Thrive with the Dry July Challenge – Join Now! 🎉🙌
Click Here
3 people doing cheers
Drinking Habits

Recommended Alcohol Intake Per Day: Redefining Risks

July 18, 2022
17 min read
Reframe App LogoReframe App Logo
Written by
Reframe Content Team
A team of researchers and psychologists who specialize in behavioral health and neuroscience. This group collaborates to produce insightful and evidence-based content.
July 18, 2022
17 min read
Reframe App LogoReframe App Logo
Certified recovery coach specialized in helping everyone redefine their relationship with alcohol. His approach in coaching focuses on habit formation and addressing the stress in our lives.
July 18, 2022
17 min read
Reframe App LogoReframe App Logo
Recognized by Fortune and Fast Company as a top innovator shaping the future of health and known for his pivotal role in helping individuals change their relationship with alcohol.
July 18, 2022
17 min read
Reframe App LogoReframe App Logo
Reframe Content Team
July 18, 2022
17 min read

Despite new concoctions like hard seltzers, infused vodkas, and potent freezie pops, alcohol itself is nothing new. There’s evidence that back in the Late Stone Age, one of our ancestors left a few jars of honey unattended, leading to accidental fermentation. It’s easy to imagine what happened next: someone tasted the stuff and spread the word, leading others to recreate the boozy accident on purpose.

It clearly caught on: ancient Greeks and Romans had a whole deity — Dionysus in Greece, Bacchus in Rome — whose primary job description revolved around drinking. Early civilizations believed in the healing powers of wine and other spirits, which were thought to aid digestion, act as an antiseptic, and even serve as a base for infusing various medicinal herbs. In the Middle Ages, aqua vitae (distilled wine) was literally the “water of life,” given the abysmal quality of untreated water. And when the alternative meant getting cholera or catching the plague, well, it makes sense.

However, by the 20th century, as science and medicine advanced, there was a shift from anecdotal beliefs about alcohol’s supposed “powers” to systematic studies examining alcohol’s physical effects — including the negative ones.

Today, our relationship with alcohol is often complex. It's used in times of celebration, as a relaxation aid, and sometimes, as a coping mechanism. But have you ever wondered just how much alcohol is actually okay to consume daily? What exactly is considered moderate drinking? And, if you’re wondering how to limit daily drinking to stay within the guidelines, what are some good ways to do so? Let’s look at some alcohol recommendations and guidelines so we can make informed, empowered decisions. 

Recommended Alcohol Intake per Day

3 people doing cheers

As research methods advanced and more extensive data sets became available, the narrative around alcohol continued to change. In the mid-20th century, numerous countries began setting official recommendations for alcohol consumption, trying to strike a balance between potential benefits and visible harms. The early 21st century saw an increasing number of studies challenging the idea of "safe" or "beneficial" levels of alcohol consumption — the risks associated with even moderate drinking became more apparent.

What Is the Alcohol Daily Limit in Milliliters (ml), Ounces (oz), and Grams (g)

So how much alcohol is considered safe? According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2020-2025, the limit is up to two “standard drinks per day” for men and up to one for women. 

So what's a standard drink? In the U.S., it's 14 grams — 0.6 ounces — of pure alcohol. What does that mean?

  • 12 ounces of regular beer
  • 5 ounces of wine
  • 8 ounces of malt liquor
  • 1.5 ounces of distilled spirits or liquor

And what is the alcohol daily limit in ml? Well, it comes out to about 355 milliliters for beer and 148 milliliters for wine. These limits aren't targets to hit — they’re ceilings to stay below. As the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2020-2025 reminds us, "less is better."

Moreover, there are people for whom drinking isn’t recommended at all. The list, according to the CDC Fact Sheet, includes those who are pregnant, under the age of 21, have medical conditions that require medications that could interact with alcohol, or have been diagnosed with AUD.

More and more studies show that there’s really no such thing as a “beneficial” amount of alcohol — and that going over the limit even a little can have negative health implications. Some intriguing recent studies may prompt us to reevaluate our drinking habits. This means that there’s no recommended alcohol intake per day — the less alcohol, the better. 

