The stoichiometry of ATP-producing metabolic pathways had been analysed theoretically by several authors by using evolutionary arguments and optimality principles. Waddell et al. (Biochem Educ 27:12-13, 1999) analysed (lactate-producing) glycolysis and used linear irreversible thermodynamics. The result was that half of the free-energy difference should be converted into free-energy of ATP and the remaining half should be used to drive the pathway. The calculated stoichiometry is in agreement with the observed yield of two moles of ATP per mole of glucose. Using the same approach, we here analyse eight other metabolic pathways. Although the deviation is not very large, the calculated values do not fit as nicely as for glycolysis as leading to lactate. For example, for O(2) respiration, the theoretical ATP yield equals 27.9. The real value varies among organisms between 26 and 38. For mixed-acid fermentation in Escherichia coli, the theoretical and experimental values are 2.24 and 2, respectively. For arginine degradation in M. pneumoniae, the calculated value is 2.43 mol of ATP, while in vivo only one mole is produced. During evolution, some pathways may not have reached their optimal ATP net production because energy yield is not their only function. Moreover, it should be acknowledged that the approach by linear irreversible thermodynamics is a rough approximation.