Cellular metabolism is at the foundation of all biological activities. The catabolic processes that support cellular bioenergetics and survival have been well studied. By contrast, how cells alter their metabolism to support anabolic biomass accumulation is less well understood. During the commitment to cell proliferation, extensive metabolic rewiring must occur in order for cells to acquire sufficient nutrients such as glucose, amino acids, lipids and nucleotides, which are necessary to support cell growth and to deal with the redox challenges that arise from the increased metabolic activity associated with anabolic processes. Defining the mechanisms of this metabolic adaptation for cell growth and proliferation is now a major focus of research. Understanding the principles that guide anabolic metabolism may ultimately enhance ways to treat diseases that involve deregulated cell growth and proliferation, such as cancer.