To clarify the difference of nutrient uptake and utilization to yield advantage between maize-soybean relay intercropping and maize-peanut intercropping, we conducted a field experiment for two consecutive years. The results were obtained by comparing nitrogen (N), phosphorous (P), and potassium (K) absorption efficiency and utilization in the intercropping with sole cropping. The results showed that land equivalent ratio (LER) of maize-soybean relay intercropping was 1.16-1.72, which had the advantage of intercropping yield, but the LER of maize-peanut intercropping was 0.89-1.13, which had no obvious yield disadvantage. In maize-soybean relay intercropping system, the amount of N, P, and K uptake was higher than that of the corresponding sole cropping by 32.60%-54.22%, 27.35%-34.64, and 17.74%-24.42%, respectively, but the N utilization efficiency was lower by 21.99%-42.07%. The contributions of the N, P, and K uptake efficiencies to LER were 0.34-0.62, 0.31-0.46, and 0.22-0.32, and the utilization efficiencies contributions were -0.11 to -0.35, -0.03 to -0.31, and -0.11 to 0.22, respectively. In maize-peanut intercropping system, the amount of N, P, and K uptake was higher than that of the corresponding sole cropping by -7.86% to 31.58%, 23.09%-46.52%, and 1.60%-55.48%, respectively, and the N utilization efficiency was higher by 7.55-26.60. The contributions of the N, P and K uptake efficiencies to LER were 0-0.22, 0.05-0.27, and -0.11-0.32, respectively, and the utilization efficiencies contributions were -0.25-0.19, -0.32-0.11, and -0.47-0.32, respectively. In conclusion, yield advantage of maize-soybean relay intercropping was mainly from enhanced nutrient uptake efficiency, but there was no obvious yield advantage in maize-peanut intercropping mainly due to relatively less contribution of nutrient uptake to yield advantage.