OBJECTIVE: Evaluate the compliance of septic patients' nutritional management with enteral nutrition guidelines for critically ill patients. METHODS: Prospective cohort study with 92 septic patients, age >/= 18 years, hospitalized in an intensive care unit, under enteral nutrition, evaluated according to enteral nutrition guidelines for critically ill patients, compliance with caloric and protein goals, and reasons for not starting enteral nutrition early or for discontinuing it. Prognostic scores, length of intensive care unit stay, clinical progression, and nutritional status were also analyzed. RESULTS: The patients had a mean age of 63.4 +/- 15.1 years, were predominantly male, were diagnosed predominantly with septic shock (56.5%), had a mean intensive care unit stay of 11 (7.2 to 18.0) days, had 8.2 +/- 4.2 SOFA and 24.1 +/- 9.6 APACHE II scores, and had 39.1% mortality. Enteral nutrition was initiated early in 63% of patients. Approximately 50% met the caloric and protein goals on the third day of intensive care unit stay, a percentage that decreased to 30% at day 7. Reasons for the late start of enteral nutrition included gastrointestinal tract complications (35.3%) and hemodynamic instability (32.3%). Clinical procedures were the most frequent reason to discontinue enteral nutrition (44.1%). There was no association between compliance with the guidelines and nutritional status, length of intensive care unit stay, severity, or progression. CONCLUSION: Although the number of septic patients under early enteral nutrition was significant, caloric and protein goals at day 3 of intensive care unit stay were met by only half of them, a percentage that decreased at day 7.