Experiment: optimal ketosis for weight loss and improved performance


Can measuring ketones help you lose weight and improve performance? Let’s try to find out.

Today my ketone experiment reached goal #1: achieving stable optimal ketosis*.

After getting my blood ketone meter I’ve eaten a stricter LCHF diet than I usually do. More fat, less carbs. No bread, no potatoes, pasta, rice or fruit. Instead I’ve eaten meat, fish, vegetables, egg and extra large amounts of high-fat sauces and butter. In the mornings coffee with plenty of butter/coconut fat in it. I’ve occasionally cheated with some nuts, root vegetables, berries, cream and a little wine.

After just a few days I entered light nutritional ketosis (over 0.5 mmol/L on the meter). But it took a full three weeks to achieve stable optimal ketosis (1.5 – 3 mmol/L) in the mornings. It was also interesting that it was much quicker to get high ketone readings during daytime and in the evenings (data not shown in the chart above).

I’ve also tested keto sticks for measuring urine ketones (cheaper and simpler). In my case the results so far track the blood ketones reasonably well, even if urine ketones is a more inexact and unreliable test.

So what do you think I’ve noticed? Does it feel different? What do you think happened to my weight & waist measurement (I started at a normal satisfactory weight) and training/mental performance? Answers are coming up, but feel free to guess in the comments!


*/ Ketosis is a natural state where the body is almost only burning fat.The secret of ketosis is to eat very low amounts of carbs and only moderate amounts of protein. Then add fat to satiety.

Some less informed people still confuse natural ketosis with the pathological state ketoacidosis. The latter has completely different causes, usually extreme insulin deficiency in type 1 diabetics. In this dangerous state the ketone koncentrations are around ten times higher then in normal ketosis, and the blood sugar is sky high.

Natural ketosis due to low carb eating is perfectly safe with stable well-controlled blood sugar and well-controlled blood ketones.


Top comment

  1. NM
    I think you put on a huge amount weight because of all that FAT, had a heart attack (just as Dr Keys predicted) and are now a vegan, eating your healthy-wholegrains and lots of soy-protein every day?

    Close? I guess I might not be, somehow? ;-)

    Reply: #134
    Read more →
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All comments

  1. T. C. Wahl
    "I haven't "seen" any dramatic results yet but I feel better, more in control. I register "trace" to "small" amounts on urine sticks. When does the magic kick in? I'm notoriously impatient. My question is...Will it really take 4-5 WEEKS to see results?"

    If the strips you're using are reading any ketones then you are in ketosis, just not consistently throughout the day. To answer your primary question....yes, it is going to be at least four weeks for your body to be continually in ketosis... aka "fat adapted". Once you are fat adapted you will have a more consistent ketone level throughout the day and a point or two higher after a hard workout.

    If you really want to see results then I would stop the wine for the next few weeks, the martini isn't as much of a problem as wine is because wine is essentially sugar water, especially red wines. On the flip side of that spirits like Rum, Vodka and Tequila can produce a reduction in ketones, but they usually don't kick you out or cause stalls and the reduction in ketones is hours not days.

    Never fear, you are in ketosis and burning fat. You just need to fine tune your food to accentuate the losses. You could also be ready to have a big "woosh" of "place holder" water weight soon too. If you are only weighing yourself I would switch to body taping instead. It is a more accurate metric for fat loss than the scale since the volume of fat is 4.5 times that of lean muscle.

    I am 48, Peri-meno and an athlete as well. My ketones average around 2.0ppm (via the Ketonix). I noticed my initial fat loss in places like my hands, forearms and face first, then in my upper arms and thighs at around the 4 week mark. Then around 6-8 weeks I saw less "side" boob and a slimming of my waist and "love handle" area. Honestly, other people saw it more than I did.

    Keto on girl... it will happen.

  2. Nellie
    LOVE it! Thank you both for the honest feedback - much appreciated! I did see a 4.5 lbs weight drop just this morning - but was out last night to celebrate my 47th with friends and that could be as a result of dehydration. I had run hills earlier in the afternoon. Probably should've had more water at restaurant last night.

    I WILL invest in the blood meter just cause why not? lol. I WILL stick with it 'cause now I'm seeing some result. Will measure too. Not a fan of the scale for just those reasons :( I will check back in with y'all in a couple of weeks and add any additional pertinent info. I've also heard that keeping nuts intake to the size of a shot glass per day and omitting dairy (cow anything) can help. So perhaps sticking to small portions of goat cheese, pecorino romano, manchego but nothing else.

    Thank you all - keto onward! ;)

  3. Maria Edwards

    Thank you for your blog both in Swedish and English. I´m a big fan.

