Your metabolism is constantly running in the background of your life. By turning calories into energy, your metabolism affects how well you sleep, think, and feel. It used to be that if you wanted to take a metabolic test, your only option was to go to a specialists’ office or a relatively expensive health clinic, assuming there was one convenient to you. With advances in home testing technologies, however, it is now easier than ever to order a metabolic testing kit online and analyze your metabolic rate within the comfort and privacy of your own home.
The difference in price and time commitment between at-home and in-office tests is dramatic, but do they work? Is at-home metabolic testing worth your time, and should you purchase such a test?
We’ll share the differences between traditional and at-home metabolism tests and break down the intricacies of the best tests on the market now so that you can make the best decision for your body, mind, and budget.
Everlywell's test focuses on the three hormones that play a vital role in maintaining normal metabolism.
Everlywell is one of the largest and most respected at-home health and wellness testing companies. The company receives high ratings in terms of Value, Accuracy, Privacy, and Customer Support.
Both metabolism tests currently on the market measure the same three biomarkers: TSH, testosterone, and cortisol. They cost less than $100 to take at home; however, Everlywell is half as expensive as its competitors for the same test quality. Everlywell can also take HSA or FSA payments.
Here’s a breakdown of basic costs:
Both Everlywell and myLAB Box test the same three hormones, use the same methods to test (blood spot immunoassay and salivary), and use similar CLIA-certified labs for the testing itself. There is care and thought put into every test. While no at-home test is a diagnosis, you can receive information to a startling degree of accuracy from either service.
Winner: myLAB Box
Differences in speed essentially rely on your location and how quickly the package can slip through the post office to your front door. While both Everlywell and myLAB Box are fast and efficient tests, both using finger-prick and saliva samples, myLAB Box takes slightly less time to get to your door.
This is a negligible difference: our testers received myLAB Box in five days due to shipping errors, but the site promises two-day shipping. On the other hand, Everlywell makes no such promises, and our testers still got their boxes in five days. Both brands take two to five days to process your testing results.
If you have any questions or concerns, no matter how specific, Everlywell’s customer support through email or a phone call can provide you with a detailed, thorough breakdown. (Their in-browser chat is best for straightforward questions.) They provide excellent information through their FAQ and numerous testing details in different mediums, such as written tutorials, step-by-step guides, physical pamphlets, and videos. Compassionate and fast, Everlywell’s customer service representatives go above and beyond their competitors.
At Innerbody Research, we extensively test each health service we review, including these metabolic testing services. All told, our team has spent over 56 hours testing and researching the metabolic test kits and related services of these companies to provide an accurate, unbiased analysis of how the products and services compare, free of marketing jargon and gimmicks.
Over the past two decades, Innerbody Research has helped tens of millions of readers make more informed decisions to live healthier lifestyles. We evaluate the service based on adherence to quality, the latest medical evidence and health standards, and a simple question: would we buy the product or service ourselves if it weren’t part of our job, and would we recommend it to family and friends?
Additionally, like all health-related content on this website, this review was thoroughly vetted by one or more members of our Medical Review Board for accuracy.
Your metabolism is more than just your body’s natural ability to burn calories.
Metabolism is the process by which your body takes the food you consume and turns it into energy through chemical reactions.
The speed of this chemical process is your metabolic rate, which varies from person to person: the faster your metabolic rate, the more calories you need to sustain yourself.
The differences in metabolic rate are why some people can consume a lot of calories without gaining weight, while others accumulate fat at lower calorie consumptions.
A myriad of factors work together to determine your metabolic rate, including:
The older you are, the slower your metabolic rate.
The more muscle mass you have, the faster your metabolic rate. This is because muscle takes more energy to stay functioning than fat storage.
The bigger your body (in both height and weight), the more calories you burn because it takes more energy to keep all of you functioning.
The colder your environment, the more energy your body expends trying to keep you warm.
