I may be in the minority of British alcohol-users, in that I can reel off the recommended drinking levels for adults in the UK; no more than 21 units/wk for men, 14 units/wk for women. The recommendation also follows that there should be at least two ‘alcohol free’ days in each seven (apparently, consecutive mornings don’t count – only complete days do). Knowing all this, as I have done for a while, I started wondering recently how much I actually do drink. Having written about beer for over six years, I’ve certainly had a decent amount over that time – but having a fairly rigid, in-built, self-awareness meter I rarely get in too much trouble due to drink (I’m looking at you, Magic Rock tap takeover).
Still, as the people who came up with the (however arbitrary) units concept would like, I am curious as to how it all adds up. The way I drink – strong beer in small batches, a couple of big IPA’s here and there rather than eight pints on a Friday – certainly doesn’t put me in the ‘problem drinker’ category so beloved of red-pen wielding politicians. However, neither does it put me in the clear. Even if you don’t binge, those imperial stouts can creep up on you. Having said that, I would never honestly say to (for example) a practicing physician that I exceed the 21 units per week. In truth, I didn’t know.
So, I downloaded AlcoDroid – and rigidly tracked what I drank for a month.
This isn’t a blogvert for that app, by the way – there are plenty of alcohol tracking apps and websites out there. Full disclosure – I went for that one because it was free and it had a robot on it (take note, marketeers). For the next four weeks, everything I drank went in there, abv calculated, price logged, the works. Even wine (yes, I know). I actually quite enjoyed the process – like Beer Advocate or RateBeer, only it actually matters. There were plenty of surprises along the way (not least the one at the end – but more about that in a moment), such as Odell’s spellbinding double IPA Myrcenary containing a whopping 3.27 units.
My maximum daily consumption over that time was 13.57 units – on a BeerCaster Friday night out at the newly-opened Jake’s Place. Surprisingly. I felt pretty chipper the next day (must have been the falafel wrap on the way home). Out of the whole month, I spent 33% of the time alcohol free (in terms of whole days), so at least I’m leaving some time for the body to recover in between the ruinous sessions. Speaking of which – here are the totals:-
Week one, 22.91 units
Week two, 23.91 units
Week three, 26.56 units
Week four, 25.77 units
Not a single one under the 21 unit recommended level. So, does this make me a problem drinker?
Well, no, of course not. I drink in moderation – I truly believe that – and spent a hearty amount for the privilege; £7.34 per ‘drinking day’ (I guess that’s the price of craft, right there). There’s no descent into daytime boozing on the cards, or a move towards the cheaper and stronger alcohols. Most of what I drink is because it’s something new, or something to write about, dear readers. Over the last month, I haven’t stuck to the recommended daily intake at all. But then, that’s exactly what they are – a series of recommendations.
However, it has made me think a bit more about what I do drink. As I move towards the end of each drinking week (in terms of the app, that’s not a concept I have coined), seeing that I was approaching the 21 units made me think that I should step back a little, rather than have another. In that regard, this exercise has proved two things to me – firstly, that this self-control does indicate I have some degree of responsibility. Secondly, logging exactly what I drink has apparently proved that I consume more than I had realised. Food, or rather drink, for thought.