    I started on a ketogenic diet to stabilize my bipolar type 2 disorder.
    I eat less than 20g carbs a day so I went into ketosis quite quickly. I wanted to try fasting a couple of days to force my body to produce ketone transporters and to get the mental benefits of fasting.
    I have fastet for 3,5 days and today my blood sugar was 3,9mmol/L in the morning and my ketones 5,6mmol/L.
    Is this too much? I have seen several videos on the benefits of fasting and that a normal person can fast without any problems for days and weeks. I feel really good and have a lot of mental clarity. My illness has been stable since I went into ketosis.
    Having such a high concentration of ketones in the blood can't be negative right?
    People fasting for weeks must have a high level of ketones too.

    Thank you so much for all your hard work and good informations!

  4. Greta

    I measured my urine ketone levels and they were 16 mmol/L. Am I at the risk of ketoacidosis?
    Why is it that high?


  5. thomas
    HI all.
    I wanted to comment on the last few posts especially but many that I've read over a longer period.
    1. This is not a diet. It's neither something that you start doing and expect results right away. Essentially your body has 2 metabolic pathways and it does not switch very quickly or easily in some people's cases to burn fat. So to answer Nellie, YES it could take some weeks. Everyone is different to some degree. Measuring blood ketones is unfortunately the best way to ensure you have your eating correct.
    Unfortunately because its expensive. Once you get the initial eating figured out and know what works or doesn't work for you, you can reduce or eliminate testing altogether. You can accomplish your goals with out measuring. Measuring just makes it more an exact science.

    2. I see many people, mentioning what carbs they eat or claiming to only measure carbs. This is not an Atkins diet. Moderate protein is almost as important as carbs. Moderate means "not so much!" That is because NOT fully embracing fat and not paying attention to amount of protein is definitely going to affect your result. They say that about 0.7 to 0.9 grams per pound of lean body weight is sufficient. Protein can and is converted to glucose and especially when over consumed.
    We could argue all day about people who claim you will lose muscle, blabla. But trust me, this will not happen overnight and if you feel or see that you are... you certainly can alter your course before you wither and die. I lift weights and have eaten the prescribed amount and have not lost muscle. On the contrary have gained some. Your body produces in any case the small amounts of glucose that are necessary. "There is no such thing as an essential carb".
    The best book really done in a truly scientific way is "The Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate Performance" by Volek and Phinney. A bit scientific yes.. complicated? some... But still based on solid modern science and study.
    Another non medical professional who is great on the subject is Cristian Vlad. While not a doctor he has an immense appetite for reading everything about the body and is very good at weeding out BS, points the way to valid, contemporary science and his explanations are more in layman's terms.

    My guidance points
    1. 70/80% calories from fat.
    2. Control protein also.
    3. Restrict carbs almost 100% unless you are verifying blood ketones
    4. Look for weight trends just as an additional guide not the measuring stick. Measure same time and same conditions each day and don't pay attention to as much as 2-3 lbs variance per day.. Look for trends
    5. Initial weight loss will be 4-5 lbs consisting of water... don't get excited that the eating will continue at that pace.
    6. Speed of weight loss will vary.
    7. Alcohol is not your friend! and negatively affects results, variable by person, what you drink, etc. The more you reduce or eliminate, the faster and more consistent your results will be.
    8. When first eating keto style, measuring blood ketones helps you learn how different foods, time of day, what you drink, etc affect your levels and progress.
    9. How your clothes fit is a better guide to progress. Getting an additional belt hole is very pleasing.
    10. Learn more about contemporary beliefs on cholesterol and health markers.. Don't believe everything your old doctor tells you about saturated fats, etc.
    11. Get your blood work done at least every year and use your own knowledge to judge how you're progressing.
    12. I don't really know anyone who has followed the above guidelines (which I have learned by reading a lot and doing my own experiments) and failed.
    13. Sodium will need to be replenished. Lightheaded-ness is a sign.
    14. Potassium and Magnesium are also typical indicated supplements.

    I encourage to read books by reputable modern doctors, pointing to truly unbiased and proper studies. We now know that the whole food pyramid was more political and biased by food lobby than science.
    As for some studies: Doing a few week dietary experiment on subjects eating a low carb diet is completely useless considering the time it takes the body to adapt. Much about the theoretical BS out there is just that.
    If you are serious, learn as much as you can. Even though I write this... don't believe every hack out there. Learn your science :)

    In addition to the above, there are now emerging MANY doctors and studies claiming eating in this style has many other health benefits, preventative and even potential curing of medical conditions.
    It's very interesting to me that even in 2017, we are learning so much more accurate and or completely contradictory information about the human body. This is changing may peoples lives for the better.. that's very cool.

    Replies: #156, #172
  6. Donal L.
    Thank you very, very much for sharing your information. After reading page after page of peoples personal hangups, it was really like a breath of fresh air to come across your article. What a relief!

    Books on keto diets and cooking seem to have exploded. Along with all kinds of conflicting advise sometimes, in my opinion bordering on the bizarre, confusing things even further.

    Kind of wish you had included some of your favorite titles and what their strong points were.