When you’re stressed for a short period of time (such as during finals or near a deadline at work), your body increases cortisol levels, which suppresses your appetite and increases the amount of energy it takes to get through the day. On the other hand, chronic stress (due to economic concerns, for example) can lower your metabolism and increase your likelihood of reaching for a sugary snack.
Your metabolism drops up to 15% when you sleep, and though the causes are still unknown, sleep deprivation is linked to a lower metabolic rate.
Since all movement needs energy, the more active you are, the more calories you burn.
Several major hormones affect metabolism: thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) and thyroid hormone triiodothyronine (T3), testosterone, estrogen and progesterone, insulin, and cortisol. These hormones work together to determine how much energy your body spends. Some hormonal disorders can negatively affect your ability to burn (or store) energy.
Anyone interested in learning more about how their body works can consider taking a metabolism test. While no test will give you a complete picture, the insights can help you figure out the best way to take care of your body.
If you have lost or gained an unexpected amount of weight (10% of your body weight or more) or feel more fatigued or hungrier than usual, you might also consider taking a test. If an at-home test reveals a hormonal imbalance, you can take those results to your doctor for care; if there are no hormonal imbalances, you’ll know you can safely implement lifestyle changes.
Athletes can also benefit from a metabolism test. With lots of energetic output, your body might react differently to fluctuations in stress than the average person’s. A metabolism test can show you exactly how many calories your body uses and how much effort it takes to start creating lactic acid buildup to maximize your workouts and meal plans.
Metabolism is a complicated process. One metabolism test, whether at home or in a doctor’s office, will never give you all of the information you need to fully understand your metabolism. Since your metabolism can change with weight fluctuations, changes in exercise habits, daily and chronic stress, and more, it is exceptionally challenging to pin down your metabolic rate over time.
An at-home metabolism test is further limited since it only checks the hormone levels that affect the processes behind your metabolism. Influential hormone tests can’t tell you about your resting metabolic rate or oxygen consumption. Likewise, these tests won’t be able to tell you whether or not you’re experiencing metabolic syndrome since they don’t test your insulin resistance or cholesterol levels. If you aren’t experiencing symptoms of metabolic syndrome or issues with processes tied to your metabolism (such as body heat, hunger, and weight changes), an at-home metabolic test might not be right for you.
Up to one-third of American adults have metabolic syndrome. Metabolic syndrome is not a disorder itself but is often a precursor for concerns like heart disease and diabetes. This can happen from a combination of biological predispositions and lifestyle choices but can be prevented with a healthy lifestyle.
Risk factors include:
Metabolism tests measure your metabolic rate -- how quickly your body both burns calories and uses oxygen while you’re performing various activities. A metabolic test might measure:
Most metabolism tests require special equipment only available through a specialist’s office. However, you can measure some influential hormone levels at home through a finger-prick or saliva test.
A basic metabolic panel is a blood test that measures multiple body functions, testing for various conditions, including diabetes, kidney problems, and lung problems.
This test provides information about your:
If any of your results from a basic metabolic panel come back abnormal, your doctor might order a more detailed test.
This test measures how many calories your body burns at rest. In a direct calorimetry test, you’ll spend at least an hour inside a large, insulated, air-tight chamber called a direct calorimeter. This machine measures the amount of body heat you give off and uses that information to calculate your resting metabolic rate (RMR) or the number of calories your body burns at rest. Since direct calorimetry requires this machine, it is only possible to do it in a specialists’ office.
This test measures how many calories your body burns at rest. In an indirect calorimetry test, you’ll breathe normally into a mask to measure the volume of oxygen you consume compared to the volume of carbon dioxide you expire at rest. This difference is then used to estimate your resting metabolic rate. An indirect calorimetry test takes no longer than ten minutes but provides a relatively accurate estimate of your metabolic rate. These are most accurate when fasting and in a calm, relaxed state.
