- We are Running on Ketones. This is not a typical story; we are endurance athletes at different stages of our lives, who are experimenting with a low carb Ketogenic diet. We are not doctors or scientists, just athletes. Anthony is the youngest and the fastest, age 20, and prefers ultra road running. Eric (ZoomZoom), age 27, is ukulele playing mixed distance runner. Dan (SKA Runner), age 42, is new to running, prefers mountains ultras, and a bit of a computer geek. Bob(uglyrnrboy), age 54, prefers mountains ultras and loves to tele ski. This site,, will document our journey as endurance athletes implementing a low carb ketogenic diet in to our lives. Please feel free to contact us with any questions you have about our experiences.

What is a Nutritional Ketosis Diet? []

The ketogenic diet is a high-fat, adequate-protein, low-carbohydrate diet. The diet forces the body to burn fats rather than carbohydrates. Normally, the carbohydrates contained in food are converted into glucose, which is then transported around the body and is particularly important in fuelling brain function. However, if there is very little carbohydrate in the diet, the liver converts fat into fatty acids and ketone bodies. The ketone bodies pass into the brain and replace glucose as an energy source. This elevated level of ketone bodies in the blood is a state known as ketosis.


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QUESTION OF THE DAY: Ketogenic Diet, Low Blood Ketone Levels

The quest for “Deep Purple” . . .  A number of people have contacted RunKeto with concerns / questions regarding low ketone levels or achieving “Deep Purple.”  I can't count how many time people have told me, ‘I have never seen Purple.’  What do you guys think?  ~SKA

Here is a little  “Deep Purple” inspiration . . .


Hi -
I hope you don't mind the following! I don't know anyone else with correct background/knowledge to ask, and books read (eg those by Atkins, Taubes, Phinney and Volek) don't give me any possibilities for why and how to fix.

Question is: any idea why my blood ketone level is low (< 0.1 mM), measured with newly purchased blood monitoring device, when I should be well-keto-adapted? And of course also the question: what should I do??

Long explanation: I've been on low-carb way of life for >6 months. I cannot even remember exactly what it felt like when switching (during adaptation period at start) although I do remember marveling at how good I felt (and still feel, so much energy!).

Lifestyle: I do run five days/week, although I had bottomed out on running prior to starting low-carb because of weight gained when I thought low-fat was correct (I had panicked about a small weight gain during a hospital stay and then gained >50 lbs after!), and I'm just starting to enjoy running again now I'm skinnier (but still 20lbs to go). I will be increasing mileage very very slowly having dealt with a stress fracture in recent past (last year) from too-fast distance increase. I'm barely at 10-15 mi/week, but eventually plan on getting back to marathon-running type distance/week. Anyway, low measurement of ketones is despite low-carb diet and currently running (although that is short compared to a few years ago). I eat eggs, cheese, and bacon for breakfast, sometimes leftovers for lunch although often not hungry enough to eat, then a dinner cooked by awesome hubby totally in line with low-carb, eg some meat or fish, with low-carb veggies, and sugar free Jell-O for desert. So WHY low ketones in blood?? What can I do to fix this??

Any ideas guys?


  1. Try adding coconut oil.

    It is a mystery. How do you gain that much weight without eating carbs? (Hidden carbs?)

    Another suggestion: (possibly expensive) Test blood sugars and ketones hourly for a few days, to zero in on what is going on.

    Ketones should not be too high either, this would point to starvation rather than being in a nutritional ketosis.

  2. Another possibility: Eat more.

    Possibly stress hormone overload? Overexercising? Meal and exercise timing (it matters)? Try the carbs in the morning and the fat at night.

    Looks like a lot of measuring and trying.

    1. I also think, that you may be doing serious damage to yourself. Try eating the carbs before a workout. Work out within reason. give your body the 48 hour breaks it needs after workouts. eat enough food. skip the carbs after the workout, and especially at night.
      It looks like your body is hanging on to all the carbs it can get its hands on, trying to make up for bad times.

    2. Are you taking any supplements? (They can cause all kinds of things to happen.)

  3. Hmm, I tried to reply to comments above (twice) but the responses are not visible to me so maybe they've disappeared? (I'm so computer-hopeless!)

  4. That one showed! Ok, (missing) replies said:

    Weight was gained using a low-fat diet as it was before I read about low-carb. I've dropped 30lbs since starting low-carb and have 20 lbs to go to get back to where I was before the hospital stay started my weight gain process (10/2010, horseback riding accident).

    I run early morning so I never took carbs before running even before low-carb lifestyle, except when marathon training (last marathon was so long ago: Boston 2000!). And I have tons of energy, more than enough for running, why take those nasty carbs?

    I don't do supplements for most part although when I remember to I do take a multivitamin/multimineral (one without iron). I do use plenty of salt; need that sodium or else I pee all night!

    I will indeed keep measuring ketones at different times (once I get more strips), good suggestion thanks. I do know that urine ketone testing is not the right method, it tests acetoacetate which gets chomped by muscles at this late stage of keto adaptation so I wouldn't expect to see purple strips but blood ketone testing looks for the betahydroxybutyrate, which I should have plenty of! (I am not hoping for levels of ketones corresponding to ketoacidosis, that is a diabetic level of ketones, I want "high" level of ketosis which is ten times less than acidosis.)