Alcohol Recommendations: Recent Research 

A 2022 study in The Lancet referenced in the World Health Organization January 2023 report found that as far as health is concerned, there’s no safe level of alcohol consumption. The researchers conducted a vast analysis, incorporating data from nearly 200 countries and territories. Their conclusion starkly contrasts with previous beliefs that moderate alcohol consumption might confer some health benefits, especially regarding heart health.

One of the most compelling pieces of evidence was the correlation between alcohol consumption and the risk of various diseases and premature death. For instance, even light drinking was found to  increase the risk of cancer and cardiovascular diseases. This discovery underscores the fact that alcohol’s potential harms seem to outweigh any small benefits it may provide.

Sleep Buster

Other studies have focused on specific problems caused by what have generally been considered to be “safe” levels of alcohol. A 2023 report published in Nature Communications details how even moderate drinking can impair our sleep quality, affecting our mood, cognitive function, and overall health. This investigation was particularly significant because while we've long known that heavy drinking can cause sleep problems, this study found that even moderate drinking could spell trouble.

Researchers analyzed data from thousands of participants who tracked their alcohol consumption and sleep patterns; they controlled for various factors such as age, gender, physical activity, and caffeine use. They found that moderate drinkers — those adhering to the recommended daily limit of one drink for women and two for men — experienced notable sleep disruption. They had less restful sleep, spending less time in the deep sleep stages critical for physical rest and rejuvenation and more time in lighter, less restorative sleep stages. They were also more likely to experience sleep disruptions like waking up in the middle of the night.

The study indicated that even at moderate levels, alcohol consumption can impair the body's ability to regulate sleep-wake cycles. This disruption has far-reaching effects on our mood, cognitive function, and overall health. Poor sleep quality can impair memory, learning capacity, and emotional regulation, and it has been linked to various health issues, such as heart disease and diabetes.

Diagram about moderate drinking and U.S. Standard drink sizes

Rethinking the “Benefits”

In addition, many previous studies that suggested a moderate amount of alcohol — especially red wine — was actually healthy have now been debunked. A recent study in JAMA analyzed 107 studies of alcohol use and all-cause mortality published from 1980 to July 2021 and found major design flaws in ones claiming that alcohol has health benefits.

The problem had to do with the way the subject pool for many of these studies was chosen. Many of the so-called “non-drinkers” ended up in this category because of their excessive use of alcohol in the past — in other words, they had been drinking so much that they’d stopped to avoid further damage to their bodies. And while quitting certainly restored some of their health, the harsh reality is that medical issues persisted in many cases. 

Is it any wonder that they were at a disadvantage compared to their moderately drinking counterparts? Not really. And does that mean that moderate alcohol consumption gave the group of “healthy” drinkers an edge? Not at all — saying so is kind of like claiming that people who sometimes jaywalk can thank their jaywalking habit for having fewer injuries than past jaywalkers who abandoned the practice after being hit by a car. In other words, moderate drinkers were healthier than former heavy drinkers (who were put into the non-drinker category).

The conclusion? The researchers argued that no amount of alcohol reduces mortality risks — if anything, the opposite is much more likely.

The Times They Are A-Changin’

The good news is that while many find it hard to keep their booze habits to a safe level (or at least as safe as it can be), it's a brave new world out there. While alcohol isn't vanishing any time soon, the way we engage with it is undeniably shifting. Here are a few factors behind the changing culture around alcohol:

  • The social sway. Remember those old movies where every major decision was made over a whiskey in a dimly lit room? Or when refusing a drink at a party might have earned a few raised eyebrows? This is no longer the case — just think how people would react if you pulled out a bottle of scotch at work!
  • Mindfulness movement. These days, being mindful of our health and choices is the new cool. People are questioning if that cocktail truly adds to the evening or if a refreshing mocktail could do the trick. It’s about savoring the experience, not the spirits.
  • Sober curious. Here's a buzzword for you: "sober curious." More folks are dipping their toes into the alcohol-free waters, even if just for a while. Think Dry January, where people take a break post-holiday season, or Sober October. It's not about swearing off alcohol forever; it’s more about questioning and redefining its role in our life.
  • Better beverages. Notice the growing shelves of non-alcoholic options at your local store? From alcohol-free wines to buzz-less craft beers, a burgeoning market caters to those who prefer their fun without fermentation.
  • Events, sans spirits. Alcohol-free bars, events, and even festivals are popping up, turning traditional happy hours on their head. Who knew you could have such a blast without the booze?

