6mmol/L puts me just at the start of nutritional ketosis.

 

 

This is the blood ketone range – the Nutritional Ketosis starts at about 0.5 mmol/L, it’s followed by Optimal Ketosis and Post-Exercise Ketosis. Starvation Ketosis and Ketoacidosis are not desirable. The former because the purpose of this WOE is not to starve but to eat to satiety and the latter only matters for those who along with high ketone levels have high blood glucose level due to unstable insulin levels (usually Type 1 diabetics)

Breath Ketone Analyser aka Ketonix has just arrived as an early Christmas gift from my partner in crime, so we started blowing right away. This device measures breath acetone and has a slightly different range than blood ketones and does not seem to correspond closely to the levels of blood ketones. As you can imagine, since the initial cost of the device is the only cost associated with this method, I’ve done quite a few tests already. The results have been all over the map, I’ve gotten readings between 4-14ppm which I am very happy with, to say the least. The highest readings have consistently been recorded after my morning workout which includes 45-60 minutes on a bike and 60 minutes weight training and the lowest readings happened at the end of the day.

These are the ranges of Ketone readings for a Ketonix as defined by the maker of this device. Nutritional Ketosis according to “Measuring Breath Acetone for Monitoring Fat Loss: Review“ by Joseph C. Anderson (Obesity (2015) 23, 2327–2334. doi:10.1002/oby.21242 ) is between 4-30ppm.
This is a reading of my ketones that was taken sometime in the afternoon. While I have seen people display their own readings that were much higher than this (going into the red zone) I believe that this is a pretty decent reading. I don’t subscribe to chasing the ketones and trying to achieve the highest reading possible. After all, you want your body to be utilising them, not producing an overabundance of them.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Today 3-4 hours after a morning fasted workout the reading shows above 12ppm.

 

And this is a snapshot of my ketone readings so far. As you can see it seems to be all over the place, hitting low and high notes depending on my activity level and how much fat I am consuming.

Up until now I didn’t have any tangible results other than feeling physically, mentally and emotionally better than I have ever felt during my high-carb days – I couldn’t really tell if I was doing this right. These ketone numbers – even though many would argue are completely unnecessary – do give me some sort of validation. Both, myself and my partner are in it knee deep and once we started measuring ketones we’ve entered into a  “ketone competition” with each other where we both want to outdo the other person. While the competition is very innocent I do think it is a healthy competition to have because the bottom line is, each of us wants to eat optimally for this WOE and what can be better than two people making sure they eat well so that they can be healthier than the other one? If you ask me, this is an ultimate thing in any relationship, since usually couples tend to trip each other up rather than be the motivating force for each other.