Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is an autoimmune disease mediated by pathogenic autoantibodies directed against nucleoprotein complexes. Beyond the activation of autoreactive B cells, this process involves dysregulation in many other types of immune cells, including CD4+ T cells, dendritic cells, macrophages and neutrophils. Metabolic substrate utilization and integration of cues from energy sensors are critical checkpoints of effector functions in the immune system, with common as well as cell-specific programmes. Patients with SLE and lupus-prone mice present with activated metabolism of CD4+ T cells, and the use of metabolic inhibitors to normalize these features is associated with therapeutic effects. Far less is known about the metabolic requirements of B cells and myeloid cells in SLE. This article reviews current knowledge of the alterations in metabolism of immune cells in patients with SLE and mouse models of lupus in the context of what is known about the metabolic regulation of these cells during normal immune responses. How these alterations might contribute to lupus pathogenesis and how they can be targeted therapeutically are also discussed.