Lose weight by achieving higher ketone levels

Do you want to lose weight? Here’s number 16 of my 18 best tips. All of the published tips can be found on the How to Lose Weight page.

Before we get started, here’s a short recap of the tips so far: The first and most crucial piece of advice was to choose a low-carb diet. The next were eating when hungry, eating real food, eating only when hungry, measuring progress wisely, being persistent, avoiding fruit, beer and artificial sweeteners, review your medications, stressing less and sleeping more, eating less dairy and nut products, stocking up on vitamins and minerals, using intermittent fasting and finally, exercising smart.

This is number sixteen:

16. Achieve higher ketone levels

Warning: Not recommended for type 1 diabetics, see below.


We’ve now arrived at tip number 16. If you’re still having trouble losing weight, despite following the 15 pieces of advice listed above, it might be a good idea to bring out a controversial option: higher ketone levels. Why is it controversial? For most people, “low” or “higher” ketone levels don’t make a difference for health and weight loss, and in general we do not recommend shooting for a specific ketone level. However, for some people stalling at weight plateaus while on a low carb diet, trying to raise ketone levels may be of benefit.

So how does this work? A quick run-through: The first tip was to eat low carb. This is because a low-carb diet lowers your levels of the fat-storing hormone insulin, allowing your fat deposits to shrink and release their stored energy.1 This tends to cause you to want to consume less calories than you expend – without hunger – and lose weight.2 Several of the tips mentioned above are about fine-tuning your diet to better this effect.

Video course

How to Eat LCHF Video Course

Do you know exactly how to eat a low-carb and high fat diet (LCHF)? This is required for ketosis. If not the easiest way is watching this high quality 11-minute video course on how to eat LCHF, and the most important things to think about.

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Ketosis is a state at which the body has an extremely high fat-burning rate. Even the brain indirectly runs on fat, via ketone bodies. These are energy molecules in the blood (like blood sugar) which become fuel for our brains after being converted from fat by the liver.

To encourage ketone production, the amount of insulin in your bloodstream must be low. The lower your insulin, the higher your ketone production. And when you have a well-controlled, sufficiently large amount of ketones in your blood, it’s basically proof that your insulin is very low – and therefore, that you’re enjoying the maximum effect of your low-carbohydrate diet.3

Measuring ketones

Today, there are reasonably-priced gadgets available for measuring ketone levels at home. One needle prick of the finger, and in just a few seconds you’ll know your blood ketone level.

Blood ketones are best measured on a fasted stomach in the morning (before breakfast, that is). Here are a few pointers on how to interpret the result:

  • Below 0.5 mmol/L is not considered “ketosis”. At this level, you’re likely not in your fat-burning zone.4
  • Between 0.5-3.0 mmol/L is nutritional ketosis. This is where you see the beneficial effects on weight and metabolic health. For most people, it won’t matter where in this range you fall
  • Around 1.5 – 3 mmol/L is the upper end of nutritional ketosis. If you have hit a weight loss stall without a clear reason, one possible intervention is to increase your ketone levels. Although there is no scientific support for this intervention, rare cases may see benefit.
  • Values of over 3 mmol/L aren’t necessary. That is, they will achieve neither better nor worse results than being at the 0.5-3 level. Higher values can also sometimes mean that you’re not getting enough food. For type 1 diabetics, it can be caused by a severe lack of insulin, see below.

Ketones in urine

Ketone levels can also be measured in a more old-fashioned way, with urine test sticks (sold prescription-free in pharmacies or on Amazon). Ketone sticks give less reliable results for several reasons, and the above recommendations can’t be straightforwardly applied to them. They are, however, much cheaper.

My personal experience

Feel free to read my accounts of a two-month personal trial:

  1. Experiment: Higher ketone levels for weight loss and increased performance
  2. Four weeks of strict LCHF and ketone monitoring
  3. Final report: Two months of strict LCHF and ketone monitoring

Although I was quite happy with my weight before these trials, they resulted in a further loss of 4.5kgs (10 pounds) and 7cm (3 inches) around my waist – without additional exercise or even the slightest resemblance of hunger.

How to achieve higher ketone levels

Many who firmly believe they are eating a strict low-carb diet are surprised when they measure their blood ketones. They may be at around only 0.2 or 0.4. Why?

The trick here is to avoid all obvious sourced of carbohydrate (sweets, bread, spaghetti, rice, potatoes), consider time restricted eating, and use fat as a lever for taste and satiety.