How To Limit Daily Drinking

If you're contemplating reducing your alcohol intake or quitting altogether, bravo! For those looking how to limit daily drinking, here are some tried-and-tested strategies:

  • Set clear goals. Decide how many days a week you want to be alcohol-free. Start small and gradually increase the number.
  • Start a drink diary. Each time you have a drink, jot down the date, time, your emotions, and the reason for that drink. Over time, this self-awareness will highlight patterns, triggers, and even the social environments that influence your consumption.
  • Find alternatives. If you find yourself reaching for a drink out of habit, substitute a non-alcoholic option for it. Herbal tea, sparkling water with a splash of fruit juice, or alcohol-free mocktails can make great replacements.
  • Practice mindful drinking. Pay attention to how much you're drinking, how often, and why. You might discover patterns and triggers that you can address.
  • Embrace the mocktail movement. Experiment with artisanal non-alcoholic beverages. Dive into the world of mocktails by attending mixology workshops or visiting bars that specialize in alcohol-free concoctions. Let your palate explore new territories!
  • Mindful media consumption. Watch documentaries or read books about the effects of alcohol on the body and mind. Educate yourself with media that provides both scientific insights and personal stories.
  • Seek support. Whether it consists of friends, family, or support groups, don't underestimate the power of a strong support system.
  • Fitness first. Commit to a morning routine, like a sunrise run or yoga session. When you have a reason to rise early and stay active, you might think twice before overindulging the night before.
  • Explore alcohol-free zones. Discover cafes or lounges that are proudly alcohol-free. By immersing yourself in dry spaces, you both support a new wave of businesses and redefine what a social outing means to you.
  • Digital detox challenge. While it may not seem directly related, a break from social media can help. Often, social media indirectly promotes drinking through celebrations or “wine-down” moments. A digital detox can eliminate some subliminal triggers.
  • Craft nights. Engage in activities that require focus and dexterity — like painting, knitting, or DIY projects. The sense of accomplishment from creating something with your hands can be as exhilarating as any drink!
  • Connect beyond the bar. Build connections and friendships in environments that don’t center around alcohol. Join clubs, volunteer groups, or hobby classes to forge bonds beyond the bottle.

Quitting or reducing alcohol can have significant benefits — better sleep, more energy, improved physical health, and often, a healthier bank balance, too! Here are a few you can look forward to:

  • Silky skin. Reduce that alcohol, and voila! Watch as your skin transforms, basking in hydration and lighting up rooms with its newfound glow. You might just find yourself using fewer filters on those selfies!
  • Brain boost. Swap out the fuzzy morning-after for a crisp, clear headspace. Think more sharply, remember more clearly, and focus like you've just had the best espresso — minus the jitters.
  • Energized and ready to roll. No more post-drinking slumps. Your body will feel more revved up and raring to go. It's like finding an extra battery pack you didn’t know you had!
  • Dive into dreamland. Experience the luxury of deep, uninterrupted sleep. Awaken feeling not just rested, but rejuvenated.
  • Cha-ching savings! Feel the satisfaction as those dollars stack up. Ordering fewer drinks gives your wallet a much-deserved breather.
  • Happy heart. By dialing back, your heart gets to groove to a healthier beat, ensuring a more rhythmic and robust performance day in, day out.
  • Rock that outfit. With fewer hidden calories from drinks, you're one step closer to embracing your fitness goals. 
  • Defense dream team. With a stronger liver and a spruced-up immune system, it's like having an inner security squad, always on the lookout for your well-being.

The Bottom Line

The healthiest level of drinking, according to current research, is none at all. But we know quitting isn't an easy journey for everyone, and it's not necessarily a journey everyone wants or needs to take. In the end, it’s important to consider all the facts to decide how alcohol fits into our lives!

Remember, your journey towards a healthier lifestyle is a marathon, not a sprint. Every small step counts! So, whether you're contemplating Dry January, Sober October, or just a less-alcohol Tuesday, we're here cheering you on.

Summary FAQs

1. What's the current recommended daily alcohol intake according to health experts?

According to the CDC and the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2020-2025, the recommended alcohol intake is up to two standard drinks per day for men and one for women. However, these are limits to stay below, not goals to aim for. However, alcohol intake recommendations do vary some by country.

