Warburg's observation that cancer cells exhibit a high rate of glycolysis even in the presence of oxygen (aerobic glycolysis) sparked debate over the role of glycolysis in normal and cancer cells. Although it has been established that defects in mitochondrial respiration are not the cause of cancer or aerobic glycolysis, the advantages of enhanced glycolysis in cancer remain controversial. Many cells ranging from microbes to lymphocytes use aerobic glycolysis during rapid proliferation, which suggests it may play a fundamental role in supporting cell growth. Here, we review how glycolysis contributes to the metabolic processes of dividing cells. We provide a detailed accounting of the biosynthetic requirements to construct a new cell and illustrate the importance of glycolysis in providing carbons to generate biomass. We argue that the major function of aerobic glycolysis is to maintain high levels of glycolytic intermediates to support anabolic reactions in cells, thus providing an explanation for why increased glucose metabolism is selected for in proliferating cells throughout nature.