It’s not much of a surprise when we discover that known “healthy” habits and behaviors are unhealthy.  Many diet myths, health fads, and “slim wear” have been debunked or rendered useless – or at best, limited – at one time or another. This brings us to our metabolism – the chemical process humans use to obtain energy. The body’s ability to use fat as energy instead of storing it is what most people think of when we say “metabolism.”

A well-functioning metabolism is essential to our waistlines and hips, but it’s much more complex.

Metabolism involves all of the chemical reactions that take place within our cells to keep us alive. Without a healthy metabolism, our cellular bodies could not receive the necessary energy to sustain themselves. In short – we’d die. Fortunately, our bodies do not stop metabolizing unless we effectively stop breathing. Our metabolisms can, however, become unhealthy and damaged.

Metabolism plays a vital role in various parts of our lives. Not only does it impact how our cells use energy; but how well we sleep, our energy levels, our mood, and even plays a role in how well we digest food and absorb nutrients.

The impact of a slower metabolism

An unhealthy metabolism creates different types of physiological effects, such as:

  • Diabetes
  • Breathing problems
  • Lethargy
  • Cognitive decline
  • Unstable blood sugar levels
  • Organ failure

What causes an unhealthy metabolism? Well, a few different things. It’s quite important that we minimize our exposure to stress, as “stress hormones” such as cortisol and adrenaline counteract the healthy function of our metabolic systems.

So, before we get into the seven “healthy” habits that harm our metabolism, please remember to minimize stress levels and get regular exercise.  These are probably the two best things we can practice for a healthy metabolism.

Here are 7 things that slow down your metabolism:


1. Conforming to a diet

More weight loss products and weight loss systems are on the market now than ever. Want to know why? Well, then follow the money, of course – $6.3 billion. That’s the amount that weight loss company reported making in 2015 alone. Americans climbing rate of obesity – combined with a serious market opportunity – means “Ca-Ching,” at least for these peddlers of the “latest, greatest” weight loss fad.

Despite of their proliferation, its best of abstain from a diet regimen altogether. The reason is that the majority of diets focus on entirely on restriction, not alteration. In other words, diets don’t teach us how to make subtle dietary changes (i.e. more protein, less carbs); they instead focus on eliminating – or severely reducing – food that provides fuel to our bodies. Low-carb diets are notorious for this practice. Instead, focus on making lifestyle changes for the long-term.

2. Hydrating on just water

Don’t get it twisted…hydration is critical. However, the whole “drink eight full glasses of water each and every day” advice is misleading. Allow us to explain.

The body is a complex system that relies upon a steady stream of healthy vitamins, nutrients and other elements. Unfortunately, overhydrating has led to the misbelief that the gallons of water we’ve ingested have supplied what we need (thank the weight loss experts). As healthy as water is, it is not always the best source of hydration for us.

Instead, seek to get a bit of variety. For example, mix some O.J. with water and add a dash of sea salt to get some much-needed electrolytes. If it’s only water, mix in a lime or a lemon.

3. Over-restricting sodium intake

Yes, it is important to keep an eye on our sodium intake. The American Heart Association recommends 1,500 mg, which may still be high. However, sodium plays a key role in maintaining our metabolic rate, lowering stress hormones, and aiding digestion.

A better approach is to limit salt intake via processed foods, which are unhealthy for various reasons. Most of us overeat salt as a direct result of processed foods. Instead, make eating wholesome and non-processed foods a part of your lifestyle.

4. Overeating raw vegetables

As with the previous two unhealthy practices, this must be read carefully. We’re talking only about raw veggies here. Simply lightly steaming vegetables most of the time will render this a non-factor.

Vegetables are an essential source of vitamins and nutrients. They’re also deficient in calories and sodium; most contain no fat. But raw vegetables contain a high amount of cellulose – a fiber that is actually used in making paper and paperboard! Our digestive systems are not meant to handle large quantities of this compound, which can also lead to various digestive problems, creating a slow metabolism.


5. Too much cardio

Part of this is a societal trend. We seem to place more emphasis on sweating all over the elliptical machine or a treadmill as opposed to practicing various exercises.

The truth is there are some health benefits available in other types of exercise that aren’t available in cardio. Besides, High-intensity interval training (HIIT) can give us most of the benefits of an hour-long run without all the added stress hormones.

Muscle-building is also great for achieving upper and core body strength, boosting our moods, improving brain function, etc. The cool thing is that is that it can be a variety, too: weightlifting, bodyweight training, and yoga are all considered muscle-building exercises.

Also, consider mixing in a bike ride, nature walk or hike. This allows us to get in a cardio fix while giving the body a bit of a break so we don’t slow down our metabolism.

 6. Overloading on fiber

Fiber is an important nutrient for our bodies, especially in the digestive system. However, too much fiber contains elements that can prevent the absorption of essential nutrients, thus slowing down your metabolism.

Also, eating too much fiber when having digestive problems can create even more complications. This occurs when there is too much gut flora – microorganisms (i.e., bacteria) that result in digestive problems such as gas, bloating, constipation, diarrhea and even dangerous weight loss. When we ingest too much fiber, it feeds this gut flora and further complicates the issue, creating a slow metabolism.

metabolic health
Mass General doctors say short workouts can increase your metabolic health.

7. Eating too much “muscle meat”

Muscle meat is the stuff that many weight trainers trying to add muscle eat a lot of – chicken breast, chicken wings, beef patties, etc. Side note: if these meats are farmed from quality sources, such as grass-fed cows and locally-bred chickens, that’s a much healthier option.

The problem with ingesting too much of this “muscle meat” is not a recipe for a balanced protein intake. Instead, try making some tasty sauce, soup or stew containing a variety of vegetables containing critical amino acids – something these meats generally lack.