To add zip to his fastball, Egan relied on the expert advice of his sports dietitian

Egan Smith throws a pitch during a baseball game
Guided by a registered sports dietitian, Egan gained the weight he needed to increase the velocity of his pitches safely.

During his junior year on the Iowa City High School baseball team, left-handed pitcher Egan Smith wanted to throw faster pitches. His fastball was in the mid 70 mph range. He knew he could improve on that.

Egan did his research and learned that generating the power required to increase his pitching speed would put new demands on his body. He would need to gain weight and build muscle to meet those increased demands.

Egan and his mother, Angie, met with Becca Mallon, MS, RDN, LD, a sports dietitian at University of Iowa Sports Medicine, who provided Egan with guidance to help him gain weight safely as he did the work to train his body to throw faster pitches.

A year later, Egan was 25 pounds heavier, and his pitch speeds reached as high as 83 mph.

“We believe Egan’s new diet, hard work, strength training, and weight gain helped him achieve these goals,” Angie says. “We can’t thank Becca enough.”

Nutrition as a tool for better sports performance

To find out what he needed to do to throw faster pitches, Egan studied the methods that big-league ballplayers use to train and prevent injury. He discovered that, at 6 feet tall and 160 pounds, he would need to gain 25 to 30 pounds to increase velocity safely.

“To protect my arm and remain healthy, I needed to add weight so I don’t put too much force on my body, and I needed to grow stronger in the weight room,” Egan says.

He asked his primary care physician, Michael Colburn, MD, Med, an adolescent medicine specialist at UI Stead Family Children’s Hospital, for advice. Colburn appreciated Egan’s thoughtful approach to solving his problem and referred him to Mallon.

As a registered dietitian who specializes in working with athletes, Mallon shows patients how to reach their physical goals through good nutrition. She teaches them how to use nutrition as a tool to gain muscle and to prevent and recover from injury.

“When athletes don’t focus on their nutrition, they might leave potential athletic ability on the table,” Mallon says. “The food we eat before workouts gives us the energy to do our best. And what we eat after sports will help us recover more efficiently.”

We believe Egan’s new diet, hard work, strength training, and weight gain helped him achieve these goals. We can’t thank Becca enough.

— Angie Smith, Egan's mother

‘Just normal eating’

Mallon helped Egan develop a plan and explained why it involved more than simply eating extra food.

“She told me that healthy weight gain and building muscle mass is not about pouring an extra cup of syrup on your pancakes and a couple of extra scoops of protein powder in your smoothies,” Egan says. “That will not facilitate the best muscle growth and recovery.”

Egan and his mother were pleasantly surprised that they didn’t need to buy supplements or lots of special products to meet his goals.

“I didn’t need to adopt extreme eating habits or do a lot of cooking,” Egan says. “It was just normal eating.”

But even “normal” eating was a concept Egan would need to learn and adopt if he wanted to make progress on his goals.

“As a busy teenager, he might eat three bowls of cereal in the morning and not eat again until many hours later,” Angie says.

Mallon advised more frequent, more consistent meal times.

A healthier route to success in sports and life

Excited and motivated to learn how to gain weight through nutrition and muscle building, Egan got started immediately.

After several months of following Mallon’s smart eating program and a safe weightlifting regimen, Egan safely added 25 pounds, giving his body the healthy bulk it needed to support his work on the mound.

“I couldn’t be more thrilled for Egan,” Mallon says. “He feels better, his energy level is better, and he’s able to lift more weight.”

Egan says the education he received will serve him beyond achieving his goals on the ballfield.

“I learned so much from Becca,” he says. “I’m so happy this worked.”

Iowa City, Iowa