If you’re just starting a low carb diet and you don’t want to mess around with ketone sticks, you don’t have too. The state of ketosis is actually determined by the amount of ketones in your bloodstream, not the color you turn a stick. What the sticks measure is the amount of ketones your body is dumping because it can’t use them. For some people, that can be especially helpful for motivation, but there are other ways to tell if you are in ketosis.
Signs and Symptoms of Ketosis
While everyone describes the state of ketosis differently, quite a few low carb dieters experience the same signs and symptoms:
- sweet, fruity or metal taste in the mouth
- strong smelling urine
- reduced appetite
- elimination of food cravings
- feelings of well being or euphoria
- mental clarity
- increased energy
- increased thirst
In addition, you can also experience a lack of energy or feel nauseated. These negative symptoms, also known as The Atkins Flu, generally result from an electrolyte imbalance.
What You Can Do About the Symptoms
Not everyone experiences all of these symptoms. Some people have one or two problems, others many and yet a few like me have none at all. In fact, when I am just about to go into ketosis I experience extreme hunger, which continues even after my body makes the switch.
If you’re suffering with the Atkins Flu, Atkins’ Nutritionals recommends that you take a little bit of potassium and make sure you salt your food well. Although sodium can contribute to water retention, that’s only because the body is trying to balance your electrolytes. Drinking plenty of water to eliminate excess ketones is important when following a low carb diet, but the excess trips to the bathroom you experience as your body dumps its glycogen stores will also flush out potassium and sodium.
If adding potassium and salt doesn’t help, you can also cut down on the amount of protein you’re eating, up your fats slightly or add a few more carbohydrates. Consuming less than 20 grams of carbohydrate isn’t magic. If you’re not feeling well and your electrolytes are not out of balance, then your body may not be converting fats into energy quickly enough. Although fat loss is the goal, you won’t get there if your diet is making you uncomfortable or ill.
Excess ketones are also eliminated through your breath and skin, so smelling like weak fingernail polish or acetone is common. Some individuals find relief by chewing on parsley or chewing gum, or upping the amount of liquid they drink. Keep in mind that the symptoms of ketosis are most likely temporary. The body will desensitize itself to both the taste and smell as it adjusts to the metabolic changes.