Whether to use and trust ketosticks/ketostix is a big debate within the keto community. If you don’t know what they are, essentially they are a little cardboard stick that you urinate on to get a measure of ketone level.
Ketones are what the Keto way of eating is all about. When you eat a low carb, high fat diet the liver produces ketones as an alternative fuel source to glucose. The ketosticks pick up on ketones in the urine, however they only pick up on excess ketones – ie. Those not being used by the body for fuel.
So, should we use ketosticks while on the keto diet?
The Argument For Ketostix
On one hand, using ketostix can provide a good indication that your low carb diet is working, especially in the early days. When you have been without carbs for a few days or weeks and you may be suffering through keto flu, seeing that little stick turn dark purple is reason to celebrate.
They can also help you early on while you are working out what level of carbohydrates works for your body. A really strict low carb diet might be 20grams of carbs per day, but often it can balance out to 30 – 50 grams. While you are working out your balance, it can be good to test your ketones with a ketostick so you can see that the extra bowl of something actually stopped your body’s production of ketones.
The Argument Against Ketostix
On the other hand, as you become fat adapted, you stop releasing ketones into your urine because your body is using the for fuel so they stop registering in your urine. The urine ketones are only excess ketones so if they are all being used up, your body is working efficiently and this will not register on the ketostix.
Using the ketostix can also become obsessive – I know this from first hand experience. While they are cheap (around $8 here in Australia), when I first started I was using them multiple times a day.
So, Should I use Ketostix?
The ketostix helped me in that I quickly worked out how to get myself back into ketosis after falling out and how many carbs a day work for me, but when they stopped working after a few weeks I panicked a bit.
The key to using ketostix well is to realise they are not perfect and they are not the be-all and end-all of your body being in ketosis. Over time, you will learn to feel the effects of ketosis rather than relying on a little urine stick but for beginners, they can be a helpful affirmation that your hard work is doing what it is supposed to.
It is important to view the change to nutritional ketosis as a way of life, not a quick diet or quick fix to lose a bit of weight. It is a marathon not a sprint, and if using ketostix help you get through the first few days or weeks then go for it, but be aware they are not going to do anything for you in future.
This post contains an affiliate link to Amazon.com, where I purchase my ketostix.