If you're on the ketogenic diet, measuring your ketone levels is crucial to make sure your body is actually in ketosis - otherwise, you're basically just leaving things up to chance. We spent roughly five days researching ketosis meters in order to find the most accurate monitor for measuring ketone levels, and after reviewing 20+ options, we've found the Precision Xtra to be the best ketone meter available. Using a light prick of the finger, it measures ketone levels using your blood, collecting nearly-exact numbers to help you manage your diet better than any other testing method. You will also need a set of ketone test strips to get started, which can be a little expensive, but we consider this a small price to pay when you're investing in your health. Article Summary
If you’re following the ketogenic diet, you probably already know how it works – low carb, high fat. By eliminating carbohydrates (our body’s main energy source), you’re manipulating your body to move into a state of ketosis, where it burns fat for energy instead of carbs. Maintaining ketosis is relatively easy if you stick to the core principles of the diet (60-70% carbs, 20-30% protein, 5-10% carbs), but at the end of the day, you still don’t know for sure if your body has successfully made the transition. Instead, regularly using a ketone meter (also called a ketosis meter) is the preferred way to ensure your blood-ketone level consistently stays within the optimal range for ketosis.
There are three main types of ketone meters: blood ketone meters, urine strips, and breath analyzers. Urine strips and breath analyzers work exactly as their names imply – one measures ketone levels using your urine, the other measures them using your breath. Blood ketone meters, on the other hand, work like a blood-glucose meter that diabetics might use – you lightly prick your finger and the test strip in the device examines your blood and gives you a result. Blood ketone meters are by far the most accurate way to analyze your ketone levels, while urine strips and breath analyzers are less accurate, but more convenient.
Medical devices like these can be a little confusing to shop for, so we recently spent some time researching different options for measuring ketone levels. Accuracy was at the forefront of our priority list, but we also took ease of use and cost into consideration when reviewing products. To get some more professional opinions, we also spoke to two fitness trainers and a nutritionist to get their take on ketosis monitoring methods. After roughly five days spent on research and comparison, we believe the three products below are the best ketone meter kits for keeping ketosis in check.
The best ketone meter overall
The cream of the ketosis meter crop is the Precision Xtra. This meter is of the blood-ketone variety, meaning it measures ketones using a small prick of blood in order to give you the most accurate, consistent results. It is extremely easy to use, and experienced ketogenic dieters and nutritionists alike rate this as the best ketone meter.
The first thing you may notice just from reading the label on the box is that the Precision Xtra was originally designed as a blood glucose meter for diabetes. Abbott, the manufacturer behind this device, is one of the leading brands in diabetes testing supplies, and that was their main focus with this monitor. However, glucose and ketone levels can be tested exactly the same method (pricking the finger for blood), so by simply changing from glucose test strips to ketone test strips, Abbott realized they had an entirely new market to open to – and since then, they’ve become the gold standard in ketone testing.
As we mentioned in our introduction to this guide, measuring ketone levels using blood gives the most accurate results, but another major benefit of using a digital system like this is that it will remember your results and track your numbers as you progress and regress in and out of ketosis. This ensures your ketone levels are optimal for your goals, and it also helps by identifying fluctuations so that you can figure out the best way to maintain ketosis at an even pace throughout the day.
The only two minor drawbacks to this kit over others are convenience and long-term price. Some people aren’t comfortable with pricking their finger to draw blood – although you can barely feel the prick, if you think you may be uncomfortable, check both of our runner-up products for more convenient methods of ketone measurement. As far as price goes, the meter itself is pretty reasonably priced (around $50), but the test strips can be expensive. Ketone test strips usually run in the range of $2-4 per strip, which can get pricey over time. Typically, we might recommend a cheaper option – but honestly, we believe you can’t put a price on your health. We consider products like this to be more of an investment than a cost because they truly help you achieve your goals in health and fitness.
With everything considered, the Precision Xtra is a sparkling 10/10. It is considered the gold standard of ketosis monitoring by experienced ketogenic dieters and is by far the best ketone meter available. Remember, you will need ketone test strips to get started – we’d recommend using Abbott’s Ketone Test Strips since they were made specifically for use with the Precision Xtra, but you may be able to find others online for cheaper if you look around.
The best ketone urine strips
If you’ve shopped around online prior to reading this guide, you may have come across the Nurse Hatty Ketone Strips (just for clarification, these are not the same type of test strips that we mentioned above for use with the Precision Xtra). This ultra-popular testing kit measures your ketone levels using your urine. While this may provide less accurate results than a blood-ketone meter like our top pick, this can be a very convenient method for beginners who want a low-cost kit to get started.
