There are already plenty of devices that allow people to measure factors such as their caloric intake and physical activity levels. While such data can be a vital part of achieving your fitness goals, its usefulness is limited without an understanding of your specific metabolism – if you don’t know how fast you burn calories, for instance, then you won’t know how many you should be consuming and/or burning. That’s why researchers at Arizona State University developed the Breezing portable metabolism tracker.

Traditionally, metabolic activity has been measured using something known as an indirect calorimeter. Although makes and models vary, these are often VCR-sized devices that are wheeled around on a cart, and hooked up to the patient’s mouth (or sometimes to a full-head hood) via a hose.

By contrast, the lithium-ion battery-powered Breezing can easily be held in one hand, and utilizes a small mouthpiece. As with other indirect calorimeters, it analyzes the carbon dioxide and oxygen content in a person’s exhalations, to determine the amount of heat that their body produces.

That data is sent by Bluetooth to a paired Android or iOS mobile device, where it’s processed by a dedicated app. Along with figuring out how many calories the person burns per day simply maintaining vital functions (known as their resting energy expenditure), that app will also keep track of how that amount changes over time, while also determining whether the person’s body is burning carbohydrates, fats, or both. Users additionally supply the app with other data, such as their weight.

Once everything is analyzed, the app will use the information to design exercise or diet programs tailored specifically to the user, and their stated fitness goals. Down the road, it is hoped that the device will also be able to help patients manage chronic diseases.

The Breezing company, an Arizona State spin-off, is now raising production funds for the product on Indiegogo. A pledge of US$250 will get you one, when and if they’re ready to go – the company hopes to begin shipping by May. More information is available in the video below.

While the university is promoting Breezing as being the world’s first portable indirect calorimeter, there does appear to be at least one other such device in existence.

[Editor note: This article has been amended to state that indirect calorimeters measure oxygen, as well as carbon dioxide]

Sources: Arizona State University, Breezing