Sometimes adding MCT oil to your coffee or tea can help increase your ketone levels which may or may not resolve your stall. It may not be “magic” for everyone, but for some it may just do the trick.

If it doesn’t work

Having higher ketone levels for a prolonged period of time (say, a month) will ensure that you experience the maximal hormonal effect from eating a low-carb diet. If this doesn’t result in noticeable weight loss, you can be certain that too many carbs are likely not part of your weight issue and not the obstacle to your weight loss. There are, in fact, other causes of obesity and being overweight. The next three tips in this series might help you.

Also, consider signing up for our Weight loss for good program, free for Diet Doctor members!

Try it

Order a ketone meter online and start measuring. There are a few different models, the most popular one is probably the Precision Xtra ketone meter. Unfortunately these meters are all quite expensive to use, as the test strips can cost about $5 per test.

Here’s a complete package with everything you need to check your blood ketone levels.


Learn much more about ketogenic diets here:

A ketogenic diet for beginners

What is ketosis?

Watch my video interview with Dr. Peter Attia, on a strictly ketogenic low-carbohydrate diet: Very Low Carb Performance

Read all the tips on the How to lose weight page.

Ready to lose the weight for good?

Our new 10-week program helps you lose weight in a healthy and sustainable way.

Sign up now!

A word of warning

If you have type 1 diabetes, you should not follow the above advice to purposefully increase your ketone levels – it may be risky. If you have ketones in your blood at all, you must be sure that your blood sugar levels are normal. If they are, you’re in normal ketosis – just like the ketosis of healthy people who stick to a strict low carb diet.

High blood sugar levels coupled with high blood ketones, on the other hand, will mean that you have a pathologically low level of insulin – something non-diabetics do not suffer from. This can lead to ketoacidosis – a potentially life-threatening condition. If this happens, you’ll need to inject more insulin; if you’re at all unsure of what to do, contact a medical professional. Coveting really high blood ketones for weight control is not worth the risk for type 1 diabetics.

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  1. Apicius
    Ashley, the trick is to eat the liver the week BEFORE you go on your high altitude trip. No need to take it with you to Peru. Easiest way to eat liver is to buy liver pate in the deli section of your grocery store. Spread some liver pate on lettuce leaves, or cucumber, or just eat it with a spoon. I eat about a spoon of liver pate per day for one entire week before my trip. This is done just to jack up the iron levels in my body before I get to the mountain. When in Peru, it is easy to find salami, ham, cheese, nuts, olives, in grocery store to pack and bring with you anywhere. Any hotel restaurant can also boil you up eggs for you to pack for you to take on your hike, too. Keto is definitely the way to go for high altitude. And foods are available in Peru (boiled eggs, cold cuts, nuts, cheese, olives, etc). Luckily, you are already keto adapted. This puts you a step ahead than those who do it just before a climb and not well adapted for a long period. Have fun!
    Reply: #252
  2. Ashley
    Great, that is exactly what I will do!! Thanks again Apicius! I hugely appreciate all of the help!!
  3. mrsj03
    Hi. could you clear something up for me...on a lot of keto blogs/fb pages etc it is said that having a large amount of ketones in the urine is caused by dehydration. Is this correct please?
    Reply: #282
  4. Joan B
    Hi Linda, wondering how your Doing after a year? Good news I hope... I'm following Dr Eric Berg and he says to avoid BEEF and Factory Chicken... So try Lamb meat and fat... And avoid those hormone injected meats forever if possible !!! Wish you all the best!!!
  5. vin
    Keto diets are fads, pushed by irresponsible ''drs''
    Beware of the dangerous side effects.
    Keto diets should only be followed as a last resort and under clinical supervision.
    Anyone pushing it otherwise should be subject to prosecution
    Replies: #257, #269, #484
  6. Daemonjax
    > ... The idea behind the "Net" carb idea is that some of a food's carbs is "bound up in fiber", and does not all hit the body at once...

    I know I'm replying to an old post, but wrong is wrong. Net carbs isn't an "idea".

    Net carbs = total carbs grams - fiber grams

    By definition, your body doesn't metabolize/digest fiber, therefore they should not be counted in the carb total for that food item. It has nothing to do with "binding up" digestible sugar/starch in fiber.