A VO2 max test, also known as an aerobic capacity test, measures how your body uses oxygen and burns fat. These tests are performed during an assortment of different types and intensities of exercises. You’ll breathe into a mask and exercise until either the intensity level is too high or the test ends. Your VO2 is measured based on the amount of carbon dioxide you exhale at each intensity so that you’ll have an estimate of your metabolic rate at each level of exercise.
A lactate threshold test is similar to a VO2 max test but is specifically designed for athletes. It measures the intensity of exercise where the body can no longer supply the necessary oxygen to keep up with performance. When oxygen can’t keep up with athletic performance, lactic acid begins to build up in the body as lactate production peaks and muscle fatigue sets in. This test requires blood draws at various activity levels and can sometimes be combined with a VO2 max test.
Most influential metabolic hormone tests will measure three hormones associated with metabolism:
Some metabolic hormone tests will also measure progesterone levels, but this is less common since testosterone levels have a more consistent influence on your metabolism. A metabolism hormone test can give you a good picture of how well all of your body’s metabolic processes are functioning. If one or more of these tests come back abnormal, take your results to your doctor, who will be able to help assess the issue with more detailed testing.
Thyroid-stimulating hormone, or TSH, is a reliable way of measuring your thyroid gland’s overall hormonal output. The thyroid produces hormones such as triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine (T4), and TSH monitors them. TSH tells your thyroid to make different amounts of hormones depending on how well your body is absorbing them. A low TSH value means that your thyroid is overactive, and a high TSH value means that your thyroid is underactive.
Thyroid hormones are essential in metabolic processes. If your thyroid gland is not producing enough thyroid hormone, it’s difficult for your cells to have enough energy to function. This is because thyroid hormone receptors are present in your hypothalamus, fat, brown adipose tissue, and skeletal muscles for body heat regulation; they are also found in the liver and can modulate carbohydrate and insulin levels in the body.
Hyper- and hypothyroidism – disorders caused by too low and too high thyroid hormones, respectively – lead to symptoms that can be summarized as your metabolism working too quickly or too slowly. These include issues with weight, fatigue and energy, appetite, and body temperature.
Testosterone is a sex hormone that plays a key role in metabolic processes. Everyone has testosterone in their body. While men have higher testosterone levels on average than women, it plays a vital role in your metabolism no matter your sex.
In particular, testosterone is vital to carbohydrate, fat, and protein metabolism. It increases lean body mass through muscle generation -- hence the fact that, on average, men have higher amounts of muscle and an easier time gaining muscle than women -- and changes overall body composition. Since muscle burns energy more than fat (which is stored energy), an increase in muscle mass increases your basal metabolic rate.
Low testosterone can cause many problems, including:
All of these issues are commonly associated with metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes. Testosterone deficiencies are more common in men, but can also occur in women. Women with PCOS are at a higher risk of developing metabolic syndromes since PCOS increases testosterone levels beyond a normal female range but is too low for normal male functioning. When testosterone is in this gray area, it appears to have the same symptoms as low T.
Cortisol is best known as the “stress hormone” and is part of your fight-or-flight response. When you’re physically or psychologically stressed out, your body releases cortisol, which shuts down functions that might get in the way of you getting through the situation. These functions crucially include digesting food. Of course, it makes sense then that cortisol is an essential part of your metabolic process.
Not only does cortisol react to stress and monitor inflammation, but it also plays a role in your blood pressure and carbohydrate, protein, and fat metabolism. Since your stomach slows down or stops digesting food when your cortisol levels are high, this can lead to increased weight gain and overall slower metabolism. It also stimulates glucose production, unlocking more energy to fight through the stressor and increasing blood sugar levels.
Whether you test at home or in person at a lab depends mainly on your personal preference, but if you’re not sure which method would be best for you, we’ve put together a little chart to help you.
Of course, there are other reasons someone might want to test at home or in person, but we think the convenience of the at-home testing experience is one of the most exciting things happening in modern medicine.
All three tests measure TSH, cortisol, and free testosterone, so no matter which kit you order, you’ll have your bases covered.
