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We All Know Mayo Is A High Calorie Food, So How Many Calories Are In A Serving?

How Many Calories does Real Mayo Have?

Low-PUFA Primal Mayo is High in Energy Boosting (FatBurn Promoting) Avocado Oil

Primal Blueprint recently started selling low-PUFA (no-seed oil), real, avocado oil mayonnaise, and it’s delicious! Although we sometimes make our own mayo at home, home-made mayo does not stay good for very long and so its not very convenient. But now that Mark Sisson is whipping up wonderful mayo, I can get to work on the backlog of tuna salad, pea salad, and deviled eggs I’ve been denying myself.

After biking the Red Rock hills around my Morrison home today, I thought I’d enjoy some tuna salad with two heaping spoonfuls of Mark’s zippy mayo—call it research for lower calorie meal plans for my new business, the FatBurn Factory.

With the addition of a few capers, instant lunch! But I need to know for, for the sake of my patients, what is the calorie count of this quick and easy meal.

calories in mayo
Two dollops of mayo on spoons, minus 69 in spoons, weighs 50 grams.

The answer: I ate a lot of mayo! 312.5 calories, give or take.

A tablespoon size serving of Primal Blueprint mayo weighs 15 grams and contains 100 calories. But what did my two heaping teaspoons amount to? I’d already eaten all the evidence. Fortunately, I was able to re-enact recent events using tub mayo from Costco rather than the precious PB brand. The experiment revealed that my serving size was 50 grams. Yikes.

Of note, Primal Blueprint deserves props not just for being the only source of actual-food mayonnaise available throughout the US, but also for truth in advertising. They give a real, honest appraisal of the calorie count: 100 per Tbsp. The tub brand says a Tbsp of their product weighs 13 grams and therefore contains only 90 calories. Lies. My measurement came in at the weight you’d expect for a tablespoon of oil: 15 grams. See photos.

first, get tare weight
tare weight: 21 grams
total weight minus tare equals 15grams
total weight minus tare equals 15grams
calculating calories in my serving of mayo
Calculating calories in what I thought was a modest serving of mayo. The result: 312.5, comprising the bulk of calories in my  496-calorie tuna salad.

Do calories really count?

A recent event piqued my interest in calorie counts. At a medical meeting here in Denver in April, one of the presenting doctors claimed that in order to maintain their weight loss, a person needs to continue to follow a more calorie-restricted diet than a person who was never overweight because the act of losing weight slows their metabolism permanently. This phenomenon has been described for decades and called a variety of names over the years, most recently the “starvation-mode effect.”

Later that same day at the conference, a doctor from the NIH suggested that all that was nonsense. He asserted we do not need to invoke any such ideas as a so-called “starvation mode” to explain why successful weight maintenance appears to depend on continued calorie restriction. He argued that people who have lost significant weight almost universally underestimate the number of calories they eat. By underestimating calories, it appears to them, and to any researchers who are studying them, as if they need to restrict calories to maintain lost weight when in reality they are not restricting at all. Fact is, their calorie requirements are the same as another person of the same weight, activity level (and so on) just as you’d predict. They think they are restricting, but they’re not. (For reasons I plan to get into later, I believe people do this not because they are intentionally being deceptive, but because they can’t burn fat.) This doctor’s data was not just contrary to the aforementioned presentation. It also contradicts conclusions other researchers’ have reached in the past, making him something of a maverick.

So who is right?

I am siding with the lone-wolf from NIH. I don’t believe there can be such thing as “starvation mode” that persists beyond any actual starvation periods.

Why not?

For one thing, the idea that if you’ve lost weight you have to eat less than you would have if you never had been overweight is not a physiologically sound concept. It’s an emotional, punitive notion that reflects society’s general disrespect for overweight people. When I first heard the idea it sounded like “Your body is mad at you for having once been overweight and wants to make you pay.”

Additionally, I’m not sure how it would be possible for one group of people who used to be overweight with the same diet and activity level (age, race and so on) as another group that was never overweight to have different caloric requirements. It could be possible if people who were once overweight but have since lost weight have reduced body temperatures or other measurable metabolic parameters indicative of reduced energy requirements, such as lower resting heart rate or blood pressure. Or, in the alternative, something that alters their relative food absorption ability, like an underactive digestive system.

In the absence of any explanation other than the body “remembers” its previous weight and “wants” to get back to it, I remain unconvinced that your body must forever pay penance for the unforgivable sin of having been overweight.

A more likely explanation, it seems, is that some of us, especially those of us who have struggled with weight, may chronically underestimate how many calories we eat.

Most of us probably eat way more calories than we need!

According to the CDC, the average American adult woman weighs 164 pounds and has a BMI of 28, putting her squarely in the overweight category. The average American man is equally overweight, with a BMI of 28 as well. To better understand if this trend to overweight could stem in part from chronically underestimating calorie intake, I’ve been checking out calorie counts of commonly consumed meals.

Let’s take a look at the example of Chipotles burrito plus chips and a soda. Chipotles is on the first floor of my new office building, and one of the go-to take out places I recommend for the Lakers’ players, since the chain makes some effort to source higher quality animal products.

Using Chipotles’ handy nutrition calculator, which allows customers to estimate precisely the number of calories in their unique version of a burrito, I built an ordinary burrito, and added chips and the only size soda they have.

The total calorie count came out to 2400 for a meal millions of us might eat for lunch.

Given that for someone of my size, daily calorie needs will range from 1200-1800 depending on activity, this means a single trip to Chipotles will do for more than a day.

So the next time your server fails to heap on extra beans, maybe it’s not such a bad thing.

But wait, in your book Deep Nutrition, you say calories don’t count…

In Deep Nutrition, we condemned a calorie-centric view toward food because it de-emphasizes things like nutrient density, source, cooking technique and so on—things that can have a profound effect on your metabolism, your health, and yes, your weight. This isn’t to say that a significant chronic over intake of calories will have no impact on your weight.

While food is far more than calories, if we eat more food than we need, no matter how high quality it may be, our bodies will store the excess as fat. Calorie counts help us to determine if we are eating more than we need. They do not tell us anything about the adequacy of nutrition. A fundamental understanding of traditional diets is essential to understanding whether or not your diet is meeting your nutritional needs.

Attention to the little details can help you stay on target.

Let’s call my laissez faire, add-at-will lunch experiment a kind of “mayo clinic,” a demonstration of how easy it is to add more calories to a meal than you intended. I’m not suggesting you be parsimonious with high calorie, flavorful additions to the point that you eat tuna with an unsatisfying amount of mayo. What I am suggesting is that if you’re really getting serious about losing weight and keeping it off, you have to realize that if you are chronically fudging the math and taking in more calories than you are aware of then that series of additional calories will add up, and ultimately add inches to your waistline.


…Comments? Please post to Dr Cate’s new Facebook page focused on weight loss. Thank you !!

Dr. Cate

With over two decades of clinical experience and expertise in genetic and biochemical research, Dr. Cate can help you to reverse metabolic disease and reshape your body.

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