PURPOSE OF REVIEW: Metabolism is increasingly recognized as a major player in control of stem cell function and fate. How stem cell metabolism is established, maintained, and regulated is a fundamental question of biology and medicine. In this review, we discuss major metabolic programs in stem cells and cancer stem cells, with a focus on key transcription factors that shape the stem cell metabolic phenotype. RECENT FINDINGS: Cancer stem cells primarily use oxidative phosphorylation for energy generation, in contrast to normal stem cells, which rely on glycolytic metabolism with the exception of mouse embryonic stem cells. Transcription factors control the metabolic phenotype of stem cells by modulating the expression of enzymes and thus the activity of metabolic pathways. It is evident that HIF1α and PGC1α function as master regulators of glycolytic and mitochondrial metabolism, respectively. SUMMARY: Transcriptional regulation is a key mechanism for establishing specific metabolic programs in stem cells and cancer stem cells.