Most people don’t pay a lot of attention to the color, smell, frequency, or quantity of their urine output. After all, pee is just pee; it’s just one of many bodily functions that we take for granted. However, ketosis urine color can indicate how well your diet is going, and it may be beneficial to pay more attention to the characteristics of your pee.
When you forgo carbs and enter ketosis, your body has to use more fat for fuel. Unfortunately, your brain cannot operate on fat alone. To fuel your brain, your body turns fat into ketones. Your brain then uses ketones in place of glucose, and you lose weight much faster and easier than usual.
Entering and then maintaining ketosis triggers several additional physiological changes and some of those changes are reflected in things like urine frequency and color. While none of these changes is anything to worry about, it’s always useful to understand what is going on inside your body.
Is it normal to pee a lot when in ketosis?
The keto diet is famous for producing fast weight loss. A lot of keto dieters lose five pounds or more in the first week alone, and that’s before ketosis really kicks in. Unfortunately, a lot of that initial weight loss is water.
Keto diet detractors are often very quick to say that weight lost during ketosis is mostly water and not fat, but they are missing the point. In keto, water loss is a stepping stone to fat loss. Keto diet experts know initial weight loss is water. But, as water loss slows down, fat loss accelerates.
Losing water is no bad thing either. Excess water makes you look puffy and bloated. Losing excess water is rarely a problem. Just ask any bodybuilder about “drying out” before a competition – excess water retention makes you look fat even when you aren’t.
Anyway, before we go too far off track, why DO you pee more on keto, and in particular during the first week or so? The answer is glycogen.
Glycogen is stored glucose. It’s locked inside your muscles and liver. Muscle glycogen provides your muscles with energy, and liver glycogen is a reservoir for your brain and keeps your blood glucose levels stable.
When you reduce your carb intake to 50 grams per day or less, your body uses these glycogen stores and doesn’t replace them. Once your glycogen stores are fully depleted, your body will make the switch to using ketones for energy, and you’ll start burning fat like a maxed-out blast furnace.
However, glycogen is chemically bound to water. For every gram of glycogen, you also have 3-4 grams of water. This makes glycogen a big, bulky, heavy substance. That’s part of the reasons you cannot store much of it. The average person has 600 grams of glycogen stored in their muscles and their liver, and that amounts to a lot of water too.
As your body uses glycogen for energy, all of that water is released. While your body needs plenty of water to function properly, too much water can be a problem. As a result, excess water is removed from your body by increasing your urine output.
As glycogen levels decrease, so too will your urine output. After a few days to a week or so, your pee volume and frequency should return to normal.
The bottom line is that it is perfectly natural to pee more during ketosis, especially as your body uses glycogen and releases the water stored with it. Peeing more often can be inconvenient but it’s also a good sign that your diet is working, and you are about to enter maximum fat-burning mode.
Ketosis urine smell
As you enter ketosis, you may notice that your pee starts to smell differently. It may smell stronger than usual, or you may notice a sweet, fruity odor. This change in keto urine smell is perfectly normal and nothing to worry about. Again, it’s a good indicator that you are descending into ketosis and are burning fat at an accelerated rate.
But what causes this keto pee smell? It’s mainly an increase in the concentration of ketones and ketone remnants. Both of these substances smell sweet and fruity and are also the cause of fruity “ketone breath.”
When your body starts producing ketones from fat, it makes a lot of them. That’s good news because that is one of the mechanisms that lead to accelerated fat loss. However, you can’t use all of these ketones for energy, and the excess is expelled from your body via your urinary system. In short, you pee out the excess ketones.
In addition, breaking ketones down and using them for energy produces numerous waste products. These are often called ketone remnants. Think of these substances like the bones in a roast chicken; you eat the chicken meat and toss out the inedible bones. Your body just pees out the ketone leftovers.
Keto pee smell can be quite unpleasant, especially if you usually pride yourself on being well-hydrated so that your pee is clear and odorless. However, it is nothing to be alarmed about and is just another indicator that your ketogenic diet is working its magic.
Ketosis urine colors and shades
After keto urine smell, the thing that most keto dieters notice is the color of their urine. Color changes are perfectly normal and reflect the extra “stuff” that builds up and is carried out of your body in your pee. There are four main urine colors to expect during the keto diet.
1. Clear Urine
Keto flu is commonly caused by dehydration. To counter this, most keto diet experts recommend that you increase your water intake. In many cases, this will prevent the headaches and fatigue that is a normal part of keto flu.
