What are the benefits of alcohol-free days?

profile picture of Elizabeth Rogers
Associate Clinical Director, Bupa Health Clinics
13 October 2021
Next review due October 2024

If you’re trying to cut down on alcohol, aiming to have some alcohol-free days is one of the best ways to go about it. But if you’re used to drinking regularly, this can be easier said than done. Here I’ll talk about how you can get to a point where those drink-free days are something to enjoy rather than endure.

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Benefits of alcohol-free days

Anything you can do to cut down on drinking will be beneficial. But aiming to have some alcohol-free days is one of the simplest and most popular ways to do it.

If you don’t drink a lot at one time, you might not think there’s any need to change your drinking habits. But drinking “little and often” can still mean the units rapidly add up. For example, a medium-sized glass of wine with dinner every day can mean you’re consuming around 16 units a week. Guidelines recommend that to keep health risks from alcohol low, it’s safest not to drink more than 14 units a week on a regular basis.

There are many long-term health benefits from cutting down on alcohol. These include reducing your risk of:

You may notice short-term health benefits too if you have alcohol-free days. These may include:

  • sleeping better
  • feeling less stressed or anxious
  • improvement in skin conditions
  • helping with weight control

How many alcohol-free days should I have?

There’s isn’t a set number of alcohol-free days that’s recommended, as this is very individual to you. UK guidelines on low risk drinking simply recommend having “several” alcohol-free days a week. The key thing is to think about what’s achievable for you in order to reduce your drinking. It also depends how much you drink currently, and whether you already have any days when you don’t drink.

If you’re currently drinking alcohol every day, you might try to start with a couple of days a week without drinking. You can then gradually build up your number of drink-free days. If you already don’t drink on a couple of days, try adding in an extra one or two. It’s important that you don’t then compensate by over-indulging on the days that you do drink. Try to stick to the recommended limit of no more than 14 units in a week.

Planning for alcohol-free days

You may find going without a drink difficult at first if you’re used to regular drinking. Plan things in advance to distract you when you’d normally drink. Here are some ideas.

  • If you tend to have a drink when you finish work, think of other things you can do to relax or switch off. You could go for a run, listen to a podcast or try out a new recipe for dinner.
  • If you usually have a drink with dinner, stock up on some different non-alcoholic drinks that may help to fill the gap.
  • If you’re a social drinker, try arranging other activities with your friends that don’t focus on alcohol. You could go to the cinema or theatre, go for a walk or bike ride or try an exercise class together.

As drink-free days start to become part of your normal routine, try to think of them in a positive way. Not drinking so often may give you the chance to take up to a new hobby or make you feel more motivated to get active. Not only will alcohol-free days improve your health, they can offer the perfect opportunity to make other positive life changes too.

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profile picture of Elizabeth Rogers
Dr Elizabeth Rogers
Associate Clinical Director, Bupa Health Clinics

    • UK Chief Medical Officers’ low risk drinking guidelines. Department of Health., published August 2016
    • Drink Free Days campaign evidence. Drinkaware., published September 2018
    • Unit and calorie calculator. Drinkaware., accessed 11 October 2021
    • The benefits of drinking less. Drinkaware., accessed 7 October 2021

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