Urine Color in Ketosis - The 4 Shades & What They Mean

Urine Color in Ketosis
The 4 Different Shades & Their Meaning

Urine Color in ketogenic diets

It’s no secret that your body goes through a lot of changes when you start on the keto diet. While there can be some side effects that you might struggle with, there are other perfectly normal effects that might seem like something is wrong.

Your urine color is one of those effects, and it is one of the lesser known and talked-about subjects. 

Let’s face it, how likely are you to ask your gym buddy if there’s something wrong with your pee?

Personally, this was one of the first things I noticed when I hit ketosis, but a quick chat with a dietician put my mind at ease.

She actually gave me a really simple guide to the different shades and amounts of urine and what they mean for keto, so I decided to share that info with you.

Is Peeing A Lot A Sign Of Ketosis?

Yes, peeing a lot is a perfect sign that you have reached ketosis.

The reason for this is actually quite simple.

Carbs are stored in the body either as fat or as glycogen deposits. As your blood glucose levels drop, your body will start to reduce those glycogen reserves.

Now for the interesting part.

Every part of glycogen binds to about four parts of water. And with about 600 grams of glycogen stored in the average human, that amounts to a lot of water.

As your body removes the glycogen reserves, it will release all that retained water, and the effect is that you pee a lot more.

What Does Urine Smell Like In Ketosis?

bad smell of urine

When your body enters ketosis, your urine can start to smell quite sweet and fruity.

This is a very common side effect, and the change in urine color and smell mainly comes down to the fact that excess ketone in your blood is flushed out through urine. 

This is a perfectly natural thing and is not something to worry about. 

If you notice this quite early in your diet it’s a good sign, and maybe it’s time to do your first ketone level test.

The 4 Different Shades Of Keto Urine

1. Clean Urine

Some people become concerned because their pee is no longer yellow; it loses its color and becomes clear as water.

This is the least worrying of all ketosis symptoms. Urine color is likely to change while on the low-carb diet, and clear pee is one of the most common symptoms.

urine clear color

It almost always means you’re just drinking more water than you need to.

Try cutting back incrementally until your urine takes on a light-yellow appearance again. [1]

Be aware though that peeing more often could cause your electrolyte levels to drop, and that's not a good thing. But if you just cut back a bit, you should be fine.

2. Dark Yellow Urine

dark yellow urine

If, on the other hand, your pee turns a bright or dark yellow it’s likely that you are not drinking enough water.

Even if you don’t necessarily feel thirsty, your urine color while you're in ketosis isn't going to lie to you.

If it's dark yellow then it means it's time to drink more water.

Contrary to a barrage of now-debunked myths, coffee and diet drinks do help with hydration but nothing is quite as useful as good old water.

Just try not to guzzle down a gallon of water at once. Your system will be overwhelmed, and you'll wind up peeing most of it out anyway.

Have one glass now, then another one a couple of hours later, and so on.

3. Oily Urine

Some folks become alarmed after a couple of days on the low-carb lifestyle when they notice that their urine appears to be oily.

Rest assured, however, that this is nothing to be concerned about.

When your body shifts into a state of true ketosis, insulin levels tend to drop and stabilize.

When this happens, waste products that were being locked away in your cells by insulin begin to be released.

urine sample to check ketone levels

These are then expelled via urine in the form of acetoacetate, which is oily by nature.

If you notice a bit of an oil slick in the toilet, then take it for what it is: a sign that you have achieved ketosis.

Note: If you are concerned about your urine color or are not sure if that’s oil you see in the toilet or something else, you can purchase keto urine test strips that will measure the level of ketone bodies in your urine and display a color-based result.

All you need to do is hold the strip in your urine stream until it’s wet and then wait for a few seconds while it changes color. Light pink means there are only a few ketone bodies in your pee, and you are not yet in ketosis. [2]

A dark purple, on the other hand, means you are producing lots of ketone bodies and are in a state of ketosis.

The longer you are in ketosis, the more efficient your body will become at creating the right number of ketone bodies. So if you continue testing then the color on the strip may gradually get lighter again.

4. Frothy Urine

man on the bathroom

There is no such thing as "frothy urine." There is, however, such a thing as a frothy toilet bowl water that is mistaken for  foamy urine.

Because you are drinking more water on the low-carb lifestyle, and because your body is now releasing pent-up water that was formerly held in your cells, the urine is likely to come out at a higher pressure than it did previously.

As this high-pressure release hits the water from the bowl, it produces bubbles.

Ketosis urine color is what you should be looking at — not whether you pee has a nice head or not.

Cloudy urine is different from frothy urine, however, and if your urine is cloudy, it may signify a kidney issue.

If the cloudy nature of the pee persists, you should see your doctor.

Also, if you experience painful urination, you may have a urinary tract infection, and again, you should see your doctor.


Frequently Asked Questions

What Do Ketones In Urine Smell Like?
Ketones in urine have a sweet and fruity smell.

This is perfectly normal and just something you have never experienced. It’s actually a very good sign in the early stages, signaling that you’re on the right track.

Can Ketones In Urine Cause Burning?
No, ketones in your urine do not cause a burning sensation.

A burning sensation when you pee is generally not a good sign and could point to a urinary tract or kidney infection. If you notice this, then make sure you talk to a doctor as soon as possible.

Does Ketosis Cause Smelly Urine?
Yes, ketosis can cause smelly urine; if you define smelly as a change from the normal scent.

Let’s face it, urine never smells good, and even a sweet and fruity smell won’t make it a pleasant experience. Just note that it’s perfectly normal to notice such changes.

When Should I Test My Urine For Ketosis?
You should test your urine for signs of ketosis when you notice a change in color and smell.

This indicates that ketones are being released into your bloodstream and excess amounts are filtered out by your kidneys. There’s a very good chance that you’re only a few days away from full ketosis.


Our Final Thoughts

Noticing changes in the color and smell of your urine when you start a keto diet is perfectly normal.

The important thing is to understand what is happening and what the different shades and smells mean.

As long as your pee doesn’t go cloudy and/or frothy, or you don't have symptoms like a burning sensation, these changes are expected and are even a good sign.

Adjusting your water intake is a good idea to make sure you stay fully hydrated.

To verify that you’re on the right track, just get some ketone strips. I’ve tested a few of them, and you can find the best one right here.

About the Author

Ryan is a personal trainer, athlete, health enthusiast, and entrepreneur. He is researching and expanding his knowledge about the ketogenic diet. He spends most of his time writing content about his new learnings of the ketogenic diet and shares it on Ketogenic Supplement Reviews. You can find me on: Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.