Ketosis confusion

Hey folks – new out here and I searched around but didn’t really find a thread addressing this – apologies if this is adding noise.

So short version is I’ve been eating low carb (less than 30 g per day) for a few years now – as a type 2 for nearly 10 years who’s not yet on insulin it’s a necessary bit of loveliness and has been working reasonably well (A1cs in the low 6’s for some time). Lately me and my wife have been experimenting heavily with baking using various formulas that use zero carb Whey isolate as a base. Real heavily. We kinda went a little overboard since neither of us has had any bread-y type food in years. Effectively these concoctions (some of which turned out real nice – I’ll have to post some of the processes that worked on the recipes forum when I get time) are very close to zero carb and loaded with protein.

So, cut to the chase. I’m usually never in ketosis or barely trace – I check once or twice a week usually. I haven’t changed my diet or exercise routine in the last couple weeks other than filling my face with more protein than I normally do (usually try and keep it under 100 g). The last 3 days I’ve been WAY into ketosis. Never seen the stick get that dark before.

I had thought that indicated a break down in fat cells when eating very low carb which forced the body to go elsewhere for a source of energy. Given the diet stayed the same other than the introduction of considerable amounts of additional protein why would this sudden jump into ketosis come about?

Mostly I’m just curious – I’m dialing back on the baking experiments (actually getting tired of the muffin-quest if you can believe it) and will get back in my usual zone again here shortly, but wondering if maybe my understanding of the ketosis process is incomplete.


I am not a dietician, so take my comments with a grain of salt (pun intended). I’ve heard of the rationale that to attain a low A1C that low to no carb is the way to go. That sounds reasonable on the face of it, although it results in what is an unbalanced diet. My understanding of ketoacidosis is that it occurs when the body begins to burn fat within the body as an energy source when glucose is too high. Perhaps check ketones in relation to high blood sugar readings to see if there is a linkage. One thing that I do know from personal experience is that when kidney damage is present that my PCP advised me to dial down protein intake a bit because excessive protein intake puts additional stress on the kidneys.

I’d recommend either discussing your observations and diet with your PCP and perhaps getting a consult with a dietician to evaluate your dietary regimen. I have the feeling that there might be too many “fringe” diets out there that might make sense on one level that in fact have questionable (if any) scientific evidence to demonstrate their efficacy.

Hey Tom.

Yeah, I’m not really interested in arguing the low carb vs. “balanced diet and lots of meds to cover the glucose” thing – I consider that issue to be resolved years ago. Even the stodgy old American Heart Association had to admit low carb was not bad. Understood not everyone is on board with it and that’s fine, I just don’t find the conversation interesting any longer. I’m not new at this and wasn’t looking to change up my diet routine. I started on the ADA inspired “food pyramid” stuff with a dietition (eat more fruits and veg! ) and it was an unmitigated disaster – if I’d have kept it up I’d have been on multiple forms of insulin 10 years ago. Low carb works for me – I’m very fit, my cholesterol is dandy and my numbers are generally just fine. I’m more curious about the infusion of large amounts of protein resulting in shedding of ketones.

BTW, I’m not having high blood sugar reactions at all – I never spike above 140 pretty much ever. If I ever had the ADA approved 180 post meal spike I’d freak out… Unfortunately the fasting level never goes much below 110 unless I just got done with some cardio or I’m drinking. Go figure – producing very little of my own insulin these days.

Hey Jeff,

Congratulations on your success!

I’ve been eating low carb (30-40 carbs) for over 1.5 years & I’ve never had ketones. Could it be that the last three days you were dehydrated? Did you also check your BG when you checked for ketones? Hope not, but high BG causes ketones. Are your strips close to the expiration date?

You’ve got it right that ketosis is the by-product of the body using stored fat for energy.

Would love to see your recipes!

Sometimes Ketones can be the result of little more than dehydration or the beginnings of an illness (I often have ketones show up before I realize I am coming down with something). Any time your body is burning fat for energy you will have ketones.

if your BG is fine, and you are able to push fluids and “flush” the ketones, you don’t have too much to worry about… it’s probably unrelated to the whey isolate.


Ketosis & ketoacidosis are very different.

Ketosis is a natural process when fat reserves are used for energy. The presence of ketones is mild.

Diabetic Ketoacidosis (DKA) is a life threatening condition when BG is high resulting in the body being in a starvation mode because energy can’t get into the cells.

Hey Gerri.

yeah, I test a lot - with two different reader brands (whole seperate rant on the home testing innacuracies - so annoying). No high blood sugar - numbers were actually really stable. I was eating too much food for sure, even the less than spectacular attempts, so I was testing every hour or two just in case.

I was hitting the cardio equipment in the basement more than usual (I like to watch baseball and tend to go longer if it’s a good game) - it’s possible I got a little dehydrated. I drink a ton of decaf tea though - I’m hydrating big time today, we’ll see how it looks tomorrow.

Heidi and I will weed out the good from the bad and post a few things - we have 8 different types of pans/appliances we’ve been trying for various effect. Muffins=good. Pizza crust=very, very bad.

Hey Jeff,

I’d wager you may have been slightly dehydrated. Does decaf tea have zero caffeine?

With you on glucose meter inaccuracy. Makes me nuts that we spend a fortune on strips testing diligently only to get huge margin of error results. Unacceptable that they’re not accurate.

That’s some serious experimenting:) I’ve used whey isolate combined with almond meal &/or coconut flour. Good muffins & pretty good cookies, but bread, pizza crust–bleech. I’ll send you a pizza recipe that’s really good.

As you have been low carbing for a while I presume you know the basics. I’ve low carbed for years, and for a considerable amount of time at the Berstein levels you mention. Ketones are generated as part of fat burning, and being on a low carb, you are getting a major portion of your energy from ketones. Now this does not mean you are excreting ketones, that is what is measured on the ketostix. In fact, after you have adapted, most people should just show trace or marginal levels of ketones. It just makes sense, why should your body generate large amounts of ketones (energy) and then have to dump them, that is just wasteful. It is true that you will generate transient levels of ketones, and I do this after exercise. Again this makes sense, I exercise, demanding energy, I burn fat generating ketones for energy and then when I am done, I have extra left over. Hence, after exercise, I have higher transient levels. Other than that, I am almost always showing negligble ketones (but I do show some).

Now all that is fine and dandy if (and that is a big if) you are eating a modest protein diet. What I have found is that if you eat enough protein, you will kick yourself out of ketosis. Extra protein (and I will sometimes get upwards of 200g/day) will be converted to glucose through gluconeogenesis. You are getting 100g of protein/day, about a third if that might be converted to glucose. If you had an change in the amount of glucose in your body, it may have been as though you did some carb cycling causing a change. The other thing to understand about high protein diets is that they can rev up your metabolism. I have found that I’ll be hot at night and this sort of effect may also have messed with things.

The big thing I found is that ketones on the ketostix are excess ketones and that usually happens when the balance is upset and extra fat burning is taking place. Over time, that usually settles down, just give it some time.

yeah, I’m used to seeing “trace” on the stick now and again - I expect that.

My assumption follows your line as well - higher protein intake would result in more glycogen production and somewhat higher glucose readings and higher post extercise “bumps” like when I skip a few days working out and such. I was rather suprised that didn’t happen and the sticks turned so dark brown - just not an expected result, I’m not freaking out about it or anything. I suspect the dehydration suggestion may be accurate.

Either way, I’m eating more normal this week, things will normalize shortly.