Human life history contains a series of paradoxes not easily explained by classical life history theory. Although overall reproductive output is higher than in related primates, juvenile growth is slower and age-specific reproductive rates decline faster with age. A simple energetic model would predict that growth and reproductive rates should be positively correlated and that reproductive effort should not decelerate with age. The pattern of negative correlations in humans suggest the presence of trade-offs among peak reproductive rate, childhood growth, and reproductive rate at older ages. To address this puzzle, we propose a synthesis of reproductive ecology and behavioral ecology focused on intra- and inter-somatic energy transfers. This integration includes three concepts: the mother as final common pathway through which energy must pass to result in offspring; a distinction between direct and indirect reproductive effort, proposing the latter as a novel net energy allocation category relative to growth and direct reproductive effort; and a pooled energy budget representing the energetic contributions and withdrawals of all members of a breeding community. Individuals at all reproductive life stages are considered in light of their contributions to the pooled energy budget. Am. J. Hum. Biol., 2009. © 2009 Wiley-Liss, Inc.