You may have heard of the body’s biological clock before, but what about the Chinese body clock?

Rooted in traditional Chinese medicine, the Chinese body clock is based on the idea that you can make the most of your energy and specific organs by using them when they’re at their peak.

The peaks of individual organs within the body vary. For example, the lungs are at their height between 3 a.m. and 5 a.m. every day.

But does this mean you should be up at the crack of dawn to make the most of these organs by exercising? Are there any significant advantages to prescribing to the theories behind the Chinese body clock?

In this article, we’ll take a closer look at this concept, why it’s believed to be beneficial, and what the research says.

To understand the Chinese body clock, you first need to grasp the concept of qi. In short, qi is a word used in Chinese medicine to describe energy. It consists of energy in every sense of the word. For example, Earth has qi, as does your body, and even thought and emotion.

It’s also important to understand that qi is in a constant state of flux. It’s continuously transforming as it moves within the body or between people and objects.

The Chinese body clock is built on the concept of qi. During 24 hours, qi is thought to move in 2-hour intervals throughout the organ systems. While you’re sleeping, qi is believed to draw inward to fully restore your body.

One of the most important 2-hour intervals is between 1 a.m. and 3 a.m., which is when the liver is believed to be cleansing the blood. It’s during this time frame that the body begins to prepare for qi to move outward from the body again.

This table shows which organs correlate to the 2-hour intervals of the Chinese body clock.

2-hour intervalOrgan and peak functionality
3–5 a.m.Lung: This period is when the lungs are at their peak energy. It’s is believed to be an ideal time to exercise, as opposed to later in the day.
5–7 a.m.Large intestine: This period is thought to be when you should give yourself enough time to honor the elimination function of the large intestine.
9–11 a.m.Spleen: The spleen is thought to be linked to the stomach, which is in charge of receiving food and drink before ultimately fermenting them. During this period, it’s believed that qi is being propelled upward by the spleen.
11–1 p.m.Heart: Because the heart represents peacefulness, it’s essential to reduce stress during this period, according to those who prescribe to the Chinese body clock.
1–3 p.m.Small intestine: Heavier meals are believed to be more tolerated during this period, as the qi expands and begins to crest at midday.
3–5 p.m.Bladder/kidney: It’s believed that the kidney is in charge of containing qi, and it’s directly connected with the bladder. Together, they excrete unwanted waste materials within the body.
7–9 p.m.Pericardium: The pericardium is believed to be the protector of the heart. This period is when qi is supposedly regulated to prevent symptoms, such as nausea and vomiting.
9–11 p.m.Triple burner: The triple burner refers to the organ system as a whole, and this period is thought to be when it generates the most amount of heat.
1–3 a.m.Liver: Those who prescribe to the Chinese body clock believe it’s important to give your liver as little to process as possible during this period so it can focus on its several cleansing functions. This means eating your last meal of the day early and making sure it’s light.

By embracing the concept of the Chinese body clock, it’s believed that you can potentially make the most of your specific organs and bodily functions when they’re at their peak.

For example, according to the Chinese body clock, the lungs peak between 3 a.m. and 5 a.m. Getting up early for a morning exercise during this time may help you maximize the potential of these organs.

It’s worth noting that there’s little scientific research behind whether the Chinese body clock is accurate, as well as whether prescribing to these 2-hour time intervals can help maximize your organ use.

That being said, this doesn’t mean that the body is missing an internal clock. There’s an ample amount of research that supports the notion that the human body has a biological clock, which affects everything from sleep to athletic performance.

Your body also has circadian rhythms, which help with body temperature regulation, eating habits and digestion, and other bodily functions.

The Chinese body clock focuses on different organs within the body, as well as qi, or energy. It’s believed that by using specific organs at certain times of the day, you can make the most of your body and harness your qi when it’s at its peak.

However, there’s little scientific evidence behind whether prescribing to the Chinese body clock is helpful or beneficial to your health.