Metabolomics, a science of systems biology, is the global assessment of endogenous metabolites within a biologic system and represents a "snapshot" reading of gene function, enzyme activity, and the physiological landscape. Metabolite detection, either individual or grouped as a metabolomic profile, is usually performed in cells, tissues, or biofluids by either nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy or mass spectrometry followed by sophisticated multivariate data analysis. Because loss of metabolic homeostasis is common in critical illness, the metabolome could have many applications, including biomarker and drug target identification. Metabolomics could also significantly advance our understanding of the complex pathophysiology of acute illnesses, such as sepsis and acute lung injury/acute respiratory distress syndrome. Despite this potential, the clinical community is largely unfamiliar with the field of metabolomics, including the methodologies involved, technical challenges, and, most importantly, clinical uses. Although there is evidence of successful preclinical applications, the clinical usefulness and application of metabolomics in critical illness is just beginning to emerge, the advancement of which hinges on linking metabolite data to known and validated clinically relevant indices. In addition, other important aspects, such as patient selection, sample collection, and processing, as well as the needed multivariate data analysis, have to be taken into consideration before this innovative approach to biomarker discovery can become a reliable tool in the intensive care unit. The purpose of this review is to begin to familiarize clinicians with the field of metabolomics and its application for biomarker discovery in critical illnesses such as sepsis.