February 2019 Update:
There are still many supplement / health shops similar to the Nutrition Center available all over Dubai, however I started ordering from myprotein since I feel like they have much better prices for the value and also a wider range of options. They only started shipping to the UAE in 2017 so that’s why I was searching for alternatives in Dubai in 2016.
So here’s the deal with me, being vegan in Dubai and fitness: I set goals when I’m unhappy about my fitness level or let’s call it body shape. Then I stick to these goals for not more than 3-4 weeks, basically until I start seeing results and getting closer to my goals. Afterwards I realize that I did put a lot of effort into loosing only a few kilograms of weight or centimeters of belly and decide it wasn’t really worth the effort and get back to eating bad carbs, trying all the vegan candy and ice cream I can possibly find in Dubai and fried stuff all day long! This period normally lasts until I have a vacation or occasion coming up during which I want to look my best / need to fit into a certain outfit.
However during the first period (the one in which I’m going to the gym around 3-5 times per week) I do care a lot about what I’m eating (otherwise I wouldn’t see any results) and am trying to supplement my diet with vegan protein. Even though I consider Dubai as having a huge fitness market, I struggled finding vegan protein and supplements that I actually liked and that are as affordable as they are back home (quickly I realized that “as affordable as back home” is something that doesn’t exist in any way in Dubai). And to be honest, at this point I’ve tried a couple of things, which I want to show you here, but I still stick to bringing my protein to the UAE from Germany.
The one nutrition store that I found best stocked in terms of vegan options is the Nutrition Center. It’s part of the local Supercare Pharmacy Group and according to their website they’ve got 10 branches in Dubai. So far I’ve been to the one at Marina Mall and the one at Mall of the Emirates. My first purchase was the PureGreen Protein Mixed Berry. It’s a mixture of plant proteins (soy free) and contains vitamin B12 as well. In fact, this was the first vegan protein I ever got and it made me question turning vegan. It didn’t taste like the whey protein I used before at all. In their advertisement it says that one scoop is equal to nearly 6kg of vegetables and that’s exactly what it tasted like (and I do normally like all kind of vegetables). First I tried it with water only (as a protein shake) and it just tasted so green and not fresh at all, it even smelled like dried grass. The next day I added the protein in my berry smoothie and again, it didn’t really make it tasty either! However, if you are not so fuzzy about the taste of your protein, this one has excellent nutritional value, is completely vegan, soy free and contains B12 vitamins (so no need to take any additional ones).
Additionally I have tried the vegan Brown Rice Protein Powder from Source Naturals and had a worse taste experience. While the PureGreen Protein at least tasted like vegetables this one had a cardboard-taste. And I can only recommend you use it in any kind of already amazing tasting beverage / shake / smoothie. Similar to the other ones this one is soy free as well. In terms of pricing both products cost well over 100 AED (I don’t recall the actual price right now) and that is way more expensive than any vegan supplements I’ve bought back in Europe.
The last thing I discovered at the Nutrition Center are INBars – vegan protein bars. INBars are an exported product from the U.S., which I found in three different flavors here: Chocolate Fudge, Cherry Chocolate and Cinnamon Swirl. The bars are free of soy and made with only organic ingredients (sunflower seed butter, brown rice protein, pea fiber, rice bran and agave syrup), they contain 10g of protein and 173 calories per bar and are therefore best for weight-loss or glucose-management goals. In their online shop they even got three additional flavors available. I paid 24 AED for three bars (they were on promotion – buy two get one free) and tried all three flavors within a couple of days. They tasted healthy (I felt like I could actually tell the ingredients) and there wasn’t much difference between the three flavors. As there were lying right next to the Quest Bars I was secretly hoping for a similar taste – but they were definitely not comparable to Quest Bars (only in their texture actually). Let’s say I’ve had better vegan protein bars so far, but I’m not sure if I’m going find better ones in Dubai!
All in all I’ve found the staff at the Nutrition Center always really knowledgeable and helpful in terms of vegan supplements in Dubai and if I don’t bring any supplements from home this is where I go to stock up and deal with higher prices and less flavor! However having visited other supplement stores as well I don’t ever feel like they’re actually offering a whole range of different products – it always seems like more or less the same brands and especially prices. Have you had any other experiences in Dubai? Any tips? Feel free to let me know, I’ll for sure try it!