    Hey, thanks so much for taking the time to answer.

    1. Regarding the carbs: I was referring to the vegetables you eat for dinner, and suggested to eat those carbs before the workouts instead.
      Of course, depending on your metabolism, this may not bother you. But if you are someone who is quite carb sensitive, even vegetables will upset your metabolism if consumed just before bed.
      I am just now reading a book of a skinny diabetic, who eats low-carb and exercises, AND has bad genes. He has a very difficult time with his metabolism and has to watch out for a lot more than just low carbs.
      I was thinking of this man when I read your story.

      You probably also know, that ketones fluctuate wildly over the course of a day.

      I sure hope you will be able to figure this out.
      Keep us updated!

  5. Try reducing your protein. Ketosis is very efficient state and is very good at protein sparing. Even as an athletes we don't need anywhere near the amount that some people recomend. I need to be between 75-85g / day to be in deep ketosis the next day. I've found I need to be deep in ketosis to have good quality workouts. It is only on days that I have a quality workout that I up the protein after completion. I will have 95-110g which just happens to match my appetite for protein food sources. Funny that!
    A spoon full of MCT or coconut oil in the morning will boost your ketones for the day but remember that your body will burn those fats before starting in on your tummy. No need to take them before bed at night. As a matter of fact all the ancestral health research indicates you may only want to eat while the sun is up.
    In regards to "nasty carbs", I totally agree you don't need to add them in.

  6. Ok thanks Zoomzoom! I have to admit to not counting protein grams eaten per day before now. I was just eating until satiety of mixed protein-fat stuff and not doing any calculations at all (what a relief not to count every durned calorie!). But this makes total sense since I've read about how good the body is at converting excess protein to sugar (sigh). I've read that 0.8g protein per kg desirable body weight per day is the optimal - let me know if you've heard differently, pretty please.

    Sabine, interesting re: carb in veggies possibly being difficult to deal with if evening-consumed! My history does suggest that my system is even more touchy than the average. And now I understand the coconut oil suggestion (which I forgot to re-write my question about) and I will certainly keep that in mind to try - I'm gonna watch the protein consumption first, then the when-I-eat-carbs, then maybe...I want to change only one variable at a time.

    Hey, thanks! I will certainly update ya'll as I continue trying/measuring/living this awesome lifestyle.

    1. Ack, another book recommends 75-150 g/day of protein (range corresponding to height with allowance for variation in weight), whereas the above-quoted value (0.8g/ideal kg) would give me ~44g. Anyone have any comments?

  7. Melita,
    Desired body weight is a rather vague. I would like to be 135 lbs like an East African runner but does this mean I should be eating 49g of protein... probably not. I would go by 1g / kg lean body mass (total weight - total weight*body fat percentage expressed as a decimal) if you are active and .8g / kg if you are sedentary. How I found my sweet spot was actually using blood ketones and upping my daily intake until it started decreasing my morning ketone levels. I'm at 1.2 g /kg but I'm also a male exercising 14 hours a week.
    Good luck!

  8. Whups should have refreshed first! I just got suggestion, but would I then have to determine my lean body weight? Sigh, I knew my body fat percentage back when I was running marathons, but now...?

  9. Let me flood this site with my comments...: I think what I might do is simply count g for a few days to see what I'm actually consuming (while measuring blood ketones (if those durn strips would arrive) and then try reducing the g to try to find that "sweet spot" you mention. Gosh thanks for taking the time.

  10. Try this approach for determining protein requirement -- pick a weight desirable for you. Then pick a desired fat %. Net out desired lean body mass (LBM) and eat protein based on that value.

    Example -- female, 5' 1" (155cm), desired weight 110 (50 kg), desired fat % 15% (post menopausal)

    .85*110 = 93.5 lbs LBM.

    Phinney & Volek recommend 0.6 - 1.0 g protein per lb LBM. So this means 56 - 93 g protein per day.

    And, as always, experiment to find where within your range you work best.


  11. Melita,
    Do keep us updated! Here is a the best body fat calculator on the internet:

    and here is an interesting keto diet calculator:

    Based on fiddling around with it for a while it seems to be based on losing weight not optimizing athletic performance.

  12. HI Guys!

    A few observations which may help .....

    First off what I am seeing in well fat-adapted runners is resting ketones are low to no in terms of getting any meaningful levels so I tend to recommend to not bother or you will stress out about your ketones not coming up....get a Cortisol response and then definitely kick you out of "Club Ketone".....if you want re-assurance that your body is making them Ketones in spades try taking readings post exercise and track your post-exercise ketone if you are well-fat-adapted you should see solid numbers. I have a few guys measuring them and we see ranges of 2.7-3.5 mmol post exercise, up to 5+mmol if using VESPA.

    As for the 20# you still want to lose be patient and allow summer heat and increased Vitamin D to come into the picture ....depending upon where you live and how much sun exposure you have had all winter your body holding onto 20# is not the end of the world if you are inside, not getting sunlight and in the cold.

    Also note getting into deep ketosis is, observationally from my perch, more difficult for females than most males.....not that it cannot be done, just harder in general. Most advice out there on NK is male derived so those successful men in NK have healthy testosterone levels which really helps the process.

    Feel free to email me if you need more info...