The ability to sense and respond to fluctuations in environmental nutrient levels is a requisite for life. Nutrient scarcity is a selective pressure that has shaped the evolution of most cellular processes. Different pathways that detect intracellular and extracellular levels of sugars, amino acids, lipids and surrogate metabolites are integrated and coordinated at the organismal level through hormonal signals. During food abundance, nutrient-sensing pathways engage anabolism and storage, whereas scarcity triggers homeostatic mechanisms, such as the mobilization of internal stores through autophagy. Nutrient-sensing pathways are commonly deregulated in human metabolic diseases.