Glucose Ketone Index: The Ketone Levels Chart to Optimize Your Health
A large part of success on the keto diet starts by tracking your ketone production levels. Using a ketone levels chart can help you determine if you’re in ketosis or if you might need to tweak your diet and macros.
If you’re just starting your high-fat, low-carb diet, you might have heard of different ways of testing your ketone levels, like blood ketone testing or urine testing strips.
However, you may not know that there’s a more accurate measurement called the glucose ketone index (GKI).
This ketone levels chart is a simple calculation that allows you to find out how ketosis works best for you individually.
In this article, you’ll learn all about the GKI and how to easily track it for different aspects of your health and well-being.
Ketone bodies are energy molecules your liver makes. Everyone has some level of ketones in the body, even without being in ketosis[*].
There are three types of ketones:
- Acetoacetate (AcAc)
- Beta-hydroxybutyrate (BHB)
Ketone bodies are produced when you drastically cut carbs from your diet and your body stops getting sufficient levels of glucose. Glucose is your body’s primary fuel source when not in ketosis.
This lack of glucose makes your body turn to glucose stores (glycogen). When these become depleted, and your body doesn’t have enough insulin, it starts looking for alternative fuel sources.
That’s when your cells start burning fat, transforming fat stores into ketone bodies in your liver. This process is known as ketogenesis[*].
When you have enough ketones in your blood that your body can use for energy, you’re in nutritional ketosis. When you’re starting keto, it’s hard to know when you enter ketosis, so testing is essential in these first stages.
To find out what your ketone levels chart is, you must first test the level of your ketones.
There are three different ways to get your ketone reading: through urine, breath, or blood[*].
#1: Urine Ketone Testing
A ketone urine test is simple: You pee on a urine strip, wait for a few seconds, and see if any ketone bodies have been detected in your urine.
This is the most affordable option, but it also delivers the least reliable test results. Excess ketone bodies are excreted through your urine, and therefore the ketone strips don’t directly measure the amount of ketones in your bloodstream.
#2: Breath Ketone Tests
Ketone levels on your breath can be tested through a breath meter.
While this method is more accurate than urine testing, it’s still not optimal. Acetone, one of the three ketone bodies, is the one most commonly found in your breath. However, beta-hydroxybutyrate (BHB) is the ketone your body uses for energy and is the best one to measure how far you’re into ketosis.
#3: Blood Ketone Levels Testing Strips
Blood testing is the most expensive option, but it’s also the most accurate way to test your levels of ketones.
You prick your finger and use a blood ketone meter to measure the amount of BHB in your blood. It’s the same method to measure your blood sugar levels using a blood test kit.
BHB is the most abundant ketone in your body and the one used for energy in ketosis.
You cannot classify a GKI number as “good” or “bad.” Instead, you need to understand how different numbers bring you closer to various health goals, such as weight loss, better overall health, or treatment of more serious conditions like type 2 diabetes, obesity, or cancer.
Below are some widely accepted glucose-ketone numbers for different conditions or treatments:
- Anything above 9 means your body hasn’t transitioned into a fat-burning state.
- A 6-9 GKI demonstrates a low level of ketosis. This is appropriate for those who want to lose weight or maintain optimal health.
- A 3-6 GKI demonstrates moderate levels of ketosis. This is appropriate for addressing many common metabolic diseases, including insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes, or obesity.
- A GKI less than 3 is a high level of ketosis. This is typically used for addressing epilepsy and cancers. Entering this high level of ketosis periodically each year can be beneficial for anyone hoping to use ketosis for disease prevention.
To get the most benefits from ketosis, you want to get your GKI number as low as possible.
While you may use this ketone levels chart to tweak your macro guidelines, this measurement can also work in other circumstances, including:
- Cancer treatment: Researchers first used GKI in the treatment of different cancers, especially brain cancer[*].
- Diabetes treatment: The index has been used with metabolic therapy for both the prevention and treatment of type 2 diabetes and type 1 diabetes[*].
- Fasting: The GKI is a tool to see how your body responds to fasting, and whether intermittent fasting helps you enter ketosis[*].
- Athletic performance: Those looking to increase their athletic performance can use the index to see how their body responds to using ketones — rather than glucose — during competition[*].
To get your GKI reading, here’s what to do:
Measure your glucose and ketones levels at the same time. To do that, you’ll need:
- A glucose meter and strips
- A ketone meter and ketone test strips
- A calculator for some simple math
First, measure your blood glucose levels as described on your blood glucose meter. Then, do the same for your ketone levels, following the directions on the test.
Once you have both numbers, take your glucose number and divide it by 18 (this is to convert the blood glucose reading from mg/dL to mmol/L.) If you’re not in the U.S. and the reading is already in mmol/L already, you don’t need to divide by 18.
Divide that number by your ketone level number. The simple formula is:
Glucose Level ÷ 18 ÷ Ketone Level = Glucose Ketone Index
Many lifestyle and environmental factors can affect your GKI because both ketone and glucose levels change quickly in response to diet, exercise, stress, and environmental conditions. If you’re trying to maintain a low GKI number, keep these habits in mind:
- Fasting: After eating, it can be pretty tough to stay in a very low glucose-ketone range because there’s a degree of glucose increase. Practicing intermittent fasting can be beneficial for decreasing blood glucose levels, keeping GKI low, and maintaining good health.
- Nutrition: If your glucose levels are high, eating a ketogenic diet and watching out for hidden carbs can help improve your GKI ratio.
- Stress: When you’re stressed, hormones like cortisol and epinephrine are released, which can cause blood sugar to rise. To keep that ratio low, focus on daily stress-reducing practices, and try to get plenty of rest[*].
The GKI is a useful tool for finding your ideal keto macros so you can achieve optimal health. While ketone testing can help you determine if you’re in ketosis or not, the GKI takes it one step further by factoring your glucose levels as well.
Testing your ketone levels can be helpful, especially for those who are just starting a ketogenic diet and for those who have adopted this lifestyle to manage their diabetes.
Diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA) can be a life-threatening condition that may occur when you have higher ketone levels in your bloodstream and may lead to a buildup. Therefore, testing while in ketosis is vital to ensure you’re doing it correctly and prevent any harmful side effects.
As always, if you have a health condition, check with your healthcare provider before you start a new diet.
Learning about your GKI number can be very helpful, and it’s entirely your choice on how to use it. Most people use it to dial in their nutrition, track their progress in ketosis, and recognize which foods help them reach their health goals.
By carefully monitoring your GKI, you can more easily enter (and stay in) ketosis and reap all its benefits.
To learn more about the importance of ketones, blood glucose, and ketosis, consider reading these articles:
- Testing Ketone Levels After Taking Exogenous Ketones
- How Long Does It Take to Get Into Ketosis?
- Why You Need to Keep Blood Sugar Low
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