How Much Are You *Really* Drinking? The Easiest Way To Track Your Alcohol Consumption

Confused about what's considered a standard-size drink? Here's an easy formula to figure it out.
How Much Are You *Really* Drinking? The Easiest Way To Track Your Alcohol Consumption

It's super easy to count standard drinks. Photo, Roberto Caruso.

Another Dry January has come and gone. (Cheers!) And if you're a drinker who abstained, perhaps you’re a little bit more aware about how alcohol is everywhere. Maybe you’re also sleeping better and are more alert. And now—if moderation, as opposed to outright abstinence—is your goal, here are some easy guidelines for tracking how much you're really drinking.

What are Canada’s low-risk drinking guidelines?

According to Canada’s official Low-Risk Drinking Guidelines—created by the Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction, and most recently updated in January 2023—adults should have no more than two standard drinks per week in order to reduce the risk of long-term health effects.

How do you know what constitutes a standard drink?

One standard drink is:

  • a 341-mL bottle of 5% beer (or cider or a cooler)
  • a 5-ounce glass (or 142 mL) of 12% wine
  • 43 mL (1.5 oz) of hard liquor

But what do you do if you’re drinking a tall can of beer or have a bottle of 15%-alcohol wine? Catherine Paradis, senior research and policy analyst at the Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction, shared an easy formula to figure out how many servings your bottle or can contains: Multiply the container size (in mL) by the percentage of alcohol, then divide that figure by 17.05.

So how many standard drinks are in a 750-mL bottle of Oyster Bay Sauvignon Blanc, which is 12.5% alcohol? Let's put that formula to work.

750 X 0.125 / 17.05 = 5.5 (so let's round up to six standard drinks—if you're getting five glasses from a bottle, your pours might be a little heavy)


How about a 473-mL can of Side Launch Midnight Lager, which is 5.3% alcohol?

473 X 0.053 / 17.05 = 1.5 (so it's more than one standard drink)

Why should I count standard drinks?

If you find yourself drinking more than ten standard drinks per week, you're not alone. More than 30 percent of Canadian women exceed these guidelines. In 2018, Canada's chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam sounded the alarm on Canadian women's relationship with alcohol, largely due to some troubling statistics. Between 2006 and 2017, the rate of women who died from conditions related to alcohol consumption increased by 26 percent (for men, the rate increased by only five percent over the same period).

Paradis knows many are unaware of the risks associated with drinking or that it's linked to numerous diseases and chronic conditions, including breast cancer, colon cancer, cirrhosis of the liver, hypertension and diabetes. While participating in Dry January might not negate holiday-related binge-drinking, it could help make you more aware of the role alcohol plays in your life.

That said,  Paradis is slightly critical of events like Dry January because they put too much focus on the individual. "In fact, we do know the way alcohol is made available in Canada is definitely part of the problem and explains why it might be difficult for us to spend a whole month without alcohol," she says. "It’s not so much that we’re dependent, but the fact that alcohol is available everywhere in Canada, marketed aggressively and available at very cheap prices," she continues.


Unlike in other countries, serving sizes don't need to be listed on booze bottles and cans in Canada. So next time you're unsure about how many standard drinks that bottle of Sauv Blanc contains, pull out your phone to find out.


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