  7. Apicius
    Take a hike, vin. I've been keto for more than a year. Lost tons of weight. Regained my health and feel better than ever. Shall I go to the doctor now and get myself checked? Because you know, I have not followed the "low fat bullshit diet plan" that has been the stupid dogma that has caused the current obesity and diabetes crisis. Shame on me for not being obese and diabetic like most in the USA.
  8. Lori
    Great article ...I understand the urine strips are the least reliable ...but for now that is what I'm using ...is a first thing in the morning reading, the best time? I have been eating LCHF Moderate Protein for 7 days now ...averaging 16-22 net carbs per day, my stick reads mid range in the morning ...what is the 'sweet' spot? I will re-read the article as perhaps I missed that - thanks so much! (p.s. - going to watch your vid as well)
  9. 1 comment removed
  10. Penny
    I need help. I have been on this diet since Jan1, 2016. I need to loose about 80 more lbs and I am 54 years old. I lost about 12 lbs in the first two months. I went on vacation 2 weeks ago and did eat some sugar during the week vacation, but went back on the LCHF diet as soon as I got home. Thus I have lost about 12 lbs in 3 months on this diet. I purchased the blood Keotosis system and have monitored my levels this week. Not good results, I am getting .1 and .2 levels this week. I have been reading on this website about possible eating too much protein. I have been keeping my carbs to 20 or less a day. My weakness is artificial sugar, which I try to keep to a minimum but have a part of a quest bar sometimes and a low amount of low carb monster to pick me up in the mornings. I am not a coffee drinker but just drink iced tea and water. ( which I might add is hard ) My question is how does one monitor protein and carbs amount? What is the right amount of protein to eat? I really am trying hard to do this and want to loose the weight. I just need help.


    Reply: #290
  11. Nicola
    I have just joined this forum, but have been eating LCHF since January 15th and have lost 25 lbs so far (6 inches off my waist!) I know that when you slip off the wagon and eat sugar, it takes a long time to get back into ketosis and so stick with it! I have found that the 12 hours of fasting is also REALLY important. Drink only water in that time. Give it another week and everything will probably start working for you again. There is lots written about artificial sweeteners, so you do have to watch for that too (I'm trying hard to kick diet soda - and I know it's difficult!)
  12. charles hamilton
    I use a product that puts me into ketosis in 50 minutes and lasts 5 hours
    Replies: #263, #264
  13. Peter Biörck Team Diet Doctor

    I'm not convinced that those products will lead to weight-loss. What is your experience?

    I use a product that puts me into ketosis in 50 minutes and lasts 5 hours

    Reply: #284
  14. MattRob
    Yo Dog! Crazy to see you here :) I'm down to 182 now! Crazy
  15. Kelly
    Charles Hamilton..so do u not follow low carb diet at all???what is this product
  16. Hfactor
    I bought the Abbott Precision Xtra Glucose and Ketone blood monitoring device and test both my glucose and ketone levels several times a day. I find that I hit 1.5 ketone level once a day but don't stay in it. I range from .7 to 1.5 everyday. I don't eat processed foods, no carbs, no sugar or even fake sugar, no fruit, no booze and no dairy. I take several supplements and mineral enzymes twice a day. I drink lots of water and occasionally drink homemade chicken broth.
    I'm losing weight but very slowly, only one pound or so per week. I was on a two month long plateau but finally broke it by doing more detailed tracking and keeping to under 1,000 calories per day.
    How can I stay in Optimal Ketosis all day? How can I accelerate my weight loss? Thank you
  17. Bontleng
    How do you distribute the fats among the meals you eat on a daily basis........how do you even know the portion sizes that need to be eaten??? I'm so confused and would really like to try this lifestyle out....some please help me
    Reply: #268
  18. Zepp
    One dont realy know before one tryes!

    First cut out all sugars, then all flour, reduce tubers.

    Buy only real high fat food and veggies, frye in butter.. eat a lot of eggs.

    Its when your foods look like this you can eat ad libitum.


    The magical trick is to only eat real food!

    Reply: #289
  19. Bobby
    Yes it is. They fail to mention that a serious side effect of ketosis diets is ketoacidosis which can be fatal and can develop within 24 hours. My god, LEARN something about human nutrition and encourage people to eat a healthy diet and exercise. Thank you for being a voice of reason. I guess people just get that desperate they'll try anything :(
    Reply: #271
  20. Lora
    Hello! Looking for some thoughts from others who have used a Keto meter.

    Today is my 4th on an egg fast. I've been on LCHF for about 3 months.

    Test 1st thing this morning no food. 1.0

    Test 25 mins after break fast. 1.2 (2eggs 2tbs mayo)

    Test after 25 mins after lunch. 0.8 (2eggs 2tbs mayo 1oz cheddar cheese)

    Surprised I'm only in nutritional ketosis and not optimal ketosis.

