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Updated on September 14, 2023
6 min read

How Bad is Drinking Once a Week for Your Health?

Alyssa Hill
Dr P. E. Pancoast, MD
Written by 
25 Sources Cited
Alyssa Hill
Written by 
25 Sources Cited

A habit of drinking shouldn’t lead to long-term consequences for your health. However, weekend drinking can lead to alcohol dependence and other serious medical conditions.

Binge drinking in the United States is nothing new—one in six adults are binge drinkers.1 Unfortunately, exceeding the maximum recommended limit of moderate alcohol consumption can have severe health consequences.

If you’re at risk of an excessive drinking habit and want to avoid long-term health risks, this guide is for you. Learn more about the consequences of binge drinking and how to prevent alcohol addiction.

Is It Okay to Drink Alcohol Once a Week

Knowing whether drinking alcohol once a week is okay ultimately depends on how much you consume. You should also consider risk factors like having a history of heart disease or high blood pressure.

To determine whether once-a-week drinking habits are sustainable, it's best to understand moderate drinking and how drinking alcohol weekly impacts your health.

What Is Moderate Drinking?

According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, moderate drinking is the consumption of no more than two drinks daily for men and one drink daily for women.2

Limiting alcohol use to a moderate level reduces the risk of alcohol-related harm.

How Does Weekly Alcohol Consumption Impact Health?

While consuming one or two drinks a week isn’t immediately dangerous, it can result in the following short-term risks:

  • Injuries from impairment (motor vehicle crashes, slips, falls)3
  • Risky sexual behaviors and violence4
  • Miscarriages, stillbirths, or fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASDs)5

Long-term risks associated with light drinking patterns include the following:

  • Developing cancer of the mouth, throat, breast, liver, colon, and rectum6
  • Liver damage7
  • Learning and memory issues8
  • Weakened immune system10
  • Mental health issues, such as depression and anxiety11
  • Development of Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD), should the number of drinks increase over time11
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Understanding the Liver's Role in Alcohol Metabolism

The liver is the largest internal organ in the body and is responsible for breaking down alcoholic drinks.12 When you drink a glass of wine or liquor, 25% of the alcohol travels directly from the stomach and into the bloodstream. An enzyme in the liver cells called alcohol dehydrogenase (ADH) breaks the substance down into acetaldehyde.

Another enzyme, aldehyde dehydrogenase (ALDH), breaks the acetaldehyde into acetate. Once the liver metabolizes it, the acetate leaves the body as carbon dioxide and water.

Depending on genetic variations and other existing health problems, your enzymes may or may need to be more efficient at breaking down alcohol.

How Much Alcohol Is Safe for the Liver?

The more alcohol you consume, the longer it takes for the body to process it. Determining a “healthy number” of drinks for the liver depends on a person’s weight, size, and gender.13

Because it takes the body an hour to process a single standard drink, consuming one to three drinks per day can cause significant damage to the liver. Heavy drinking (four to five glasses of alcohol daily on average) can lead to health complications, including:14

  • Alcoholic cirrhosis
  • Hepatitis
  • Liver failure

Can Drinking Once a Week Impact Weight and Fitness?

Older adults aren’t the only ones at risk of developing risky conditions or dying prematurely due to alcohol consumption. There is a direct correlation between the amount of alcohol you consume and your fitness level.16

Alcohol consumption hampers overall fitness and performance levels, affecting endurance, reaction times, hydration, muscle development, and hydration.

Does Alcohol Cause Weight Gain?

Alcohol can cause weight gain by keeping the body from burning fat. The body has to work harder to eliminate pure alcohol, deprioritizing other healthier nutrients.

Because the body recognizes toxic chemicals in alcoholic drinks, it temporarily halts its ability to access other stored macronutrients.

