The aim of this article is to provide a guide for metabolic physiologists and bioengineers to the combined use of gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (GCMS) and nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) in stable isotope investigations in any biological systems. Building on our past experience with these two techniques, as applied separately to the investigation of citric acid metabolism in the ex vivo perfused rat heart we initiated a collaborative study for their critical evaluation. This article, which expands on our previous work (Mol. Cel. Biol., 2003), directly compares GCMS- and NMR-determined 13C-isotopomer and flux data obtained from ex vivo rat heart perfusion studies with 13C-substrates. Overall we have found excellent agreement between the 13C-enrichments of GCMS- and NMR-determined citric acid cycle metabolites (citrate, 2-ketoglutarate, succinate and malate) and glutamate; however the unlabeled component (M) was consistently underestimated by NMR. Despite this discrepancy there was reasonably good agreement in the relative fluxes of 13C-substrates through the citric acid cycle determined by the two techniques. Nevertheless, further investigations appear necessary before maximal advantage can be taken of the complementary 13C-isotopomer and flux data of GCMS and NMR for probing the dynamics of cellular metabolism. © 2003 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.