    So far that is only 16g of protein per meal. Thoughts?

  21. Brynn

    Yes it is. They fail to mention that a serious side effect of ketosis diets is ketoacidosis which can be fatal and can develop within 24 hours. My god, LEARN something about human nutrition and encourage people to eat a healthy diet and exercise. Thank you for being a voice of reason. I guess people just get that desperate they'll try anything

    Ketosis and ketoacidosis are two very different things. Ketoacidosis is a state in which you have blood glucose above 600 and a low pH (blood. Not urine) don't be a moron

    Reply: #286
  22. David
    The links to Ketone meters don't work
  23. Yolanda
    I love reading comments from people based on what they think....I've gone to Medi WeightLoss a couple of times in several years in different locations. I am a 58 year old female and their program is Dr. supervised, there is no diet and they measure your results weekly. Yes, they do put you in ketosis the first week and teach you how to eat regular foods to stay in ketosis safely. I am never hungry and have more energy because I am lighter. I lost 25 lbs. in 6 weeks the first time (about 6 years ago) and started back 4 days ago. I've already lost 4 lbs. so that's about a lb. per day. Everyone I've recommended the program to and follows it, loses weight. It's easy when you know what you're doing (eating) wrong.
  24. pj
    have you seen the drink that puts your body into Ketosis with in an hour. go to showmetheketos.com
    Reply: #281
  25. Hfactor
    Hi Lora (#270)
    I check my Keto blood level first thing in the morning after not eating for approx 12 hours. Lately I've gone from being in nutritional ketosis to optimal ketosis. I write down everything I eat and admit I never exercise (and I know I need to start). For breakfast, I have several pieces of thick fatty bacon or breakfast sausage links with cream cheese. I slather the Cream cheese right on the bacon strips. That keeps me really full for the morning. I snack on Keto bars (www.keyobars.com) in the afternoon. For dinner I have a small chicken breast with cheese or a few beef jerky sticks.
    I found a Great recipe for a no bake Chocolate peanut butter fat bomb. One net carb per serving. Super easy Recipe: 4 TB butter, 8 TB coconut oil, 4 TB peanut butter stir it up, microwave for 1-2 min, stir again, mix in 4TB chocolate cocoa powder and 1 packet of Stevia, stir very well. Pour into 24 cup cake tins and freeze. Delicious!! Be careful to watch the sugar and carbs in your peanut butter. I try to stick to under 4 net carbs for 2TB of peanut butter.
  26. Hfactor
    Hi Bontleng (#267)
    Try to eat 70% fat in every meal or snack then you don't need to worry about distributing the fat. Be careful too much protein can kick you out of ketosis and it can take me days to get back to nutritional ketosis.
    There are several Kindle Keto Cook books and free recipes online. I've found that not all Keto cookbooks include the nutritional breakdown of calories, carbs, protein per recipe, which is very annoying. Try Pinterest for some good free Keto recipes.Good luck !!
  27. Kara
    It says, "too much protein tends to actually inhibit optimal ketosis" - my question is how much protein is too much? What should I aim to stay under in a day?
    Replies: #279, #291
  28. David
    I've been in ketosis for about a month now and check my ketone levels with the Ketonix breathalyzer every day (several times in the morning and same in the evening). I highly recommend this device over blood tests for ease of use and cost reasons (as compared to blood or urine tests which over time are not as reliable as well). Though I have temporarily dropped out of ketosis a few times due to diet I always get back into it quickly but cutting out all carbs. My ketone levels are always in the 50-75 range, occasionally dropping briefly to the high 40's. I feel great and have heaps more energy. Ive lost about 3.5kgs over the last month with no effort. All I've done is follow the advice on this site by cutting out carbs and sugar and eating good foods. Ketosis works.
  29. Robin

    It says, "too much protein tends to actually inhibit optimal ketosis" - my question is how much protein is too much? What should I aim to stay under in a day?

    You should keep proteins to 20 grams per meal.

