Leaf respiration continues in the light but at a reduced rate. This inhibition is highly variable, and the mechanisms are poorly known, partly due to the lack of a formal model that can generate testable hypotheses. We derived an analytical model for non-photorespiratory CO2 release by solving steady-state supply/demand equations for ATP, NADH and NADPH, coupled to a widely used photosynthesis model. We used this model to evaluate causes for suppression of respiration by light. The model agrees with many observations, including highly variable suppression at saturating light, greater suppression in mature leaves, reduced assimilatory quotient (ratio of net CO2 and O2 exchange) concurrent with nitrate reduction and a Kok effect (discrete change in quantum yield at low light). The model predicts engagement of non-phosphorylating pathways at moderate to high light, or concurrent with processes that yield ATP and NADH, such as fatty acid or terpenoid synthesis. Suppression of respiration is governed largely by photosynthetic adenylate balance, although photorespiratory NADH may contribute at sub-saturating light. Key questions include the precise diel variation of anabolism and the ATP : 2e- ratio for photophosphorylation. Our model can focus experimental research and is a step towards a fully process-based model of CO2 exchange.