There has been growing interest in understanding energy metabolism in human embryos generated using assisted reproductive techniques (ART) for improving the overall success rate of the method. Using NMR spectroscopy as a noninvasive tool, we studied human embryo metabolism to identify specific biomarkers to assess the quality of embryos for their implantation potential. The study was based on estimation of pyruvate, lactate and alanine levels in the growth medium, ISM1, used in the culture of embryos. An NMR study involving 127 embryos from 48 couples revealed that embryos transferred on Day 3 (after 72 h in vitro culture) with successful implantation (pregnancy) exhibited significantly (p < 10-5) lower pyruvate/alanine ratios compared to those that failed to implant. Lactate levels in media were similar for all embryos. This implies that in addition to lactate production, successfully implanted embryos use pyruvate to produce alanine and other cellular functions. While pyruvate and alanine individually have been used as biomarkers, the present study highlights the potential of combining them to provide a single parameter that correlates strongly with implantation potential. Copyright © 2012 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.