    Personally I'm not interested in the weight loss aspect but how to get the energy for long walks and resuming an occasional jog. In motion and deep breathing in order to feel better physically and mentally.

    Thanks again for article; much appreciated,

    Donal L.

  7. Chris
    Try ucan superstarch
  8. Kelli
    Those of you who are eating low carbs bit wondering why you are not going into ketosis may be consuming to much protien which cause you to not get into the ketosis state. My macros is 75% fat 10% carbs and 15%protien. I use Myfitness macros app to track everything I eat.
  9. Denise
    I'm using one of the new Ketonix USBs, and all its readings are done in PPM (parts per million). Is it possible to convert between breath PPM to blood mmol/L? I keep wanting to compare my results with others', but haven't yet been able to locate a simple way to do this conversion. Thanks for any help.
    Reply: #160
  10. Peter Biörck Team Diet Doctor
    Hi Denise!

    Breath and blood ketones are two different types of ketones ...so you can't really compare the results, they do not always co-vary.

  11. Cheryl
    April, I'm just getting started and I noticed this post that is several years old. Are you still following the diet? How much did you end up losing? I'm 56 and am getting desperate to find something that works. Thank you!
  12. Diane
    My ketones were 6.1 this morning and glucose 79. Are ketones too high?
  13. Marti
    Cheryl, I began back in April, am 53 and have lost 35 lbs so far. More important than the weight loss, I'm not out of breath, have more energy, feel more focused mentally, and can actually sit on the floor with my grandchildren and get back to a standing position with little effort. My joints used to ache, esp. my shoulders and knees. The pain has diminished greatly. It's only once in a great while that it creeps up now, and the severity when it does is easily manageable by working that particular joint. Glucose levels have gone from pre-diabetic mid 140's to mid 80's, sometimes 70's. Even after eating, my glucose level stays below 100 now. Blood pressure has gone from 140/86 to 120/68. I never imagined that a change in lifestyle would make so much of a difference. I didn't believe it was possible. When I began this, I was afraid my husband would come home one day and find me collapsed on the floor. Swollen ankles, chest discomfort, yes, I believe I was headed into heart attack country. No more swelling, no discomfort anymore.

    Take into consideration, it takes time and dedication to get into ketosis. I'm still fighting to keep my ketone levels above a 2.0, watching my protein levels, avoiding carbs at all costs. This isn't a "diet", as other posters have already stated. If you go back to higher carbs, all the hard work you put in getting to where you were goes right back out the window. It will take just as long, if not longer, to get back to were you were. This is based on my own experience, other's results might vary. The benefits I've gained from being where I am makes going back to my old style of eating not even worth considering for an instant.

    I'm a relative "newbie", but if I've seen these results in three short months, the next few years should be dynamite!

    Reply: #164
  14. C-Country
    What an AWESOME inspiration! Thank you. I know results are individual but accomplishing just half of what you have in 3 months is super motivation. I'm overweight, so of course I would like to lose weight, but my blood pressure and glucose levels are on the rise. I'm just ordering on trouble. Ha. So, thank you, thank you. I am looking forward to better health.
  15. Monika
    Marti, that is great news! I heard about this, I don't want to call it a diet, ketosis a few days ago. I am 62 and weigh 250 lbs. I was diagnosed with fatty liver disease. My MRI says I have 16 percent fat in my liver whereas it should be around 5 percent. My knees hurt so bad and my feet are swollen most of the time. So of course losing weight is one of my major concerns. I have been a yo yo dieter as they say so I am really hoping I can stick to this new life style of eating. Your comments are very encouraging. One day at a time. Tomorrow is day 2.
    Reply: #168
  16. Rob
    I’m thinking of going onto a ketosis diet, however I’m also trying to build up my muscle, and take a protein shake after a gym workout. Should I still take my protein supplements?
  17. Allen
    The best and clearest book that I’ve found on the diet is “Keto Zone Diet” written by Don Colbert, MD.
  18. Frances
    Monika I was reading your post as of Aug 2017, how is your fatty liver doing since you have started the Ketosis diet, Thanks
  19. Janeel
    Excellent read :) Thank you!
  20. 2 comments removed
  21. Tezza
    An honest perspective Thomas, thanks for sharing your info. I’m inspired and will now drill into this further to get out of this what I want.
  22. Tatyana
    I am on 36 h fast 3rd time for this week. Right now my BG is 4.7 but blood ketones 0.9 only. This is measured before bedtime. I am LCHF for 12 months already. Can someone explain why can't I reach optimum levels, please?
    Reply: #174
  23. Kristin Parker Team Diet Doctor

    I am on 36 h fast 3rd time for this week. Right now my BG is 4.7 but blood ketones 0.9 only. This is measured before bedtime. I am LCHF for 12 months already. Can someone explain why can't I reach optimum levels, please?

    Ketone levels can fluctuate at different times of the day based on a variety of factors. You may want to try testing at another time of day.

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