The cost of living can be measured as an animal's metabolic rate. Basal metabolic rate (BMR) is factorially related to other metabolic rates. Analysis of BMR variation suggests that metabolism is a series of linked processes varying in unison. Membrane processes, such as maintenance of ion gradients, are important costs and components of BMR. Membrane bilayers in metabolically active systems are more polyunsaturated and less monounsaturated than metabolically less-active systems. Such polyunsaturated membranes have been proposed to result in an increased molecular activity of membrane proteins, and in this manner the amount of membrane and its composition can act as a pacemaker for metabolism. The potential importance of membrane acyl composition in metabolic depression, hormonal control of metabolism, the evolution of endothermy, as well as its implications for lifespan and human health, are briefly discussed.