07.08.2009 Alcohol units

In this article we are going to help you to understand units when it comes to alcohol and what it does to your body both physically and mentally.
The government recommends a limit of 2-3 units a day for women, and 3-4 units a day for men.
When it comes to alcohol units, 1 unit is equivalent to 8g of alcohol. That's about what you get in half a pint of weak (4%) lager, however a whole pint of strong lager (5%) or cider contains 3 units and two small (125ml) glasses of wine (12%) are another 3 units. Binge drinking has been defined as drinking double the daily recommended unit guidelines.
There is a simple formula to calculate an alcohol drinks unit:

Volume X Percent / 1000 = Units of Alcohol

In other words, if you have a big glass of red wine which measures 175ml (Volume), and the label on the bottle tells you that the wine is 13.5% (Percent) alcohol, you multiply 175 by 13.5 and then divide the result by 1000, giving you a grand total of 2.35 units.
Drinking heavily increases your calorie intake. Adding 3-4 units per day to your usual diet can lead to an increase in weight of around 4lbs in four weeks.
  • A standard 175ml glass of white/red wine = 2 plain digestive biscuits (115 calories)
  • A pint of premium lager = a slice of pepperoni pizza (250 calories)
  • An alcopop = 2 slices of carrot cake (170 calories)
  • A single measure of spirits - a small Yorkshire pudding (55 calories)
Alcohol isn't a stimulant, it's a depressant. That's why drinking too much often leads to impaired judgment, slurring of speech, a tendency to violent behaviour and loss of short-term memory. As alcohol also irritates the stomach, heavy drinking can cause sickness and nausea, and sometimes diarrhoea. Alcohol also has a dehydrating effect, which is the main reason why excessive drinking can lead to a hangover, it can also lead to temporary impotence in men.
Excess alcohol intake can lead to conditions such as cirrhosis of the liver, cancer, strokes, stomach ulcers, pancreatitis, gastritis, high blood pressure, impotence, nerve problems, dementia and mental health problems.
Depression and anxiety may lead to heavy drinking or can result from it. Alcohol can affect the brain causing depression and repeated alcohol withdrawal can trigger panic attacks and phobias.
Patients with an alcohol problem and anxiety or depression will not respond fully to antidepressants whilst they are still drinking heavily. Often a couple of weeks after abstaining or significantly reducing the alcohol intake, symptoms of anxiety and depression may diminish without any medication.
Short-term health effects - the hangover
Excessive alcohol consumption can lead to dehydration, low blood sugar and poisoning - a 'hangover'. Dehydration occurs because alcohol is a diuretic (stimulates urination).
Eat before you drink
Food slows down how fast alcohol gets into your bloodstream. It also gives you more energy and lessens the effects the next day.
Try starting off your night with a non-alcoholic drink. It will quench your thirst before you move on to alcohol. Then alternate between an alcoholic drink and a non-alcoholic drink or at least throw in a non-alcoholic drink once in a while to keep the body hydrated, and it will lessen the effects the next day. Drinking water before you go to bed will also help.
Decide a drinks limit in advance, and then stick to it.
Why don't you keep track of what you've had?
It is hard to say "That's my limit tonight" if you don't know how much you've had.
Did you know that the Workforce Wellness Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) offers support and advice in regards to alcohol concerns and related issues.
Call us on 0800 988 0085
or enquire online