Similar to pH strips you may have used in chemistry class as a kid to test acid levels in liquids, the Nurse Hatty strips test your ketone levels through your urine, displaying a unique color in order to indicate your level of ketosis. Following the guide on the box, you match the color of your strip and determine your level. The kit comes with 150 strips, which should last about 6 weeks if you use them twice per day (it’s recommended to test once in the morning and once in the evening and track your results).
The main downside to this kit is the lack of long-term accuracy. This isn’t a fault of Nurse Hatty, but more of an issue with how your body excretes certain types of ketones. When you’re first starting the ketogenic diet, tracking ketone levels using urine is perfectly acceptable. However, over time, as your body becomes more adapted to this dieting style, your body progressively stops excreting certain types of ketones in urine, resulting in inaccurate readings. This is why most people will recommend blood-ketone meters (and why we do too), because getting your ketone readings straight from the source (your blood) will always be the most accurate way to monitor ketosis.
Priced under $15, the value of Nurse Hatty Ketone Strips is hard to beat. There’s not another package on the market that offers 150 test strips for that price. With that said, the inconsistency and inaccuracy of the results are something to consider. If you plan to take the ketogenic diet seriously, we still recommend going with a blood-ketone meter like our top pick for the most accurate ketosis monitoring.
The best ketone breath analyzer
If convenience is king to you and you don’t mind paying a little extra, then you may be better off with the Ketonix Breath Ketone Test Monitor. This ketosis meter analyzes the composition of your breath to determine your body’s ketone level. The technology used to create this breathalyzer, and the lack of necessity to accept a blood testing strip, has allowed it to remain extremely compact, making it the perfect choice for those looking for an easy take-anywhere-use-anywhere ketone monitoring solution.
The Ketonix monitor is extremely simple to use, you simply blow in the tip and wait for your results. Breath ketone meters are not as accurate as blood-ketone monitors, so it is best to use this meter several times a day to paint yourself a more accurate and realistic picture of what your ketone levels look like. The accuracy of this type of ketone meter is what has placed the Ketonix breath analyzer as a runner up instead of our top pick.
With that said, everything else about this ketosis meter is exceptional. It’s very well-made, and is offered by a brand that specializes in the ketogenic diet. Although it’s a slightly higher up front cost, the only ongoing money you’ll have to pay is your electricity bill to keep it charged. That also makes this monitor cheaper in the long run, which is definitely something to keep in mind if the ketogenic diet is a permanent lifestyle change for you. All-in-all, the Ketonix Breath Monitor is your best bet if you’re looking for ultimate convenience.
Other products worth mentioning
We were incredibly selective in how we chose the best ketone meters, focusing highly on quality and accuracy. With that said, there are a few ketosis monitors that did not make our top three for one reason or another, yet still deserve an honorable mention based on their popularity or rating among customers.
Bayer is one of the most trusted healthcare brands in the world, and their products have been a lifesaver for many people. Their Ketostix Strips urine analyzers have been popular online due to their very low price point and ease of use. These strips work just like the Nurse Hatty strips discussed above: they are exposed to your urine by either dipping or passing through the stream and then the chemicals detected in the urine slowly change the color of the strip. Naturally, this method is the least accurate, but many have found it to be sufficient for their needs.
If you’re going for accuracy and affordability, the Nova Max PLUS Blood Glucose Monitoring System is for those looking to accurately measure their ketones on a budget. Compared to the $100 and $200 price tags on our top pick and runner up, the nova Max can be purchased at roughly $30. With that said, ketone test strips are not included, nor are lancets or a lancing device. This monitor is sold by itself, without a starter kit, which is one of the contributing factors to why we didn’t include it as part of our top three. We were looking for kits that included everything needed to get started.
The different types of ketosis monitoring systems
There are three main categories when it comes to ways to measure ketosis: blood-ketone meters, breath analyzers, and urine testing strips. Each has its pros and cons, so we’ve explain each type in detail below to help you figure out which is the best ketone meter for your personal dieting needs.
As you might have guessed, the blood-ketone meter works by analyzing your blood. The process is this: prick your finger with the lancet placed in the monitor, dip the ketone test strip into your blood, and then you’ll put the test strip into the monitor and wait for your results. This is the most accurate way to determine your blood-ketone level, as it pulls the results directly from the source: your blood. This method offers lower startup costs, but the test strips can get expensive, so the long-term cost can be a little on the pricey side. This method is also best performed at home, in a calm environment with no danger of getting your blood on someone else or being bumped into while pricking your finger.
Ketone breath analyzer
Have you ever used a breathalyzer to test your blood-alcohol level? Same idea. This is basically a small, pen-shaped device that analyzes your breath and detects the presence of ketones in your body by the composition of all of the chemicals that make up your breath. The best way to utilize the ketone breathalyzer is to use it a few times throughout the day, to give you more of an accurate range, to make sure you’re still comfortable in ketosis and not in the risk of falling out, or not in the risk of entering starvation ketosis, which can have negative effects on your body. Although the breathalyzer has a higher initial price point (for the device), it does have a lower long-term cost than the blood-ketone monitor.