Based on our comprehensive testing of major companies, we consider Everlywell one of the best providers and recommend them over other companies for several types of testing. In the case of at-home metabolism testing, this rings true.
Everlywell’s metabolism test ($49) evaluates your hormonal metabolic functioning by looking at:
These are measured in a finger prick blood test (for TSH and testosterone) and saliva (for cortisol). All three hormones play an important role in maintaining a healthy weight and energy levels and are relatively easy to measure.
Customer service with Everlywell is fast and friendly (and is particularly detailed in their email and phone responses). Not only is Everlywell the least expensive metabolism testing option, but you can also pay with your HSA or FSA benefits.
The one shortcoming to Everlywell’s kit is its delivery speed. While it’s not slow by any means, it takes between two and five days for the kit to get to you, and then another two days after your kit arrives safely back in their CLIA-certified lab for you to get your results. MyLAB Box, on the other hand, takes two days to ship to you and two days to process your information. The difference is marginal and largely depends on the state of the postal service, but it is a difference nevertheless.
If you’re interested in testing more than just your metabolic hormones, Everlywell offers a luxurious membership program. For $24.99 a month, you have access to a list of tests that you can purchase for another $24.99, which is at least 50% off list prices. If you want to skip a month, your credit rolls over to the next month (but credits expire after one year and are not cash-equivalent). If you want to use a membership month on a metabolism test, you could get it for less than $49.
Like many companies in this guide, Everlywell offers more than just metabolism testing. To learn more about Everlywell and their membership program, check out our full Everlywell review.
myLAB Box offers its Metabolism Test for $99, but you can reduce the price by 20% to $80 using our INNERBODY20 coupon code. It’s a finger-prick and saliva test that measures your cortisol, testosterone, and TSH levels.
Even with the discount, this test isn’t as affordable as Everlywell’s but measures the same important hormones. However, one of the most intriguing things about myLAB Box is how they bundle their wide variety of tests. You can use their tests to look at anything from fertility to heavy metals, and they often bundle similar tests in different configurations so that you can zero in on exactly what you’re interested in learning. For example, they offer two other tests that are very similar to their metabolism test:
The Fitness Test includes more hormones and biomarkers associated with muscle repair, and the Weight Loss test addresses muscle repair and blood sugar, so the Metabolism Test is specialized to exactly that: your metabolic processes. Testing with myLAB Box can be more thorough thanks to these additional options, though each measures only the main three metabolic hormones (TSH, testosterone, and cortisol).
They also offer a free physician consultation after your results have been processed, so you’ll be able to speak with a professional for free if you have any questions or if anything seems abnormal.
To learn more about myLAB Box, check out our full myLAB Box review.
Testing from home will always take a little more time than testing in a professional’s office but allows you the freedom and flexibility to take them on your own time (and for less money). Typically, you’ll have to wait two to five days for your test kit to arrive in the mail. If it comes on a Thursday or Friday, we recommend waiting until Monday to take the test: weekend postal delays can theoretically be long enough that your sample might become non-viable. It’s a slim chance, especially given the durability of the blood tests these companies use, but it’s easily preventable and not a chance worth taking.
The kits themselves have specific instructions, but both ask you to go online and register your kit first. This way, the lab will be able to track your package and give you your results ASAP. We recommend doing it first thing so that you don’t have the opportunity to forget to do it later.
After you register, you can prepare the area you intend to use for your collection. Review the instructions for the samples and wash your hands thoroughly. Both tests require both saliva and blood samples.
Most blood collections will go like this:
A saliva test is easy -- just spit into the tube. However, make sure that you haven’t eaten, drunk, or smoked anything at least thirty minutes before your collection. Otherwise, you risk contaminating your sample with lunch.
Once you’ve collected your samples, pack them up and ship them back. Both testing companies will provide pre-paid envelopes to send back. Most companies also give some indication that your sample has shipped, and your sample should yield results within about two days of arriving at the lab. As with in-person testing, you’ll receive an email or text message directing you to your online account, where you can view and download your results.