Tim McGraw performs in 2012. (Josh Sisk for The Washington Post)

Tim McGraw’s ripped physique isn’t exactly news: The country music superstar made headlines in 2013 by revealing a new killer set of abs, announcing via a People cover that he had embarked on a much healthier lifestyle in his 40s.

“I drank a lot from my point of view and I needed to stop,” McGraw told the magazine, adding that he had quit drinking five years prior because he wanted to be a good role model for his kids. An accompanying shirtless photo shoot emphasized his commitment to this goal.

But this week, McGraw, 48, revealed he had other motivations for losing 40 pounds and developing an eight-pack. At the annual Country Radio Seminar in Nashville, McGraw sat on a panel to discuss how he’s sustained a wildly successful music career for two decades, even when many of his peers have faded into obscurity. Still, things haven’t always gone smoothly. As it turns out, his dramatic weight loss was not only inspired by a rough time in his career, but actually helped him save it at a time when he thought everything might be over.

“I thought that I was at a point in my career where it was either time to give up, or not be the best you can be … and I felt like I was at sort of a crossroads of my life on all fronts,” McGraw said.

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What exactly does he mean by crossroads? While McGraw didn’t elaborate further (only calling the rough time a “roadblock” that was bringing him down), there’s one obvious possibility: In 2011, he was embroiled in a legal battle with his label, Curb Records. The label sued him for breach of contract, claiming McGraw rushed the recording of his album “Emotional Traffic” to get out of his deal with Curb as soon as possible. In years prior, McGraw was vocal about wanting to leave the label — he was also unhappy that Curb kept releasing “greatest hits” albums, which he felt took advantage of his fans.

McGraw didn’t discuss that drama at CRS, instead just hinting at a challenging situation. He explained that eventually, it motivated him to make major lifestyle changes. It was right around that time that he started getting in serious shape. “I wanted to control something, because I felt it was getting out of control, and I couldn’t control anything about all the things I worked so hard for,” McGraw said. “So I think the first thing I could grab and control was my physical well-being.”

The singer said his ensuing workout regimen (he worked out three times a day with a professional stuntman) had a “domino effect” that made him realize he didn’t want to give up on country music, and inspired him to get back in the game. While he was also motivated by wanting to be as healthy as possible for his wife, country star Faith Hill, and their three daughters, being in the best shape of his life helped him psychologically.

“That put me in a better mental state, and that put me in a better competitive state, and that put me in a better position to want to go try and want to work really hard,” McGraw said.

His refreshed mentality worked: McGraw signed with Big Machine Records in 2012 after escaping Curb, allowing him to maintain his status as one of the top sellers in country-music history with a string of hits over the last several years. That includes his “Highway Don’t Care” duet with Taylor Swift in 2013; “Meanwhile Back at Mama’s,” which he sang with Hill in 2014; and “Diamond Rings and Old Barstools,” nominated for best country song at next week’s Grammy Awards.

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