How Much Alcohol is Safe?

Published September 2, 2021


Whether you’re spending your free time with friends or family, it’s pretty safe to say that alcohol is a frequent component of social gatherings. For many people, it can ease stress and increase pleasure, and local bars and breweries can provide a relaxing and fun atmosphere to catch up with loved ones.

But how much alcohol is actually safe? Read on to find out which factors you should consider when planning your next weekend outing.

Factoring in Biology

Alcohol tolerance differs between sexes. Because women have a higher body fat percentage and differences in the activity of enzymes that help break down alcohol compared to men, they reach higher blood alcohol levels than men with the same amount of alcohol consumption.

The National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) defines low risk drinking as no more than 3 standard drinks in a day or 7 standard drinks in a week for women and no more than 4 drinks in a day or 14 drinks in a week for men.

Size Matters

If you’re thinking that 3 or 4 drinks in a day seems like a lot, hold that thought because we’ve got more math to do! In addition to quantity, it’s important to consider the size of your drink.

The NIAAA defines one “standard drink” as any of the following:


Most restaurants and bars serve beer in 16 oz glasses, which exceeds the standard drink size for beer by 33%. This means that the limit for “low-risk drinking” would be just 2.25 beers for women and 3 beers for men.

Large wine glasses can also lead to a heavy pour. A standard bottle of wine contains 750 mL, which is about 25 oz. There are about 5 “standard” glasses of wine in a typical wine bottle, so most adults should avoid consuming a whole bottle in one sitting.

Consider ABV

Another thing to consider is that specific beverages may have a larger impact on your health. Many craft beers are about 7 to 8% alcohol by volume (ABV), which is more similar to the definition of malt liquor, for which the recommended quantity is only 8-9 oz.

Be Honest With Your Doctor

It’s crucial to work with your primary care provider to stay at your healthiest. Depending on your medical history, your care team may recommend drinking less than the standard recommended amount -- especially if you’re on any medications that interact with alcohol.

When starting a new medication, always ask your provider about how it might be affected by alcohol consumption and be honest with them about how much you typically drink so they can choose appropriate treatment.

Firefly is Here to Help

If you have questions about any of this, don’t hesitate to reach out to your Firefly Health care team. You can chat with us or schedule a visit in the app today. Not a member yet? Get started by signing up or giving us a call at (855) 869-9284.

And most importantly, remember to stay safe while you’re enjoying your time with family and friends. Be sure to have a designated driver, use a rideshare, or take public transportation when planning to consume alcohol.