2. How is a "standard drink" defined in the U.S.?

A standard drink in the U.S. contains 14 grams or about 0.6 ounces of pure alcohol. This amount is approximately equivalent to 12 ounces of regular beer, 5 ounces of wine, or 1.5 ounces of distilled spirits or liquor.

3. Is there truly a safe level of alcohol consumption when considering overall health?

Recent research, including a 2022 study from The Lancet, suggests there's no safe level of alcohol consumption when it comes to health. In fact, even light drinking may increase risks for certain issues like cancer and cardiovascular disease.

4. How does moderate alcohol intake affect sleep quality?

A study from Nature Communications in 2023 highlighted that even moderate drinking can disrupt sleep. Individuals adhering to recommended limits experienced less restful sleep, reduced deep sleep stages, and more disruptions like waking up in the night.

5. Are there any health benefits to moderate alcohol consumption, particularly red wine?

Previous studies suggested potential health benefits from moderate alcohol consumption, especially red wine due to resveratrol. However, recent analyses have debunked many of these claims, highlighting design flaws in the original studies.

6. Are people changing their relationship with alcohol?

Yes, cultural shifts are occurring. People are becoming more health-conscious and experimenting with reduced alcohol consumption, as seen in movements like "sober curious" and initiatives like Dry January or Sober October. There's also a growing market for non-alcoholic beverages.

7. What are some strategies for reducing or quitting alcohol?

Setting clear goals, designating alcohol-free days, trying non-alcoholic alternatives, practicing mindful drinking, and seeking support can be effective strategies. It's also beneficial to journal your journey and explore alcohol-free social environments to redefine personal habits and relationships with alcohol.

Unlocking the Path To Well-Being With Reframe

Although it isn’t a treatment for alcohol use disorder (AUD), the Reframe app can help you cut back on drinking gradually, with the science-backed knowledge to empower you 100% of the way. Our proven program has helped millions of people around the world drink less and live more. And we want to help you get there, too!

The Reframe app equips you with the knowledge and skills you need to not only survive drinking less, but to thrive while you navigate the journey. Our daily research-backed readings teach you the neuroscience of alcohol, and our in-app Toolkit provides the resources and activities you need to navigate each challenge.

You’ll meet millions of fellow Reframers in our 24/7 Forum chat and daily Zoom check-in meetings. Receive encouragement from people worldwide who know exactly what you’re going through! You’ll also have the opportunity to connect with our licensed Reframe coaches for more personalized guidance.

Plus, we’re always introducing new features to optimize your in-app experience. We recently launched our in-app chatbot, Melody, powered by the world’s most powerful AI technology. Melody is here to help as you adjust to a life with less (or no) alcohol.

And that’s not all! Every month, we launch fun challenges, like Dry/Damp January, Mental Health May, and Outdoorsy June. You won’t want to miss out on the chance to participate alongside fellow Reframers (or solo if that’s more your thing!).

The Reframe app is free for 7 days, so you don’t have anything to lose by trying it. Are you ready to feel empowered and discover life beyond alcohol? Then download our app today!

Call to action to download reframe app for ios usersCall to action to download reframe app for android users
Reframe has helped over 2 millions people to build healthier drinking habits globally
Take The Quiz
Our Editorial Standards
At Reframe, we do science, not stigma. We base our articles on the latest peer-reviewed research in psychology, neuroscience, and behavioral science. We follow the Reframe Content Creation Guidelines, to ensure that we share accurate and actionable information with our readers. This aids them in making informed decisions on their wellness journey.
Learn more
Updated Regularly
Our articles undergo frequent updates to present the newest scientific research and changes in expert consensus in an easily understandable and implementable manner.
Table of Contents
Call to action for signing up reframe app
Relevant Articles
No items found.
Ready to meet the BEST version of yourself?
Start Your Custom Plan
Call to action to download reframe app for ios usersCall to action to download reframe app for android users
5 Star Reviews
Downloads (as of 2023)
a bottle and a glass
Drinks Eliminated

Scan the QR code to get started!

Reframe supports you in reducing alcohol consumption and enhancing your well-being.

Ready To Meet the Best Version of Yourself?
3,250,000+ Downloads (as of 2023)
31,364 Reviews
500,000,000+ Drinks eliminated
Try Reframe for 7 Days Free! Scan to download the App