Urine testing strips
The final type of ketone monitoring is ketone-detecting strips that you place in your urine. Generally speaking, urine tests are not very accurate and can become increasingly ineffective over time as your body stops excreting ketones in urine. With that said, there are a few brands (like Nurse Hatty) who have figured out a good way to make these work. In addition, testing strips are by far the most cost-effective route to go. If you only envision yourself testing for ketones once or twice, this may be the route for you to go. Due to the minimal financial commitment, this option might be more attractive for those who aren’t die-hard ketogenic dieters.
Choosing the best ketone meter for you
Everyone has different fitness and dieting goals, so choosing the best ketone meter will vary depending on your specific needs. If you keep a few key things in mind, it will help to simplify your decision and immediately cut out a lot of options that aren’t in your desired ballpark. Below are the most important things to consider when shopping for a good ketosis monitor.
Do you care more about convenience or accuracy?
As discussed in the section above, there are three main types of ketosis meters, and each varies in convenience and accuracy. Blood-ketone meters are the most accurate, yet they’re the least convenient because you have to carefully setup. Breath analyzers, on the other hand, are the most convenient because you can literally take your ketone levels anywhere in a matter of seconds, yet the accuracy is a little lower. Finally, urine testing strips are middle-of-the-road in terms of convenience, yet they’re the least accurate. If you have the time available and don’t mind a small prick of the finger, a blood ketone meter is always the way to go due to its accuracy. However, if you’re constantly on the go, a breath analyzer would probably be the best ketone meter for you.
What’s your budget?
Along the same vein of convenience and accuracy, the next thing to keep in mind is price. While breath analyzers are more convenient and admittedly easier to use, they have a much higher price point than standard blood-ketone meters (typically $200+ compared to blood meters around $100-150). Although urine testing strips can be less accurate, no one can deny their incredible value (most urine testing strips are priced below $20) Determine your price point by considering how long you’re planning to be on the ketogenic diet (more on this below) and how much monitoring means to you. If falling out of ketosis is a pretty big blow that you’re not willing to take, a ketone meter that you’ll actually use is extremely important. Conversely, if that’s a punch you can roll with, a cheap ketone meter you’ll only use every once in a while should do the trick.
What are your long-terms goals with fitness and dieting?
With anything fitness-related, it’s always recommended to consider your long-term goals. Are you just dieting down for a one-time event like a wedding or reunion, or will this be a permanent lifestyle change for you? If this is a one-time thing, you might be able to get away using a less-accurate monitor for the sake of saving some money on a more expensive alternative. However, if you’re sticking with the ketogenic diet for the long-term, a monitor with high-accuracy should be at the top of your priority list despite the slightly higher price tag.
What you need to know about measuring ketones
Ketones are the byproduct of your body breaking down fats. Since your body normally breaks down primarily carbohydrates for energy, your ketone levels are (should be) naturally low, since the breakdown of fat is much, much slower than the breakdown of carbohydrates. However, when you cut your carb intake to a very low amount, your body enters ketosis and burns fat for energy instead. This burning of fat produces ketone bodies that can be found in your blood. The higher the ketone level, the more fat is being burned in your body.
Although ketosis and ketones are relatively new to the world of health and fitness, they have been on the radar of the diabetic community for quite some time. Diabetics monitor ketones because they are an indicator that their blood-insulin level is too low. Too many ketones for a diabetic could require emergency medical attention, or even cause death through diabetic ketoacidosis. However, if you’re not diabetic, this isn’t something that needs to be a concern, as non-diabetics have what is essentially a feedback loop to prevent ketones from building up too high.
Depending on your fitness goals, you want your blood to be between .5 and 3 ketones per mM of blood to maintain ketosis. Anything above that is typically for therapeutic purposes. Your ketone level will take a little while to rise (its different person-to-person, as ketosis is when your body goes into survival mode). During this transition phase, your body will have very limited energy, so strenuous exercise, long periods of standing and not getting enough sleep will take a much harder toll on your body and energy levels than they normally would. Even throughout ketosis, your body won’t have as much energy due to decreased muscle glycogen (you can only get muscle glycogen from carbohydrates); so, if you’re a fitness junkie, you’re very likely going to notice a decrease of strength in the gym.
Wrapping it up
Measuring ketones isn’t as simple as measuring a TV screen or a picture frame, but it can still be manageable enough to test daily without centering your day around it. The two main methods of measurement, blood-ketone monitors and ketone breathalyzers, both have their advantages and drawbacks. As long as you follow the advice in our guide, you will be able to choose the best ketone meter for your specific needs and long-term goals.