The immune system defends against pathogens and maintains tissue homeostasis for the life of the organism. These diverse functions are bioenergetically expensive, requiring precise control of cellular metabolic pathways. Although initial observations in this area were made almost a century ago, studies over the past decade have elucidated the molecular basis for how extracellular signals control the uptake and catabolism of nutrients in quiescent and activated immune cells. Collectively, these studies have revealed that the metabolic pathways of oxidative metabolism, glycolysis, and glutaminolysis preferentially fuel the cell fate decisions and effector functions of immune cells. Here, we discuss these findings and provide a general framework for understanding how metabolism fuels and regulates the maturation of immune responses. A better understanding of the metabolic checkpoints that control these transitions might provide new insights for modulating immunity in infection, cancer, or inflammatory disorders.