Whether you're new to the low-carb lifestyle or have been at it for years, maintaining optimal ketone levels isn't always easy. Once you're fully fat-adapted, knowing how to increase ketone levels becomes simpler, but everyone has their slip-ups. Since you should be aiming for a strong ketone level (between 0.5-3.0mmol/l, depending on your individual needs and goals), it's important to stay regulated through routine, healthy habits. Ketosis is easier for some people to obtain than others, but it's the human body's healthy, natural state, and it's achievable for anyone. Learning which actions increase and decrease ketone levels offers a helpful guide to achieving your optimal numbers, helping you stay in ketosis.
What Increases Ketone Levels?
If you want to boost your ketone levels, try these go-to tips.
Balancing Your Macros
Everyone has their individual macros to follow, so if you're new to low-carb living and aren't sure what your intake of protein, fat, and carbohydrates should be, use a Keto calculator. This go-to tool can be used to track macros as your goals, weight, and level of body fat change, making them quick to calculate no matter what your needs. Balancing your intake throughout the day generally keeps you fuller while helping you settle into ketosis. If you discover that your daily macro for carbs is 25 grams, for instance, balance that out over 2 meals rather than consuming it all at once. If you prefer eating your daily carbs at dinner and this is what works best for your body, feel free to do so. Balance your macros in the way that works best for your individual needs and meal plan.
While intermittent fasting (IF) isn't for everyone, it does act as fuel for ketosis. An intermittent fast involves eating for just 8 hours per day, say between the hours of noon and 8 pm. You can vary the amount of hours you fast and the times you choose based on your schedule, but IF puts your body in one of two states: "fasting" or "feasting," with an 8 hour feast resulting in 16 hours of fasting. This puts your body into starvation mode, forcing it to work its hardest, burn calories, improve insulin sensitivity, aid cellular repair, reduce your risk of disease, and, of course, kickstart ketosis. Since you're fasting for 16 hours (yes, sleeping counts), you might even generate ketones in your sleep. IF is a powerful way of reaching optimal ketosis, while adding benefits of its own.
Monitoring Protein Levels
This is the key to reaching and sustaining optimal ketosis. High-fat, moderate-protein, and low-carb is key, so don't go overboard on your protein sources. For dieters who are having trouble maintaining high ketone levels, consider how much protein you're consuming daily...it might be more than you think, which drags down ketone levels. Protein is converted into glycogen, so it can cause insulin spikes and crashes throughout the day. Even though you don't realize it, when your blood sugar levels are bouncing around, your body won't be able to switch into ketosis, much less stay there. Always monitor protein intake, and if you're having trouble keeping it down, try a food diary to track your progress. Making meal plans in advance is another way to stick to your macros and ensure that too much protein is never a part of your day.
Taking MCT Oil in the Morning
A keto diet go-to, MCT's, or medium chain triglycerides, offers a wide range of health benefits, from improving your mood to helping fight off infection. It's also an effective tool for weight management, and it fuels ketosis, boosting levels almost immediately. 1-2 tablespoons in the morning will get your day off to an energetic start, and it's affordable and easy to find at your local health food store or pharmacy.
What Decreases Ketone Levels?
If you're noticing low ketone numbers regularly, these are the top reasons why.
Getting Your Macros Off
Sometimes, it's difficult to maintain a strong ketone level even when you know your macros, and you're not sure why. A common reason? Not sticking with your macros as well as you think. Even a small piece of fruit during lunch could throw you out of ketosis, and while you might not consider it that big of a deal, it makes a world of difference. Even small macro imbalances can decrease your ketones, throwing your body out of ketosis. Once you know your number, stick with it!
Thinking that glass of wine with dinner is no big deal? Think again. Even small amounts of alcohol will kick the body out of ketosis, as it's loaded with sugar and carbs that start decreasing ketone levels quickly. Your body will start using alcohol for energy before it uses fats, and you'll see those ketone levels drop drastically. If you do want a drink, stick to your macros (notice a pattern here?), and try these keto-friendly cocktail recipes that eliminate those sugar and carbs.
Stress can throw any diet out of whack, and the craziness of everyday life, coupled with work stress, friends, family, and keeping up with a fast-paced world gets overwhelming for everyone. Proper nutrition and stress are closely linked, and stress influences both body and mind. If you're overly stressed, maintaining a strong ketone number is going to be nearly impossible, and levels will naturally drop. Get in some exercise, eat a meal filled with healthy fats, reflect on the stress, and take a moment to just breathe. The more you focus on the big picture, the simpler it is for stress to disappear, enabling a healthier, happier life—with higher ketones to boot.
Eating Too Often
The eating every few hours rule is used to regulate blood sugar levels, so it doesn't apply to low-carb dieters. The amount of energy we need from food can be obtained any time of day, so how often we eat doesn't make a difference. While those on a high-carb diet will experience blood sugar crashes if they don't eat every few hours, low-carbers have a welcome advantage. While in ketosis, blood sugar is already regulated, so there's no need to eat every few hours or at any specific time. Eat at the rate that's right for you, and what makes you feel the most balanced. If you're on an intermittent fast, just consume your meals within your designated eating window, and you'll be good to go, with ketone levels remaining at a steady high throughout the day. Overconsumption, however, will cause ketone levels to drop. If you're not hungry, don't eat. When you follow the plan that feels best for you and stay within your macros, your ketone number will remain high, keeping you in a state of optimal ketosis.