Of course, “drink more water” is a very vague instruction and many people will interpret this to mean “drink gallons of water.” If your pee is clear, you are probably drinking more water than you need. The contents of your urine are so diluted that your pee will be completely clear.
There is nothing inherently wrong with having clear urine, but you really don’t need to drink so much water. You may even find that you pee more often than average simply because you are chugging down far more water than you need. Try reducing your water intake so that your pee takes on a yellowish appearance. This is considered normal.
2. Dark Yellow Urine
On the other end of the pee spectrum, very dark yellow urine is a reliable indicator that you are not drinking enough water and are starting to become dehydrated. You may also notice that you are peeing less often than usual, and your urine output is lower.
Dehydration can be a problem as your body uses water for almost every chemical reaction that sustains life. You can survive for several weeks without food but only a few days without water.
If your pee is very dark yellow, make sure you drink more water to restore your hydration levels. Don’t gulp down gallons of water all at once; you’ll just overwhelm your body. Instead, increase your water intake gradually over several days.
3. Oily Urine
Even non-keto dieters will notice occasional changes in urine color, frequency, and odor, but one thing that is particular to the keto diet is oily urine. This change is so unusual that many people find it alarming. Good news – it’s nothing to worry about.
When you enter ketosis, your body gets busy burning more fat for fuel. This produces an increase in certain cellular waste products. In addition to those ketone remnants discussed before, your urine will also carry something called acetoacetate, which is oily by nature.
What does fat in the urine look like? If you can see an oily layer floating at the top of your pee, it’s a safe bet that this is acetoacetate, and a good indicator you have reached the fat loss nirvana that is ketosis.
4. Frothy Urine
If your pee resembles beer foam, you would be forgiven for thinking that something has gone very wrong with your urinary system. Is your pee full of gas? Has it turned fizzy? Don’t worry – there is nothing to worry about.
The truth is that your pee isn’t actually frothy, it’s just the water in your toilet bowl. Because of the keto diet, you will probably pee more than normal, and that higher than normal volume of pee will increase the force of your urine stream. This agitates the water in the toilet bowl and creates lots of bubbles.
Pay attention to the color, odor, and volume of pee, but frothy urine is not really “a thing” and is certainly nothing to worry about.
Testing your urine
After a few days to a week or two of eating less than 50 grams of carbs or less, you will enter ketosis. Any keto flu symptoms will vanish, and you’ll start to notice that you are losing weight. This will no longer be water weight – you’ll be burning fat.
Other signs that you have entered ketosis include:
- Increased energy and focus
- Better concentration
- Fruity breath
- Less hunger and fewer cravings
You can also confirm ketosis by checking the concentration of ketones in your urine by using keto sticks. Keto sticks are cheap and readily available. Get them at your local drugstore or pharmacy.
Simply pass a keto stick through your urine stream and then watch it change color. Most keto sticks turn purple when ketones are present. The darker the color, the more concentrated the ketones. Don’t test your pee at the very start or end of your urination. For best results, check your pee about midway between these two points. If your pee is purple, you’ll be pleased to know that you are now in ketosis and burning fat faster than normal.
Pee problems – when to worry
Changes in urine color and odor are perfectly normal and are expected on the keto diet. However, there are a few things you should look out for that could indicate a problem. These changes are not usually associated with the keto diet and may mean you need to speak to your doctor.
Things to look out for include:
- Burning sensation when urinating
- Involuntary urination
- Blood in your urine
- Very cloudy urine
- Difficulty urinating or a start/stop urine flow
- Feeling like you need to pee all the time, even if you have just been
- Pain in the lower back (a possible indicator of kidney problems)
Do not ignore any of these symptoms – speak to your doctor to make sure they are not signs of symptoms of illness.
One of the reasons that the keto diet is so effective is that it changes how your body works. These changes are reflected in several bodily functions, including your pee. While some of these changes are surprising, and may even be a little alarming, they are nothing to worry about.
Your urinary system, which is made up of your kidneys, bladder, and all the associated tubes, is a very efficient filtration machine. It removes toxic substances from your body and flushes them away with water. Forget detox diets – your urinary system has everything in hand!
The keto diet will cause changes to the color and smell or your urine, and you may pee more than usual, but these changes indicate that your keto diet is working. Use keto sticks to further confirm you have entered ketosis.