The UK Chief Medical Officers’ (CMO) low risk drinking guideline for both men and women is that to keep health risks from alcohol to a low level it is safest not to drink more than 14 units a week on a regular basis. If you regularly drink 14 units per week, it is recommended that you spread your drinking evenly across 3 or more days, rather than ‘saving’ them and having them all in one go.
Spirits like whiskey have a higher Alcohol by Volume (ABV) than most other alcoholic drinks and are often around 35-40%. In comparison beer is often around 5% ABV.
A single measure of whiskey with an ABV of 40% contains one unit of alcohol, which means that drinking more than 14 single measures of whisky in a week would put you above the guidelines.
What is an alcohol unit?
As well as having a much higher ABV, spirits like whiskey are often served with sugary mixers which can mean drinking far more calories than you realise.
For example, one 25ml measure of whiskey with a mixer contains approximately 117 calories, which is about the same as a hot cross bun.
Make it a double and your drink could add up to around 200 calories, which is about the same as a burger. In gym hours, that’s roughly half an hour on the treadmill, something to think about if you’re trying to get in shape.
Like many spirits, the amount of alcohol in whiskey can vary significantly between brands and types. To find out how much alcohol is in your drink, check the label for the ABV, or ask your server before ordering. If your whiskey has a 40% ABV that means it contains 40% pure alcohol.
There are a huge number of whiskey varieties available, some of which can be much stronger than the standard 40% so it’s important to always familiarise yourself with the ABV of the whiskey you’re drinking. Units and calories will increase as the alcohol content increases, so if you’re not sure, ask the person making your drink to double check. That way you’ll find it far easier to keep track of your unit and calorie intake from whiskey.
- Check the Alcohol by Volume: A whiskey with a 48% ABV contains 1.2 units per single measure, compared to the standard 1 unit of a 40% whiskey. When ordering a drink, or buying a bottle, always be sure to check the alcohol content so you can track your units accurately.
- Mind your measures at home: Units and calories in whiskey mount up quickly, especially when consuming in quantities over a 25ml single measure. Stick to singles when you’re out, and invest in a measure cup for drinking at home so you can be sure exactly how much you’re drinking.
- Be careful with cocktails: Cocktails can often be ‘free poured’ by eye or served using larger measures than a standard 25ml single so it can be difficult to know how much alcohol you’re really drinking. Ask the bartender to tell you how they’re making your drink so you can keep track of your units.
- Keep track of your drinking: The Drinkaware: Track and Calculate Units App is a fuss-free way of keeping track of your drinking each week, which can be helpful if you’re trying to cut down.
Want to find out how having a little less could help you feel a lot better?