Alcohol units

Alcohol units refer to the amount of pure alcohol in a drink. One alcohol unit is equivalent to 8g or 10ml of pure alcohol, which is roughly how much pure alcohol an adult can, on average, process in one hour. 

What are units?

Alcohol units help you understand how much pure alcohol you are drinking in your alcoholic drink. This is why alcoholic drinks are frequently measured in units.

How many units should I be drinking?

Alcohol units in any given alcoholic drink vary according to the volume and alcohol strength of the drink eg one pint of strong lager can contain around three units, while one pint of weaker lager can contain around two units. To cut down on the number of units you drink, it’s helpful to have several alcohol-free days every week.

The NHS recommends men and women shouldn’t regularly drink more than 14 units of alcohol per week and that these units should be spread out across the week (ie over at least three days) to avoid the particularly harmful effects of binge drinking.

As a rough guide, 14 alcohol units is equivalent to six pints of 4% strength beer or cider, six medium glasses (175ml) of 13% strength wine or 12 glasses (25ml) of 40% strength spirits (eg gin or vodka).

Per day

To ensure you only drink alcohol in moderation and reduce your risk of cancer, for which excessive alcohol consumption is a risk factor, try to stick to a reasonable daily limit. For men, try to have a maximum of two drinks per day and for women, try to have a maximum of one drink per day. If you have an alcohol-free day, you shouldn’t double up your alcohol units the next day.

Drinking excessively for even a single night can increase toxins in your blood caused by bacteria leaking from your gut. This can reduce the strength of your immune system, making it more likely that you will become ill.

Per week

Avoid regularly drinking more than 14 units per week and spread these units out over at least three days each week. Also, try to incorporate several alcohol-free days into your week.

Alcohol unit calculator

To find out how many units are in a particular drink or to check how much you're drinking, use Alcohol Change UK's unit calculator.

Alcohol units FAQs

How many units of alcohol can you have a day?

The NHS recommends drinking no more than 14 units of alcohol per week if you are a regular drinker. These units should be spread out across at least three days each week. The less alcohol you drink per day the better, so try to stick to a daily limit of two drinks if you’re a man and one drink if you’re a woman. However, bear in mind that some drinks are stronger than others and therefore will contain more units of alcohol. 

Is five or 10 units of alcohol a day too much?

Yes, five or 10 units of alcohol per day is too much. If you drink regularly, you should have no more than 14 units per week, spread over at least three days. 

Is four units of alcohol a lot?

Alcohol affects everyone differently. However, in general, both men and women shouldn’t regularly drink more than 14 units of alcohol per week. This should be spread out over at least three days. Drinking four units for an entire day is in line with this guidance. However, if you feel any ill effects, you should further reduce your alcohol consumption. It is also important to have alcohol-free days every week. 

Is one bottle of wine a night too much?

One bottle (750ml) of 13% strength wine contains 9.75 alcohol units. Given that the NHS recommends drinking no more than 14 units per week spread out over at least three days if you are a regular drinker, consuming one bottle of wine in a single night is too much. 

We hope you've found this article useful, however, it cannot be a substitute for a consultation with a specialist

If you're concerned about symptoms you're experiencing or require further information on the subject, talk to a GP or see an expert consultant at your local Spire hospital.

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Cahoot Care Marketing

Niched in the care sector, Cahoot Care Marketing offers a full range of marketing services for care businesses including: SEO, social media, websites and video marketing, specialising in copywriting and content marketing.

Over the last five years Cahoot Care Marketing has built an experienced team of writers and editors, with broad and deep expertise on a range of care topics. They provide a responsive, efficient and comprehensive service, ensuring content is on brand and in line with relevant medical guidelines.

Their writers and editors include care sector workers, healthcare copywriting specialists and NHS trainers, who thoroughly research all topics using reputable sources including the NHS, NICE, relevant Royal Colleges and medical associations.

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Lux Fatimathas, Editor and Project Manager

Lux has a BSc(Hons) in Neuroscience from UCL, a PhD in Cellular and Molecular Biology from the UCL Institute of Ophthalmology and experience as a postdoctoral researcher in developmental biology. She has a clear and extensive understanding of the biological and medical sciences. Having worked in scientific publishing for BioMed Central and as a writer for the UK’s Medical Research Council and the National University of Singapore, she is able to clearly communicate complex concepts.

Catriona Shaw, Lead Editor

Catriona has an English degree from the University of Southampton and more than 12 years’ experience copy editing across a range of complex topics. She works with a diverse team of writers to create clear and compelling copy to educate and inform.

Alfie Jones, Director — Cahoot Care Marketing

Alfie has a creative writing degree from UCF and initially worked as a carer before supporting his family’s care training business with copywriting and general marketing. He has worked in content marketing and the care sector for over 10 years and overseen a diverse range of care content projects, building a strong team of specialist writers and marketing creatives after founding Cahoot in 2016.