Impaired glucose tolerance (IGT) which precedes overt type 2 diabetes (T2DM) for decades is associated with multiple metabolic alterations in insulin sensitive tissues. In an UPLC-qTOF-mass spectrometry-driven non-targeted metabonomics approach we investigated plasma as well as spot urine of 51 non-diabetic, overnight fasted individuals aiming to separate subjects with IGT from controls thereby identify pathways affected by the pre-diabetic metabolic state. We could clearly demonstrate that normal glucose tolerant (NGT) and IGT subjects clustered in two distinct groups independent of the investigated metabonome. These findings reflect considerable differences in individual metabolite fingerprints, both in plasma and urine. Pre-diabetes associated alterations in fatty acid-, tryptophan-, uric acid-, bile acid-, and lysophosphatidylcholine-metabolism, as well as the TCA cycle were identified. Of note, individuals with IGT also showed decreased levels of gut flora-associated metabolites namely hippuric acid, methylxanthine, methyluric acid, and 3-hydroxyhippuric acid. The findings of our non-targeted UPLC-qTOF-MS metabonomics analysis in plasma and spot urine of individuals with IGT vs NGT offers novel insights into the metabolic alterations occurring in the long, asymptomatic period preceding the manifestation of T2DM thereby giving prospects for new intervention targets. ELECTRONIC SUPPLEMENTARY MATERIAL: The online version of this article (doi:10.1007/s11306-010-0203-1) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.