  30. Terrie
    My kidney doctor said protein needed varies by the individual. I try to eat at least 45 grams a day using a free site, Spark People, to log all the foods I eat. I am diabetic and have kidney disease. This way of eating lowers blood glucose better than anything I have been prescribed. I am a Type 2 diabetic. 20 grams or less is the amount of carbohydrates you should eat each day, not protein. My highest weight was 279 pounds and I weigh 225 pounds as of today. I follow Dr. Eric Westman from Duke University in North Carolina.
  31. Mandy
    How do I get a sample of the quick ketosis drink?
  32. Linda
    Yes you must get adequate water into your system so not to get kidney stones, and making your kidney work harder. If you find yourself constipated, you will know you are not drinking enough water throughout the day.
  33. Bishal
    i wanna reduce my belly can u help
  34. Keila
    Which product is this?
    Reply: #285
  35. Peter Biörck Team Diet Doctor
    Hi Keila!

    I gave an opinion on another comment so I'm not sure exactly which procuct he meant. :)

    But google on: "exogenous ketones" and you will for example find this product:

    Which product is this?

  36. ARaspberry
    Haha! Clearly Vin, you don't know what the hell YOU are talking about! If you did you would know keto acidosis is extreme HYPERGLYCEMIA (extremely high blood sugar) . Think type 2 , a box of candybars, and no insulin on hand to move the sugar out of the blood. Uncontrolled sugar=600mmol +! We are talking about ketosis, rather. Ketones in the blood, and maintaining our blood sugar at 85 and under mmol/fasting. Though not dropping below 70 mmol/fasting.
    Reply: #288
  37. Meat Ball
    Day 4, feeling great. I believe I am in Ketosis and I have already lost three pounds. Hooray!
  38. Lightninlad
    You're not wrong about what you said. However as a Registered Nurse I can tell you that ketoacidosis is FAR more common in Type 1 diabetics then in Type 2's. This is because Type 1's don't have any insulin circulating in their body which brings on the DKA. In contrast HHS(which is honestly even more dangerous) is a Type II problem.
  39. Brody
    Just wondering if consumption of pickled jalapeños(from glass jar) will disrupt my state of Ketosis.
    Please advise, ANYone~
  40. Chris

    You want a 70 20 5 diet. 70% fat 20 protein 5 carbs.

    To answer your question is you want to eat 20 percent of your daily caloric burn. If you are burning 1500 calories a day you need to meet the protein calorie requirements of .20x1500=300 a day, .75x1500=1150 calories in fat and .05x1500= 75 calories in carbs

    Lastly sometimes it is hard to do percents and counting daily grams works

    To Convert calories to grams divide 1150 by 9 for fat, 300 by 4 for protein and 75 by 4 for carbs.

    So the most carb you can eat daily is 75/4= about 15 grams of carbs

    Good luck hope you read this.

  41. Chris

    Read the post I just posted above

  42. Try healthy eating
    This is such bullshit. The only way to reach ketosis is through anorexia. And once you do it is not pleasant, your hair falls put, your breath smells terrible, and your blood becomes acidic.
    Your body goes into starvation mode.
    Try coming off this diet and maintaining.... Good luck! You will pack back on the pounds quickly.
    Also, your body does not have the metabolic capability to turn protein into glucose.... Completely different formula makeup.
  43. Tim
    Also, your body does not have the metabolic capability to turn protein into glucose....

    Gluconeogenesis...look it up...

  44. 3 comments removed
  45. Ashna
    Helpful tips
  46. Ashna
    I agree with the above, real food is always the best option.
    Reply: #299
  47. Chris
    This is a reply to all,

    Supplement your fats with coconut oils.

    I wake up work out then eat around noon and this is what I eat on the daily.

    1st meal- 20 grams protein powder mixed with 4 tsb heavy cream and ice, 4 eggs, cup of broth w/ 2 tbs of coconut oil.

    2nd meal- 4 eggs, 1/2 avacodo, 4oz. Chicken, broth w/2tbs of coconut oil

    3rd- 6 oz salmon or 6 oz. of strip steak, 1/2 avacodo and or mushrooms and or kale.

    Late night snack- handful of almonds or celery with 2 tbs of peanut butter.

    Lastly, remember to take sublime to for magnesium and to refeed one day a week with nothing but carbs after you have become ketogenic. The carbs raise ur lepton hormone that ramps up metabolism each week.

    But good carb lots of fruits, good luck

    Reply: #300
  48. Apicius
    Chris: Ah, what can I say. To each their own. My food changes daily. I don't trap myself into eating the same thing everyday. And the variety helps me eat seasonal vegetables and get a spectrum of nutrients without resorting to supplements. If you like eating the way you do, then ok, it's your choice. Personally, it would feel like I was in jail and being fed the same daily gruel. Different strokes for different folks.

    Not sure I agree with your leptin statement and needing to eat carbs...not true at all.

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