Other ways alcohol use causes weight gain include the following:

  • It’s high in calories: While proteins and carbohydrates have four per gram, alcohol has seven.17
  • It impairs hormone gland function: Even moderate drinkers are at higher risk of producing increased amounts of cortisol, a hormone that causes weight gain.18
  • It leads to poor sleep quality: Alcohol use disorder causes insomnia symptoms, leading to weight gain over time.19

How Does Weekly Drinking Affect Fitness Levels?

Participating in weekend binge drinking can affect your fitness levels in the following ways:

  • It reduces the body’s ability to convert food into energy: When carbohydrates and blood sugar levels drop, athletes experience reduced aerobic performance.20
  • It acts as a sedative: Binge drinking causes poor hand-eye coordination and slower responses.21
  • It halts human growth hormone (HGH) production: The less HGH your body produces, the poorer its muscle-building and repair processes.22
  • It makes the recovery period longer: Binge drinking increases bleeding and swelling around soft tissue injuries.22
  • It promotes water loss: Antidiuretic hormone production decreases, causing you to urinate more and become dehydrated.23
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Are There Any Benefits to Drinking Certain Types of Alcohol?

While binge drinking isn’t a healthy choice in general, some types of alcohol are safer to consume than others:

  • Red wine: This alcohol is a fuel source for good bacteria, improving immune system function and heart health.23
  • Champagne: Plant compounds in sparkling white wine can benefit heart health.24 It’s also low in carbs, calories, and sugar.
  • Craft beer: When consumed in the form of ale or lager, craft beer can provide an ample level of protein and B vitamins.25

Some alcoholic beverages can be beneficial when consumed in moderation. For instance, red wine, whiskey, and hard kombucha can provide the following benefits:

  • Boosted brain health
  • Better bone density
  • Lower risk of heart disease
  • Lower cholesterol levels

Remember to limit the amount of alcohol you consume weekly to maximize its health benefits.

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Summary

To answer the question, “Is drinking once a week bad?”—Drinking once a week can be bad or good, depending on what and how much you drink. It’s also vital to consider your medical history, lifestyle, and diet.

If you’re already at risk of liver damage, even consuming the daily upper safe limit of alcohol can cause an increased risk of death. Consult a specialist if you’re dealing with alcohol dependence and engage in unhealthy binge drinking.

Common Questions About Regular Drinking

Is It Ok to Get Drunk Once a Month?

While it’s “OK” to get drunk once a month, turning it into a habit can lead to alcohol abuse and dependency.

How Much Alcohol Is Considered Healthy?

According to the World Health Organization, “no level of alcohol consumption is healthy.” However, some drinks, like wine and champagne, carry the lowest disease risk and can improve specific conditions when consumed in moderation.

Can You Drink Alcohol Three Times a Week?

Drinking alcohol three times a week can be safe, depending on how much you drink at a given time. Remember to gauge your alcohol tolerance and avoid binge drinking.

What Are the Signs of a Bad Liver?

Signs of a bad liver include yellowing skin, abdominal pain, itchy skin, dark urine, nausea, and chronic fatigue.

Is It Unhealthy to Get Drunk Once a Year?

Drinking to excess even once yearly is a form of binge drinking, which increases the risk of developing cancer, liver disease, and other issues.

How Often Is It Safe to Drink Per Week?

It is “safe” for men to drink two standard glasses of alcohol per week. For women, the recommended dose is no more than one drink weekly. However, this ultimately depends on age. Men age 64 and under should drink no more than two drinks per day and no more than 14 standard drinks a week.

Will Drinking Once a Week Affect My Fitness?

Yes, drinking once a week can affect fitness by reducing response times, slowing recovery, hampering endurance, and causing dehydration.

Updated on September 14, 2023
25 sources cited
Updated on September 14, 2023
All Alcoholrehabhelp content is medically reviewed or fact checked to ensure as much factual accuracy as possible.

