Cells have evolved exquisite mechanisms to fine-tune the rate of protein synthesis in response to stress. Systemic mapping of start-codon positions and precise measurement of the corresponding initiation rate would transform our understanding of translational control. Here we present quantitative translation initiation sequencing (QTI-seq), with which the initiating ribosomes can be profiled in real time at single-nucleotide resolution. Resultant initiation maps not only delineated variations of start-codon selection but also highlighted a dynamic range of initiation rates in response to nutrient starvation. The integrated data set provided unique insights into principles of alternative translation and mechanisms controlling different aspects of translation initiation. With RiboTag mice, QTI-seq permitted tissue-specific profiling of initiating ribosomes in vivo. Liver cell-specific ribosome profiling uncovered a robust translational reprogramming of the proteasome system in fasted mice. Our findings illuminated the prevalence and dynamic nature of translational regulation pivotal to physiological adaptation in vivo.