During an immune response, cytokines and transcription factors regulate the differentiation and function of effector and memory T cells. At the same time, T cell metabolism undergoes dynamic and differentiation-stage-specific changes that are required for initial T cell activation, rapid proliferation and the acquisition of effector functions. Similarly, during the resolution of an immune response, metabolic regulation is crucial for restraining inflammatory responses and promoting peripheral tolerance, and it is required for the long-term maintenance of memory T cells. T cell receptor (TCR)-induced transcription factors, in particular MYC and interferon-regulatory factor 4 (IRF4), cooperate with canonical nutrient-sensing pathways to integrate antigen-specific and metabolic signals to appropriately modulate adaptive immune responses. In this Review, we focus on the emerging evidence that T cell differentiation and metabolism are closely linked and synchronized by immune cell-specific cytokines and transcription factors that are induced by TCR signalling.