We have strict sourcing guidelines and only link to reputable media sites, academic research institutions and, whenever possible, medically peer reviewed studies.
  1. Key Substance Use and Mental Health Indicators in the United States: Results From the 2019 National Survey on Drug Use and Health.” SAMHSA, Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality.
  2. Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2020-2025 and Online Materials.” Dietary Guidelines for Americans.
  3. Impaired Driving.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2022.
  4. Naimi et al. “Binge Drinking in the Preconception Period and the Risk of Unintended Pregnancy: Implications for Women and Their Children.” Pediatrics, 2017.
  5. Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASDs).” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2023.
  6. Personal Habits and Indoor Combustions: A Review of Human Carcinogens.” IARC Publications, International Agency for Research on Cancer, World Health Organization, 2012.
  7. Rehm et al. “The Relation between Different Dimensions of Alcohol Consumption and Burden of Disease: An Overview.” Addiction, Society for the Study of Addiction, 2010.
  8. Miller et al. “Binge Drinking and Associated Health Risk Behaviors among High School Students.” Pediatrics, American Academy of Pediatrics, 2007.
  9. Castaneda, R. “A Review of the Effects of Moderate Alcohol Intake on the Treatment of Anxiety and Mood Disorders.” The Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, 2022.
  10. Esser et al. “Prevalence of Alcohol Dependence among US Adult Drinkers 2009–2011.” Preventing Chronic Disease, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2014.
  11. Alcohol Metabolism | National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA).” Nih.gov, 2017.
  12. Dawson, D., and Archer, L. ”Gender Differences in Alcohol Consumption: Effects of Measurement.” British Journal of Addiction, Jan. 1992.
  13. Thierry, G., and Jalan, R. ”Acute-On-Chronic Liver Failure in Patients with Alcohol-Related Liver Disease.”, Journal of Hepatology, Feb. 2019.
  14. Herbsleb et al. ”The Relation of Autonomic Function to Physical Fitness in Patients Suffering from Alcohol Dependence.” Drug and Alcohol Dependence, Oct. 2013.
  15. Robinson et al. ”Alcohol, Calories, and Obesity: A Rapid Systematic Review and Meta‐Analysis of Consumer Knowledge, Support, and Behavioral Effects of Energy Labeling on Alcoholic Drinks.” Obesity Reviews, Feb. 2021.
  16. Badrick et al. ”The Relationship between Alcohol Consumption and Cortisol Secretion in an Aging Cohort.” The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, Mar. 2008.
  17. Chakravorty et al. ”Alcohol Dependence and Its Relationship with Insomnia and Other Sleep Disorders.” Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research, Nov. 2016.
  18. O’Brien, C., and Lyons, F. ”Alcohol and the Athlete.” Sports Medicine, May 2000.
  19. Frings et al. ”Dyads Experience over Confidence in Hand-Eye Coordination Skills after Placebo Alcohol.” Journal of Applied Social Psychology, Mar. 2017.
  20. Zhao et al. ”Metal-Catalyzed Oxidation of Histidine in Human Growth Hormone.” Protein Chemistry and Structure, Apr. 1997.
  21. Zhao et al. ”Synthetic Poly(Vinyl Alcohol)–Chitosan as a New Type of Highly Efficient Hemostatic Sponge with Blood-Triggered Swelling and High Biocompatibility.” Mar. 2019.
  22. Klemm, W., ”Dehydration: A New Alcohol Theory” Alcohol, Jan. 1990.
  23. Liberale et al. ”Impact of Red Wine Consumption on Cardiovascular Health.” Current Medicinal Chemistry, May 2019.
  24. Vázquez-Agell et al. ”Inflammatory Markers of Atherosclerosis Are Decreased after Moderate Consumption of Cava (Sparkling Wine) in Men with Low Cardiovascular Risk.” The Journal of Nutrition, Oct. 2007.
  25. Rossi et al. “Effects of the Intake of Craft or Industrial Beer on Serum Homocysteine.” International Journal of Food Sciences and Nutrition, 2021.
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All content created by Alcohol Rehab Help is sourced from current scientific research and fact-checked by an addiction counseling expert. However, the information provided by Alcohol Rehab Help is not a substitute for professional treatment advice.
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